All too soon in the midst of Covid-19 major football leagues around the world will come to a close or end. This will allow for players, teams and club managers to go for a recess before the next major football season for 2020/21 pre-season kick starts. Even though the arrival of covid-19 brought major shake-ups in the sporting world, some industry players ensured a smooth conclusion of their respective seasons.
Before the start of the 2020/21 season, clubs have gone into the market in search of players to beef up their squads ahead of the next major season. Mostly when players move from big clubs or major leagues or tier to smaller tier clubs issues of self-efficacy, stress, anxiety and social support are at the minimal especially for players who are gradually preparing an exit plan from football, nursing a chronic injury and or relegation of club. The situation however gets complicated when the reverse is the story. Such players suffer from but not limited to low self-efficacy, high levels of stress, anxiety and lack of social support. This article will share with you (stakeholders) on ways of ensuring these individual players fit into their respective new clubs. It will also delve into ways of providing social support both (perceived and received) to ensure a reduction in stress, anxiety and improve the low self-efficacy of players.
This intervention proposal will focus on how to support players and also propose an intervention plan for player integration ahead of major football seasons. By doing this, an intervention plan will be outlined which when considered will improve the low self-efficacy of such players, regulate both stress and anxiety levels of these players and finally outlined some social support measures to enable these players fit in.
It is a known fact that the continuous strive by athletes to improve their performance does not appear to be ending anytime soon. The search for social support that can make the ‘BIG’ difference in their performance is of absolute importance for them. These athletes such for support in areas ranging from helping them to cope with their stress levels (Crocker, 1992), enhance their performance (Rees, Hardy & Freeman, 2007), bounce back from injury (Hardy, Richman & Rosenfeld, 1991), burn out (Gould et al, 1996), manage anxiety (Dugdale, Eklund & Gordon, 2002) and underpin performance (Rees & Hardy, 2004).
Despite the successes chalked by the provision of social support, more research is needed to determine the specific providers of social support (Bianco, 2001). Again, there is difficulty in determining a common measure due to the “multidimensional” nature of the construct (Bianco & Eklund, 2001) and the varied views in defining the term (House & Khan, 1985). However, Social support is defined as “an interaction aimed at inducing positive outcomes” (T. Bianco & R.C Eklund, 2001 p. 85). These outcomes are achieved through the structural (network) and functional dimensions of support (i.e tangible, emotional, esteem and informational dimensions).
Research findings suggest that, for social support to be beneficial, the recipient must be willing to accept the support provided (B.R Sarason et al, 1985). Providing support to an unwilling soul is just like pouring water on a stone. In this context, when both perceived and received support are correlated they produce positive results upon outcome (Lakey & Drew, 1997). Again, both perceived and received support are known to produce between 12% to 20% common variance (Hardy, 2009; Freeman & Rees, 2008). Perceived support here refers to the support one thinks is available for him or her whiles received support is the actual support athletes gain from the providers. The essence of this study is to determine how perceive and receive support exert their effects on stress, anxiety and self-efficacy thus an intervention aimed at increasing the social support of players to improve on their stress levels, anxiety and low self-efficacy which will help them settle in the club.
Bandura (1997), defined self-efficacy as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to produce given attainments” (p 3). The theory of self-efficacy explains how people are able to anticipate, react, and control events in their environment (Bandura, 1977, 1997, 2001). This social cognitive theory further indicates that, the network within which people find themselves will determine their beliefs (Feltz et al, 2008). It is however indicated that, there are three types of beliefs in sports. These are levels, strength, and generality (Feltz et all, 2008). According to this study, levels refer to the total output of people’s performance depending on different difficult situations. Strength refers to how ‘’uncertain’’ or ‘’certain’’ peoples beliefs are in the different levels of performance. Generality is the ability to positively transfer the amount of knowledge gain across different dimensions.
Getting the right fortitude and composer to face the ‘’D Day’’ is a relevant contributor to success. It is an obvious fact that, right from juvenile to elite athletes, they experience moderate to high levels of anxiety before competitions. The forgone literature is well documented in the profiles of elite athletes (Dugdale, Eklund and Gordon, 2002 and Krane & Williams, 2010). All of these goes to buttress the point that, the ability to control arousal levels, correlates with optimal performance in sports. Anxiety refers to the unwarranted emotions relating to continuous feeling of apprehension and dread (Cashmore, 2008). It is the feeling one gets in the absences of ‘’real or obvious danger’’ (Buckworth & Dishman, 2002, p.116). There are three key elements of the term anxiety thus: Cognitive, Somatic and Behavioural (Gould, Greenleaf and Krane, 2002). However, there is a major difference between these two constructs; arousal and anxiety. The former is related to undifferentiated body energy and the later an emotional label for a negatively interpreted arousal experience (Hardy, Jones & Gould, 1996). While it is important to generate anxiety to aid in optimal performance, it is more crucial to keep it under check (Guardian, 2009, p.35). Thus, an arousal experience which may appear beneficial to one athlete may appear unpleasant or negative to another athlete.
For the purposes of this article, a Ghana Premier League Team have secured the signatures of four players from four different teams in the Ghana Division One League (GDOL). The GDOL is the next football tier to the Ghana Premier League (GPL) in Ghana. It is a domestic league that features 18 teams. The criteria for migration of any player into the GPL team is usually based on individual performance in the domestic league and also to offer such players international exposure since premier league clubs get the opportunity to compete in major CAF tournaments.
The support base of these players will be measured using these two main measuring instruments in sports thus; The Perceived Available Support in Sport Questionnaire (PASS-Q) and the Athletes’ Received Support Questionnaire (ARSQ). Two recommendations by Bianco and Eklund, 2001, and Wills and Shinar, 2000 will be considered in the selection of the items. First, social support measures should be relevant to the situational context in which they are being used. Second, social support researchers should write new items to capture the specific aspects of the support needs of the target population. Five items will be selected from the PASS-Q and ARSQ. These five items should be those targeting to measure both the perceived and received support of the players.
Five items will be used following Bianco and Eklund (2001) recommendation as stated earlier. This will be administered during phase A and phase B of the intervention to determine each participant’s received support before and after the intervention.
The use of interventions in sports and in this research is based on its positive outcomes across various dimensions. Interventions used in sports are linked with an increase in athletes’ confidence (Vealey, 2001), a reduction in anxiety of young athletes (Smith, Smoll & Cumming, 2007), and improve performance (Freeman, Rees & Hardy, 2009). In the field of health, interventions correlate positively in reducing depression (Njarian, 2002) and weight loss (Freeman et al, 2009). For a successful intervention, focus must be on how to support individuals to adjust to their environment (Freeman & Rees, 2008), and on the individual’s willingness to accept support (Gottlieb, 2000). Gottlieb (2000) posits that, the use of the one to one intervention procedure enable individuals to adjust to new environments, and is appropriate for short term purposes. The procedure for the one to one intervention proposed by Eckenrode and Hamilton, (2000) is by grafting a new contact into the social network of the athlete. This is to create a relationship that will allow for support to be provided.
Since the focus of this article is to ensure an increase in the self-efficacy of players by way of reducing stress and anxiety levels moving into higher/different tier clubs, it is prudent to measure the perceived and received support of such players on arrival to their new clubs. This will allow for an objective understanding of the support base of the players and how it affects their self-efficacy, stress, and anxiety on arrival. It will also provide firsthand information on areas where each player lacks/have support and what type of support to provide for each of these players prior to their inclusion into the team, matches and at what time the support should be provided.
After the administration of the question, the psychologist/technical member grafted into the design, will rely on the use of single-subject designs which will enable an objective measure of the outcome of the intervention on participants (Bryan, 1987). The data for social support on stress, anxiety and self-efficacy will be analyzed using single –subject design for the four participants. The advantage for the use of this design is that, it does not require a large sample size to draw conclusions (Callow et al, 2001). It also establishes the process of change in the specific dimensions of support provided to the players and is suitable for determining the effectiveness of an intervention (Kinugasa, Cerin & Hooper, 2004). The type of single subject research design to be applied to this intervention is the AB design. This design is appropriate because is it withdrawn when the results are successfully and makes it more preferred over the multiple baseline design which requires a repetition of the intervention process during every football engagement (Backman & Harris, 1999). The AB single subject design consist of two phases. The first phase (A) will represent each participants social support on stress, anxiety and self-efficacy levels before the intervention and the second phase (B) will measure how social support as an intervention have improved each participant’s stress levels, reduction of anxiety and self-efficacy levels (Barlow & Hersen, 1984). For an effective intervention using single-subject measure, compare the data in phase A to the phase B (Barlow & Hersen, 1984; Johnston & Pennypacker, 2009). Single subject designs can be evaluated through visual observation of behavioral changes in participants (Parsonson & Baer, 1974) and statistical analysis (Kazdin, 1982; Todman & Dugard, 2001). Conventionally, the visual approach is always adapted (Hrycaiko & Martin, 1996). The visual analysis is the graphical presentation of data to determine the effectiveness of an intervention on participants (Barlow & Hersen, 1984). The use of such designs helps to monitor the trend of the participant (Ferron & Foster, 1998) and are cost effective and simple to implement (Parsonson & Baer, 1992). The data on the graph can be viewed in three different ways thus, the levels, trends and variability (Wolery, Dunlap and Ledford, 2011). Wolery et al, (2001) explained that, the level refers to the relative value on the dependent variable. Trends refers to the direction in which data is moving and variability is the degree of consistency in the data. The levels are the data points plotted on the graph (Nugent, 1996) for each participant. The trend is determined by a straight line connecting the first data point to the last data point and an arrow to show the direction of movement for both the baseline and the intervention and can also be from the second data point to the last data point (Nugent, 1996). The movement of the lines is used to determine the effect of the intervention. For example, if the direction of the arrow after the intervention shows an upward trend, this indicates that participants recorded high levels of social support. However, if there is a slope in the trend after the intervention, this suggest there was no positive effect from the intervention. There is opposing views on the use of these designs. That is, a defined trend in the baseline might make it difficult to detect the effect of the intervention (Wolery et al, 2011). Other researchers also thinks that, the detection of change using visual designs can be subjective and the results influenced by the method of data treatment (Nourbakhsh & Ottenbacher, 1994). There is therefore the need for an internal validity (Crosbie, 1993). Thus, each participant is made to take same questionnaire during the baseline and the post intervention stage. This will create a stable ground for comparing data in the baseline and post intervention stage (Byiers, Reichle and Symons, 2012).
In conclusion, the use of statistical methods together with visual designs enhances the effectiveness of an intervention (Nourbakhsh & Ottenbacher, 1994). The use of statistical methods is to check for small treatment effects which might not be noticed and show consistency in the outcome (Kazdin, 1982). Note; when the design is successful on outcome, this will be withdrawn and if the results show otherwise, the process is repeated (Multiple Base Line Design). It is recommended that other tools suitable for measuring the effectiveness of an intervention in sports such as; Time series analyses, Randomization test, and Revusky’s test of ranks (Kinugasa et al, 20120) can be employed.
Thoughts of a Sports Psychologist.
AGBONOR SULEMANI RUFAI