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UK Coaching Team
Self-care and development

How Coaches Can Identify and Manage Stress: Applying Appraisal to Your Participants and Network

In the fourth part of a series, Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University Alexandra Potts explains the importance of considering how your participants appraise stressful situations

The first three resources in this series covered how appraisal is essentially an evaluation of a situation that can individual finds stressful. It’s an important part in determining the outcome of a stressful situation and can impact how an individual thinks and feels, as well as affecting their well-being.

Whilst it is important for you to consider how you appraise a stressful situation, it’s crucial not to forget about your participants’ experiences, and everyone else within your network.

Appraisals can be experienced by:

  • athletes
  • parents
  • other coaches
  • athlete support personnel.

It’s important to recognise that everyone who is exposed to a stressful situation will appraise the situation unconsciously and respond in one of four ways. 

Those individuals that perceive the situation negatively (as a threat, possible loss, or harm to themselves or those close to them) will often respond by:

  • shouting
  • getting angry
  • becoming frustrated.

This occurs before they have given themselves the opportunity to think about the experience and how they perceive it. In the moment, as an unconscious action, they don’t always have think about how they will respond.

It is important we take the opportunity through coaching conversations and deliberate development opportunities to support individuals to become aware of how they respond in stressful situations and how they perceive their appraisal of the situation. They need to develop an increased awareness and understanding of how an unpredictable response could impact their own performance, progress and development, and well-being, or that of someone else.

Encouraging a positive appraisal of a stressful situation

Consider a parent’s reaction to their child not being selected. Before the coach has an opportunity to explain, they appraise the situation as a loss to their child and a threat to themselves, possibly a loss of ‘face’ with other parents. Their response in a negative state is likely to be frustration, anger, and aggression, such as by:

  • blaming others
  • shouting
  • talking negatively
  • issuing threats, such as that they will move to another team or speak to the committee.

While their intention is to support their child, the child may feel embarrassed, ashamed or upset.

Now imagine the situation, with several changes:

  • The parent is spoken to away from other parents.
  • The conversation doesn’t take place immediately before the game.
  • The parent has a much greater opportunity to appraise the situation differently.

The coach then starts the conversation by explaining their reasons and when their child will have their opportunity to play next. While still disappointed, the parent is likely to see the positive side of the appraisal, acting and behaving in a supporting manner to the coach and providing a safer and better environment for their child.

The child observes how their parent reacts, models their behaviour, and recognises that there are positives to come from a disappointing situation.


Your role as a coach is to model positive behaviours, including how you act and react during a competition when you interact with the match officials, opponents, and spectators. The decisions made and the result will influence how your participants will respond and react to the situation.


As a coach, you can develop these skills and behaviours with your participants and their support network.

It’s important to understand which appraisals have been beneficial in the past and find effective ways to become aware of and reproduce them. The use of reflective conversations and ‘what if’ planning with individuals and groups helps participants to consider their responses and replay these with a different action and outcome.

The use of mindfulness and positive self-talk before competition can help equip your participants to believe that they have the demands to meet the stressors (skill level, team spirit, commitment, tactics, strategies, competition plan) and as such respond with a positive appraisal (challenge and/or benefit).

Finally, it is useful to examine your own experiences and understand your awareness of different appraisals. This helps when working with others to minimise any negative impact the response might have on individuals and foster positive working relationships. It also helps when working independently to ensure a positive work-life balance and foster well-being.


When you reflect on a competition situation or a practice session, do you take the time to review and reflect on your behaviours and how you react to stressful situations?


Have a go

Why not record yourself (easily done with a smart phone) and reflect on your communication, language, and behaviours during a competition?

How did you perceive key moments in the game? What would you do differently next time?


More on Stress

The first resource in this series builds on the Stress Model, considering how coaches act and react to stress


Related Resources

  • A Model of Consistency: Send the Right Message to Parents

  • An Introduction to Leading Change

  • How Successful Elite Coaches Act During Competition


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