The perceived effect of incumbent versus new head coaches on state cognitive anxiety levels of Division I college athletes

Jennifer Ann Beck


As intercollegiate athletics continues to grow, the pressure placed on athletes to win intensifies. The purpose of the study was to measure the perceived effect of incumbent versus new head coaches on state cognitive anxiety levels of Division I college athletes. The population consisted of 201 returning varsity athletes with incumbent head coaches from three southeastern NCAA Division I conferences, and 54 returning Division I varsity athletes from five teams that experienced a head coaching change. Sport teams surveyed consisted of basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming/diving, tennis, and volleyball. Both males ( n = 48) and females (n = 207) were incorporated into the study. Ages of the participants ranged from 18-23 years. The study included athletes that were in their 2nd , 3rd , 4 th , or 5th year of playing eligibility. Athletes were asked to complete the Collegiate Athletic State Cognitive Anxiety Survey (CASCAS ) for the study. Items were then categorized into four different groups for statistical analysis. Analysis included overall state cognitive anxiety, scholarship, coaching relations, and competition/performance. Results of the study revealed no statistical significance between athletes who experienced incumbent versus new head coaching changes in the four categories. However, statistical significance was found between team sport athletes (M = 1.43, SD = 2.06) when compared to individual sport athletes (M = 2.67, SD = 2.14, t (220) = 3.10, p < .05) in terms of scholarship. Statistically significant differences were also found between females (M = 2.34, SD = 1.86) and males (M = 1.70, SD -1.62, t (207) = -2.21, p < .05) in the competition/performance category. The study also revealed a statistically significant negative relationship between length of time athletes participated in their sport and overall anxiety (r = -.13, p < .05), scholarship (r = -.14, p < .05), and competition/performance (r = -.14, p < .05). Caucasians (M = 2.01, SD = 1.44) possessed statistically significant differences in overall state cognitive anxiety levels as compared to African Americans (M = 1.43, SD = 1.31), t (163) = 2.64, p < .05). Finally, a statistically significant negative relationship was discovered between state cognitive anxiety levels and coaching relationship in overall state cognitive anxiety (r = -.27, p < .05) and scholarship (r = -.26, p < .05). Student-athletes are continuously evolving due to new experiences and exposures to intercollegiate athletics. Although the study found no statistically significant differences between the two groups, further investigation in this area is warranted. Coaches and administrators can utilize the findings to improve the athletic environment and better understand the concerns that student-athletes face each year.