A qualitative examination of athletes' perceptions of anxiety using photovoice


The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of anxiety, what it looks like, what it feels like, and what it means to athletes who are experiencing it. There is a gap that exists within anxiety literature in sport resulting from the vast majority of research examining anxiety that has quantified a subjective experience. Missing from our understanding of anxiety in athletics is a sense of how it is experienced by the athlete. We have an understanding of what factors influence anxiety and how anxiety can be detrimental to sport performance; however, we are missing how it feels. Without such an understanding, we are left with an inadequate analysis of a dynamic and universal phenomenon. Employing the Photovoice method, this study utilized photography and semi-structured interviews to have athletes capture what anxiety is to them and explain their personal experiences. Thematic analysis in conjunction with examination of the participants’ photographs was performed to find common themes among athletes’ experiences with anxiety and capture the essence of these athletes’ stories. Six major themes were identified and they had to do with scheduling/managing athletics and school, expectations for both performance and behaviour, food related worries, managing injuries, body image issues, and small worries that are amplified due to already heightened competition anxiety.