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Nerves of steel? Stress, work performance and elite athletes

  • David A. Savage
  • Benno Torgler

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’ behaviour 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.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/00036846.2011.564150
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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 44 (2012)
Issue (Month): 19 (July)
Pages: 2423-2435

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Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:44:y:2012:i:19:p:2423-2435
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  1. P.-A. Chiappori, 2002. "Testing Mixed-Strategy Equilibria When Players Are Heterogeneous: The Case of Penalty Kicks in Soccer," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1138-1151, September.
  2. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2008. "Field Experiments in Economics: The Past, The Present, and The Future," NBER Working Papers 14356, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "The Sports Business as a Labor Market Laboratory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 75-94, Summer.
  5. Benno Torgler, 2004. "The Economics of the FIFA Football Worldcup," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(2), pages 287-300, 05.
  6. Christopher F Baum, 2006. "An Introduction to Modern Econometrics using Stata," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, number imeus, November.
  7. Benno Torgler, 2006. "Historical Excellence' in Soccer World Cup Tournaments: Empirical Evidence with Data from 1930 to 2002," Rivista di Diritto ed Economia dello Sport, Centro di diritto e business dello Sport, vol. 2(1), pages 101-117, Aprile.
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