Background: Over the past few decades, sport psychology research has pointed to the salience of athletes’ organizational stress and the satisfaction of their psychological needs as
being central to their performance and well-being. However, somewhat surprisingly given their primacy in psychosocial processes, no research to date has examined the relationship between
organizational stressors and psychological needs in sport performers. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine how athletes appraise the organizational stressors they encounter and how
this effects the satisfaction or thwarting of their psychological needs.
Methods: The sample comprised 315 British athletes who were competing at either a national or international level in their sport. Participants completed a multi-section questionnaire
which assessed organizational stressors, appraisal, and psychological need satisfaction and thwarting.
Results: The findings showed that i) encountering organizational stressors elicited stressful appraisals, ii) the extent to which an athlete perceived him or herself to be in control
of a situation influenced whether a challenge or threat appraisal was made, and iii) the nature of an athlete’s appraisal mediated the relationship between organizational stressors and psychological
need experiences. To elaborate on the first finding, the frequency and intensity of organizational demands were significantly related to both challenge and threat appraisals; however, the duration
dimension was not found to be significantly related to both types of evaluation as it displayed a non-significant relationship with threat appraisals. In terms of the mediation result, it was found
that challenge appraisals of the demand dimensions positively predicted need satisfaction and negatively predicted need thwarting, whereas threat appraisals of the frequency and duration of the
demands negatively predicted need satisfaction, and threat appraisals of all three dimensions of organizational stressors positively predicted need thwarting.
Conclusions: This study is the first in the literature to demonstrate that how athletes appraise organizational stressors will impact, and can help to explain, why their needs might
become supported or thwarted. In addition to an empirical contribution, the study can further theoretical knowledge and understanding relating to the transactional theory of stress and
self-determination theory, with specific reference to the bidirectional relationship between appraisals and psychological needs, and the distinction between psychological need satisfaction and
thwarting. For practice, the findings can inform the planning of primary and secondary stress management interventions to both optimize the stress experience and support high quality motivation and