Nerves of Steel? Stress, Work Performance and Elite Athletes
David A. Savage
Queensland University of Technology; QuBE; CEDM
Queensland University of Technology; CREMA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
September 7, 2009
There is a notable shortage of empirical research directed at measuring the magnitude and direction of stress effects on performance in a controlled environment. One reason for this is the inherent difficulties in identifying and isolating direct performance measures for individuals. Additionally most traditional work environments contain a multitude of exogenous factors impacting individual performance, but controlling for all such factors is generally unfeasible (omitted variable bias). Moreover, instead of asking individuals about their self-reported stress levels we observe workers’ behavior in situations that can be classified as stressful. For this reason we have stepped outside the traditional workplace in an attempt to gain greater controllability of these factors using the sports environment as our experimental space. We empirically investigate the relationship between stress and performance, in an extreme pressure situation (football penalty kicks) in a winner take all sporting environment (FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Cup competitions). Specifically, we examine all the penalty shootouts between 1976 and 2008 covering in total 16 events. The results indicate that extreme stressors can have a positive or negative impact on individuals’ performance. On the other hand, more commonly experienced stressors do not affect professionals’ performances.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Keywords: Performance, Stressors, Sport, Behavioural Economics, Work-related stress
JEL Classification: D80, D81, J81, Z130
Date posted: December 8, 2009
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