Thriving under pressure in elite para football

Our researchers are developing interventions to enable elite UK para footballers to optimise their response to perceived stressful situations.

Many of the early perceptions of stress were that it was a negative phenomenon that subsequently resulted in poor performance. However, it is now recognised that stress can be both good and bad and can often result in a better outcome.

In elite football, players are exposed to a large volume of stressors and para football is no different. These players are expected to cope with both training and playing demands but also additional organisational stressors that are sometimes specific to their impairment group. Most para footballers are not full-time players. Therefore, they are expected to balance day-to-day work with the demands of elite sport and any additional needs for their impairment.

In an acute scenario, it is how players perceive those stressors that will result in better or worse performance in training or on a matchday. In essence, players will often subconsciously weigh up the demands of a situation and the resources they have to deal with it (namely self-confidence, perceived control and goals).

If they perceive their available resources outweigh the demands, they will approach the situation in a challenge state. If the demands outweigh available resources, they will approach the situation in a threatened state. A challenge state often results in better performance while a threatened state often, but not exclusively, results in poorer performance.

Daniel Angus Doctoral Researcher

Research in focus

The focus of our research is to understand the psychophysiological responses to stress in relation to challenge and threat in elite UK para-footballers and how this will vary at different points across the season.

With the support of both Loughborough University and the Football Association it is hoped that this research will lead to the design of interventions that aim to optimise players’ responses to perceived stressful situations, with the result of enhanced playing performance.

This research builds on research produced by Dr Jamie Barker around What makes elite athletes thrive or dive under pressure?

Meet the experts

Daniel Angus

Daniel Angus

Doctoral Researcher

Dr Jamie Barker

Dr Jamie Barker

Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Professor Vicky Tolfrey

Professor Vicky Tolfrey

Professor of Applied Disability Sport

Dr Nicola Paine

Dr Nicola Paine

Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology

Carolyn Plateau

Dr Carolyn Plateau

Senior Lecturer in Psychology