Preliminary results of the contribution of coping related variables and vagal tone on dart throwing performance under pressure.
Authors: Mosley, E., Laborde, S. and Kavanagh, E.
Start date: 28 November 2016
Journal: Journal of sports sciences
Issue: Supp 1
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Understanding athletic performance under pressure is crucial. Recently, a combined approach to this phenomenon has been examined including facets of psychophysiology such as per- sonality traits, stress appraisals and vagal tone, inferred from heart rate variability measurement (Laborde, Lautenbach and Allen, 2014, Journal of Physiology and Behaviour, 139, 532–540). It has been suggested that a combination of different factors allows for better prediction of athletes performance under pressure. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the predictive role of personality traits (trait emotional intelligence and reinvestment), challenge and threat appraisals and vagal tone on a dual dart throwing task under pressure. With institu- tional ethics approval, 42 participants (28 male, 14 female; mean age: 23.6 ± 7.1 years; sport experience: 11.8 ± 8.7 years) completed the personality questionnaires: Decision Specific Reinvestment Scale, Movement Specific Reinvestment Scale and the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire. They were then invited to the laboratory on two occasions and competed in a dual dart throwing task; a mathematical element was introduced to increase stress. Participants competed in both low pressure (LP) and high pressure (HP) conditions, which were counterbalanced. During the task, vagal tone measure- ments were taken at baseline, task and recovery for 5 min along with ratings of stress via a visual analogue scale. After testing, self-report measures of motivation, stress appraisal, attention, pressure and dart throwing experience were taken. Two hierarchical stepwise regressions were run for average dart score, the first block included the subjective control vari- ables and the second included the predictor variables. Stepwise regression was chosen due to the exploratory nature and multiple predictor variables. No predictors were found for LP. In HP, two predictors were found, the first was attention towards the task (R2 = .13, P = .022) and the second as attention towards the self (R2 = .22, P = .010). Another two hierarchical stepwise regressions were run for the cognitive element and the number of math errors. The predictor in LP was level of vagal tone at baseline (R2 = .10, P = .040) and the predictor in HP was attention towards the task (R2 = .13, P = .022). The results suggest that vagal tone influences the cognitive element of the dart throwing task in LP and attention plays a major role in HP dart throwing performance. This then provides an interesting avenue for future research assessing a combina- tion of psychophysiological facets in differing pressure situations.