Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (III)

 Versión en español

Luis Alfonso Félix. El calvario del sicario, 8c/+, Cuenca (Spain). Photo: JaviPec
Some authors have tried to define what the most frequently used coping strategies in sport are (have a look at the previous entry for a description of each technique). According to how often they are used, Xianming et al. (1999) compiled the following list:

  1. Problem solving,
  2. Self-blame,
  3. Avoidance   
Park et al. (2000) proposed these:
  •     psychological skills training,
  •     training and strategies,
  •     somatic relaxation,
  •     hobby activities,
  •     social support,
  •     prayer,
  •     substance abuse

Gould et al. (1993), found the following among elite skaters;

  •     rational thinking and self-talk,
  •     positive focus and orientation,
  •     social support (from coach, friends and family),
  •     time management and prioritization,
  •     precompetitive mental preparation and anxiety management (relaxation, visualization),
  •     training hard and smart,
  •     isolation and deflection (not letting things get to me, screening media),
  •     ignoring the stressors
Muriel Sarkany, IFSC Climbing World Cup Avilés, 2003 (Spain). Photo: Darío Rodríguez. Source:desnivel.com
Which stage of the competition of "stressing event" is each strategy best suited for?

Every athlete needs to have a plan for coping, that optimizes their resources and minimizes anxiety response. As there are as many reactions to stress as there are people, the plan should be personalized et. So, when preparing the plan, the individual characteristics must be accounted for, as well as the type of stressor that has a bigger influence in each occasion (the different types of stressors can be found in the previous entry); it is also necessary to know in what phase of the competition they are more likely to occur (Arruza, 1999). For example, Pensgaard et al. (1998) observed that olympic athletes used task-oriented coping during the competitive event, but they tended to resort to avoidance in the days preceding and following it.

A) In general active strategies are chosen when:
  • There is time to spare,
  • The situation is perceived as manageable,
  • There is a high confidence in one's capacity to solve the situation (Roth & Cohen, 1986).
B) By the contrary, several authors agree that avoidance coping is preferred in occasions where:
  • the situation is perceived as unmanageable (like spectators' behaviour or noise),
  • time is short,
  • the available resources are insufficient or the likelihood of getting on top of the situation is low (Anshel, 2008)
Andrea Cartas. Akelarre, 8b+, Orihuela (Murcia). Photo: Carlos Padilla. Source:andreacartas.blogspot.com
 Generally speaking, what is the most Effective strategy?

Task-oriented coping, more precisely, active coping, is linked to positive results and higher levels of self-confidence  (Krane, 1992; Eubank, 2000; Ntoumanis, 2000, Voight, 2000 and Xianming, 1999).

By contrast, strategies that rely on emotions seem to be related to elevated anxiety, depression and lack of adequate strategies (Eubank et al., 2000; Ntomaunis et al., 1998 and 2000; Pensgaard et al., 2000; Xianming et al., 1999). For Giacobbi et al., (2000), athletes suffering from high anxiety before competitive stress situations opt for negation, wishful thinking, self-blame and excessive self-criticism.

Coping Strategies and Sport Level

When Gal-Or et al. (1986) studied cognitive strategies in athletes of different level, they found that:
  •  All of them made moderate use of visualization, and focused their attention in the present action rather than the past or the future;
  •  The higher level ones had, in the moments before the competition, a higher perception of self-efficacy, and were more task-oriented than their lower level mates.
In addition, González (2001), looked at 46 elite Cuban athletes during national and international events and observed that:
  • The athletes that showed the highest levels of anxiety were those who lacked effective coping strategies, resorted to magical thinking, ruminated more about past errors or failure, blamed external causes for their errors, and had a lower self-efficacy expectancy.
  •  Those with lower anxiety were less likely to blame external factors and incur in magical thinking, looked more for support and, above all, developed coping strategies.
Variation of coping with Sport Modality

Regarding the relation between the type of physical activity and coping there seem to be some tendencies:
  •  In sports or tasks requiring precision (Badminton, penalty kick in soccer), athletes get the best results through instructional self-talk.
  •  When it is strength or endurance what matters (something likely to take place while redpointing), it is effective to use instructional along with motivational self-talk (Theodorakis et al., 2000).
  •  In less deterministic activities where attention to external stimuli is important (like onsighting), several authors have shown that if time to make a decision is very short, avoidance is effective (Anshel & Anderson, 2002; Krohne & Hindel, 1988); this has also been proposed for confronting execution errors during competition (Roth & Cohen, 1986).
  •  Where memory and automation of movement are crucial, like in gymnastics, synchronized swimming or sport climbing (when working a route), the effectiveness of visualization and relaxation has been verified (Feltz and Landers., 1983; Gray et al., 1984; Dubier et al., 1999).
Bruno Macías. Bouldering National Championship Avilés 2005 (Spain). Photo: Darío Rodríguez. Source: desnivel.com
Practical Applications to Climbing

From the conclusions reached in the reviewed documentation, we can suggest that the most effective strategies for reducing anxiety in our sport are those that focus on:
  •  the climb itself: sort each movement, refine our execution;
  •  thinking about now, one move at a time;
  •  self-talk, visualization;
  •  goal-setting, building a "competition plan", managing time (like warming-up, waiting between semifinals and finals...)
  •  promoting a high self-efficacy perception.
Regarding the best technique during each phase of a climb, or when facing a stressor, each one needs to find their own... once you have some ideas (often after much practice and trial and error) about which works best for you.

Practical Examples of Strategies for Coping with Anxiety in Climbing

Let's see some examples, I'm sure you'll be able to add many of your own:


Coping technique proposal: First, analyze what the cause for that fall is (insufficient endurance or maximum strength, less than ideal method, lack of automation leading to sluggishness, getting distracted by your own negative thoughts...); then you have to look for a response: training your endurance or your ability to do hard moves under fatigue, optimizing the easier parts so that you will get less tired to the crux, devoting a full try just to finding an easier method for the crux, repeating it several times to build confidence...; you can also ask some friend to help you figure out the variables that have influence over that fall. Lastly, set goals.

Coping style used: active, problem-oriented (analysis, problem solving, memorization, automation, self-confidence development, systematic training, seek for instrumental social support), goal setting.


Coping technique proposal: Schedule that day's activities (when to wake up, have breakfast, trip to the crag...) so that you get there early, know what routes are you go to warm-up on beforehand and ask other climbers if they are going to try your project to make sure you can have your turn. Meanwhile, try to keep distracted, enjoy the time with your friends until your time comes.

Coping style used: problem-oriented (planning) and avoidance (distraction)


Coping technique proposal: Ignore the surroundings and focus on the climb before starting, visualize the route, begin to concentrate through self-instructions for every step that you have to take. "put the harness on", "now tie in", "put my foot on that blackened edge, and then go for the right hand pinch", "place my foot really high to clip"... and also self-encouraging phrases that help focusing: "go for it!", "let's climb!", "well done!"...

Coping style used: Avoidance, also active, task oriented (self-instructions, visualization, self-motivation)


In wrapping up this entry, I suggest you apply what Carver, Scheier & Weintraub (1989), and Scheier et al. (1986) concluded:
 Using active coping, building a plan for action and reinterpreting events in a positive way have a positive correlation with self-esteem, optimism and resilience, and are also effective against anxiety.
 Have good luck and, above all, lots and lots of patience till you expose and master the strongest source of stress:: The "monster" within!

In the words of Mark Twain:
 "Some of the worst things in my life never even happened."
What are you waiting for?

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: What stresses you out? (I)
Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: What stresses you out? (II)
Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (I)
Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (II)
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