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Functional and dysfunctional stress in sport

This is an excerpt from Applied Sport Management Skills 3rd Edition epub With Web Study Guide by Robert N. Lussier & David C. Kimball.

Functional and Dysfunctional Stress

Stress is functional when it helps us perform better by challenging and motivating us to meet objectives. We all perform best under some pressure. When deadlines approach and the clock is ticking, our adrenaline flows, and we often rise to the occasion with better-than-usual performance. The operative word here is some: some pressure, but not too much. As you may know, you can overtrain or compete and burn out, which results in lower athletic performance.


Think of stress as existing on a bell-shaped curve. On one side, when you have too little stress, performance is lower; optimum stress (called eustress) is at the peak of the curve in the middle; too much stress moves you to the other side of the curve, which lowers your performance.173 Or, think of a race car “stress-o-meter.” In low gear you go slow; when the gauge is in the yellow zone, it's at its peak (time to shift), but going into the red can burn out the engine. What stresses you out?


Too much pressure is a serious problem in today's workplace. Excessive physical and mental stress can cause physical illness as well as mental and emotional problems. Too much stress increases appetite and cravings and leads to abdominal fat buildup and stomach problems; it can make you softer and heavier, disrupt your sleep, and leave you looking much older than you truly are. It can cause back, neck, shoulder and other pains, depression, ulcers, and heart disease.174


Stressors are situations in which people feel overwhelmed by anxiety, tension, and pressure. Stress that is constant, chronic, and severe can cause burnout. Burnout is the constant lack of interest and motivation to perform one's job because of too much stress.175 From the organizational side, high stress results in job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, turnover, and lower levels of productivity.


Causes of Stress

To overcome stress, it is important to understand what causes you stress. There are common job stressors. Before you read about them, complete Self-Assessment 8.4 to determine your stress personality type, which affects how you handle stress.


Self-Assessment 8.4

  • Type A, Type B personality. Are you a type A or a type B personality? Type A personalities are characterized as fast moving, hard driving, time conscious, competitive, impatient, and preoccupied with work. Type B personalities are just the opposite of type A personalities. If you are a high type A personality, you may want to implement the stress management ideas presented here to offset the stress. There is also a type T thrill-seeking or risk-taking personality. People with type T personality find an outlet by participating in extreme sports. Are you an A or B, and should you make any changes?
  • Organizational culture and change. The more type A the culture and the faster the rate of change, the more stress. What type of culture is a good fit for you?
  • Management's skill at managing. Bad managers cause stress.176 The more effectively managers supervise their employees, the less stress experienced by all. How much stress does your boss cause you and the rest of the team?
  • Work performed and time pressure. Some work is more stressful than other work, and the time pressure of a deadline can help motivate you to complete the task,177 but too much time pressure can be very stressful.178 Part of our stress is determined by whether we enjoy our work. A secret to less stress and more success is to do the type of work you enjoy and that you are good at doing.
  • Human relations. When people don't get along, stress increases. Our relationships with our coworkers are a very important factor in our job satisfaction. People who don't like their work but enjoy the people they work with can still be happy at work. Do you have good relationships with teammates and coworkers?
  • Smartphones. Research shows that your phone is actually more of a time waster than a time saver; the average person stares at his phone 221 times per day. Repeatedly checking your phone, especially after work hours, can be stressful, which can cause long-term problems.179 They are called cell phones because they make you prisoners in your little cell. How long can you go without checking your phone? Are you addicted to your phone? Should you make changes?