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Sexes cope differently with stress in sport

Research into the role of stress and coping in sport has found men and women cope differently under pressure.

The study ‘Gender differences in stress, appraisal, and coping during golf putting’ published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology had male and female participants putting golf balls, under observation by experts, with wonky putters and ego-threatening feedback. Participants spoke aloud during the test about how they were coping.

Victoria University’s Professor Remco Polman said the studies found similar stress responses – including increased heart rate, slowing down in task execution and cognitive anxiety - for both males and females in the experimental condition. However, significant gender differences were found in relation to the frequency of ‘stressors’ – or stimulus that cause stress – and strategies used to cope with these particular stressors.

“Basically, females reported being more often concerned with task execution – or how they were going to  make the put – while males reported being more concerned with the outcome – were they actually going to sink the put or not,” Professor Polman said.

He said these findings were significant as they represented a completely different way of appraising the situation between men and women.

“What we don’t know is whether these different ways of approaching a stressful task are innate or whether they are a result of how society is organized, our educational system and so on,” he said.

“Either way, the research suggests that coaches and sport psychologists should take into consideration that their male and female athletes will likely appraise similar stressors in a different ways, with consequences for how they cope.”


Available for interview

Professor Remco Polman, researcher

Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University

(03) 9919 5974; 0435 965 658; [email protected]


Media contact:

Michael Quin, Research writer

Public Affairs Department, Victoria University

(03) 9919 9491; 0431 815 409; [email protected]

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