The number of South African endurance athletes is increasing yearly. However, very little research has been done on non-elite South African endurance athletes. Due to the length and nature of endurance sport and especially extreme endurance sport, athletes have to employ more self-motivating strategies for longer periods to perform well. One factor that increases athletes’ stress levels is the environment within which they are participating. These environments can and usually are very harsh, such as extreme heat or cold. However, the motivational- and coping strategies used by athletes specifically in extreme endurance events have not been studied to a great extent (Weinberg&Gould, 2003). The aim of this study is to determine the coping- and motivational strategies that non-elite athletes use to overcome environmental factors during endurance events. A qualitative approach was used where 53 non-elite endurance athletes completed a questionnaire and interviews. Through analysis of the data it emerged that environmental factors are perceived to have a physical and mental impact on performance. The perception of this impact differs and can be positive, negative or neutral depending on situational factors. Motivational strategies that are employed during endurance events are the result of two factors: focus of motivation and source of motivation. By combining these two factors, four motivational strategies were identified: positive-internal, positive-external, negative-internal and negative-external of which positive-internal was most frequently used, followed by negative-internal, positive-external and negative-external. Endurance athletes used all three coping strategies that were identified in the literature. The most frequently used strategy was to remove the source of the stress, followed by strategies that changes the athlete’s perception of the stressor, and lastly strategies that focuses on the symptoms of the stress. Endurance athletes perceive themselves able to overcome the challenges of endurance events. However, this ability must constantly be tested by participation in endurance sport or other stressful situations. Previous successful participation in endurance events or other stressful situations leads to an increase in positive self-perception of own abilities, as well as an increase in performance in endurance events.
Thesis (DPhil (Human Movement Science))--University of Pretoria, 2007.