Nerves of Steel? Stress, Work Performance and Elite Athletes

36 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2009

See all articles by David A. Savage

David A. Savage

Queensland University of Technology; QuBE; CEDM

Benno Torgler

Queensland University of Technology; CREMA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Date Written: September 7, 2009

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Performance, Stressors, Sport, Behavioural Economics, Work-related stress

JEL Classification: D80, D81, J81, Z130

Suggested Citation

Savage, David A. and Torgler, Benno, Nerves of Steel? Stress, Work Performance and Elite Athletes (September 7, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1520185 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1520185

David A. Savage (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

GPO Box 2434
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4001
Australia

QuBE ( email )

2 George Street
GPO Box 2434
Brisbane, 4510
Australia

CEDM ( email )

Brisbane, 4001
Australia

Benno Torgler

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

GPO Box 2434
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4001
Australia

CREMA

Gellertstrasse 18
Basel
Zurich, CH 8006
Switzerland

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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