Creativity, Resistance to Mental Fatigue and Coping Strategies in Junior Women Handball Players 


The purpose of this study was to examine the existing correlations between creativity, which is expressed through fluency (wealth of ideas generated in a certain timeframe) and mental flexibility (in contrast with the rigidity of thinking), the resistance to mental fatigue and the coping modalities. To investigate the research issues, the following methods were used: observation, conversation and tests - Imagination and Creativity test, Resistance to Mental Fatigue (RNE) test and the COPE Survey (Coping strategies). The study comprised 11 junior female handball players, aged between 16-17 years. In our study, we used the Spearman correlation, which revealed important relations between the results obtained by the female athletes for creativity - expressed through fluency, as well as for the resistance to disruptive factors, the performance coefficient and the scores obtained by the female players for: planning, looking for instrumental support, looking for emotional support, positive reinterpretation and emotional discharge. The result analysis indicates a positively significant correlation between creativity - fluency and the scores obtained for positive reinterpretation, as a coping strategy, also a positively significant correlation between the performance coefficient and planning, as a coping modality, and negatively significant correlations between the resistance to disruptive factors and the following coping strategies: looking for instrumental support, looking for emotional support and emotional discharge. The results underline that the improvement of the resistance to disruptive factors, of the performance coefficient and of the fluency may have a positive impact on the coping strategies used by the athletes to overcome stressful situations.

Keywords: Creativity, mental fatigue, coping strategy, handball

1. Introduction

Handball is a competitive sport, its great sight being given by the dynamic game with frequent,

unexpected changes of situations (Negulescu, 1998: 14). There are studies (Bar-eli, Tenenbaum, &

Elbaz, 1990) which reveal that the handball players are vulnerable to a psychological performance

crisis (a state in which one is expected to perform a task under physical and psychological arousal

accompanied by anxiety), in the case of unexpected behaviours and unfair unexpected sanctioned

behaviours. Thus, we emphasize the importance of developing adaptive coping strategies.

The “coping” concept designates all the mechanisms and behaviours that an individual builds

between him/her and the situation perceived as threatening, in order to dominate, control, tolerate and

reduce harmful impact that it might have on his/her physical or mental state. Coping implies complex,

multidimensional control strategies to modify the situation which generates stress or the subjective

perception, the internal echo of that situation. Coping strategies also require active processes and

mechanisms used by a person with the purpose to reduce the negative tensions and to regain wellness

and mental control or to avoid the stress (Tüdös & Mitrache, 2011: 105). The choice of coping

solutions was found by research studies (Törestad, Magnusson, & Oláh, 1990) to be dependent on the

perceived level of anxiety, perceived behaviour and perceived predictive control. Furthermore, research

also highlights that coping with a stressful situation is a process; it is a transaction between a person

and an event that plays across time and changing circumstances, with the relevance of a coping

reaction varying with the phase of the stressful event (Zeidner, 1995). Creativity represents the ability

to generate original and efficient assemblages, starting from pre-existing elements (Jaoui, 1990:. 70). A

creative person sees the same things as anybody else, but thinks of something different. The major

components of creativity, identified by Guilford, are originality, mental flexibility and fluency

(Brennan, 1983). The capacity to provide unique and rare responses to stimuli is originality. Mental

flexibility identifies an ability to make shifts in thinking, to change the categories of response, while

fluency represents the facility to generate information based on what is in an individual’s memory

store. Mental flexibility is the opposite of fixity or rigidity in thinking, while fluency refers to the

wealth of ideas, associations (Roco, 2004: 210). Current theoretical approaches regarding the creativity

development support the view that gathering diversified experience over the years is an ideal

environment for creative thinking. Thus, in sport, it was found that more creative players accumulated

more time – time spent in unstructured play activities and time spent in training for their main sport –

than their less creative counterparts (Memmert, Baker, & Bertsch, 2010). The simple reaction time to

stimuli and vigilance are used in order to assess the resistance to mental fatigue. The values of the

reaction time are decreased through exercise, until the athletes reach a set limit in their executions

(Aniţei, 2007: 135). In almost every age group, males have faster reaction times than females (Dane &

Erzurumluoglu, 2003). Yet, age-related deterioration in reaction time is the same in men and women.

Simple reaction time shortens from infancy into the late 20s, then increases slowly until the 50s and

60s, and then lengthens faster as the person gets into his 70s and beyond (Der & Deary, 2006). The

possibility of predicting the efficiency of motor actions in critical situations (in terms of rhythm,

regularity and stability of attention) is given by the ascertainment of the reaction time. Vigilance is

regarded as attention in expectation, which manifests when one is waiting for a specific event or sign

that requires a quick reaction (Cosmovici, 1996: 68).

of the study was to investigate the existing correlations between creativity -

expressed through fluency (wealth of ideas produced in a certain timeframe) and mental flexibility (as

opposed to the rigidity of thinking), resistance to mental fatigue and the coping modalities used by the

junior female handball players.

2. Materials and methods

2.1. Participants

A number of 11 junior female handball players aged between 16 and 17 years and having a

competitive experience comprised between 6 and 7 years participated in the study. The female athletes

represent the junior handball team of School Sports Club No. 2.

2.2. Devices and materials

The devices and materials used in the study were: the computer (only fulfilled the role of support in

computerized testing) – the participants did not provide any response to the tests using the keyboard or

mouse (the athletes viewed the standardized training on the computer monitor); the computerized RNE

test, within PSISELTEVA tests, developed by RQ Plus – the test involves the use of levers and pedals.

Today, with the use of computer technology, the accuracy of registrations is ensured. The movements

associated with device manipulation (buttons, levers, pedals) are known as instrumental movements

(Aniţei, 2007: 123). Also, we used the Imagination and Creativity test (Roco, 2004: 205), COPE

Survey (Coping Modalities), statistical processing methods – SPSS 20 and data interpretation.

2.3. Procedure

The COPE Survey (Coping Modalities), the computerized RNE test and the Imagination and

Creativity test were carried out by the female athletes on the same day and in the same moment of the

day – in the afternoon. We mention that the RNE test was previously used in another research

(Teodorescu, Urzeală, & Predoiu, 2012) and also the COPE Survey (Grigore et al., 2013). The three

different exercises were applied in the same order. In the case of junior female handball players, the

preferred hand was used, being generally faster (for the RNE test). The participants were tested without

previously practicing any exercise (being in a rest state). The COPE Survey (Coping Modalities)

implies 53 phrases that express the way in which people feel or act under stress or when they confront

a serious problem. The instrument was developed by Carver, Scheier and Weintraub (1989), integrating

the stress model designed by Lazarus (1984), which targets 14 coping forms. The subjects’ responses

are placed on a scale from one to four, in which number one represents “I usually do not do this thing”,

and number four, “I often do this thing”. The 14 scales corresponding to coping strategies are: active

coping (concrete actions that follow the elimination of the stressing element), planning (to orientate

thinking towards action modalities), eliminating competitive activities, retention from action (until the

moment when circumstances may allow action), looking for instrumental support (the tendency to

request advice, information), looking for emotional social support (the tendency to seek compassion,

moral support from friends, family, colleagues), positive reinterpretation, acceptance, negation (the

refusal to accept the existence of a stressing element), emotional discharge (the tendency to reduce

distress by expressing negative emotions and dispositions), religious orientation, mental passivity (the

problem is avoided by watching movies, visiting friends, practicing sports etc.), behavioural passivity

(similar to the concept of helplessness) and resorting to alcohol-medicine. The resistance to mental

fatigue, behavioural stability in stand-by and disruptive conditions were assessed through the

computerized RNE test. The screen of the monitor displays the sign “Danger” (red circles with an

exclamation mark) on the left/right and a rectangle, where the participant can see three circles. A green

circle is on the left of the rectangle, the yellow circle is on the right and the circle from the middle is

red. The disappearance of the red circle at occurrent time periods actually indicates the presence of a

signal-stimulus. Similarly, on the right/left of the screen, the sign “Danger” comes into sight, which

also represents the manifestation of a signal-stimulus. The subject is required to respond by using a

lever and two pedals. He/She is asked to solve the task by pushing the lever button when the red light

signal disappears and by pushing the left/right pedal when the sign “Danger” comes into sight on the

left/ right side. The coefficients provided by the battery software (RNE test) are: average simple

reaction time (calculated for the red colour signal-stimuli); vigilance coefficient (results for the

“Danger” signal-stimuli); performance coefficient (the ratio between the vigilance coefficient and the

average simple reaction time); adequate coefficient – the ratio between the results for the red light

signal-stimuli (the correct ones, the anticipated ones, errors, omissions)/ total red light number of

stimuli; resistance to mental fatigue coefficient (statistically calculated by relating the adequate

coefficient for the last 50 stimuli to the adequate coefficient for the first 50 stimuli); resistance to

disruptive factors (results for the first red colour signal-stimulus that appears after the “Danger” signal-

stimulus). From the whole Imagination and Creativity test, only the first task was applied. Thus, this

test involves the existence of 8 figures. The subject’s task consists in identifying what each figure may

represent. The investigated subjects were informed that no model for the responses would be provided,

so they could respond anything they thought to be appropriate. Examples for each type of items were

given before asking the subjects to respond to each of them. The participants were told to

concomitantly look at the tasks. The total response time was 5 minutes. Fluency was scored by the

exact number of generated responses. Flexibility was scored by the number of a priori categories that

could be formed from the collected responses.

The results obtained by the female handball players at RNE (resistance to mental fatigue) and

Imagination and Creativity test were correlated to the results obtained by the athletes for the coping

strategies (how they overcome stressful situations).

3. Results

Preliminary data analysis (box-plot charts) emphasized that for the results obtained at: COPE

Survey (for the 14 coping strategies), RNE (average simple reaction time, vigilance coefficient,

performance coefficient, resistance to mental fatigue coefficient, resistance to disruptive factors) and

for the scores registered at the Imagination and Creativity test (fluency and mental flexibility), no

extreme values were found.

The Spearman correlation was used in order to verify if there were any relations between creativity

- expressed through fluency (wealth of ideas produced in a certain timeframe) and mental flexibility (as

opposed to the rigidity of thinking), resistance to mental fatigue and the coping modalities used by the

junior female handball players. We mention that the conditions for applying the Spearman correlation

have been fulfilled (Labăr, 2008: 87): the sample does not have a large volume (11 subjects); the scores

of a variable are monotonously related to the scores of the other variable, meaning that, once the values

timeframe) and the results obtained by the handball players for positive reinterpretation, as a coping

strategy (p< 0.05).

The value of the determination coefficient (r2) is 0.48, which means that the relation between

fluency and the results obtained by the handball players for positive reinterpretation, as a coping

strategy, is strong.

For the average simple reaction time, vigilance coefficient, performance coefficient, resistance to

mental fatigue coefficient (RNE computerized test), as well as for the scores registered by the athletes

in the case of mental flexibility (Imagination and Creativity test), we have found that there is no

correlation with the coping strategies (p> 0.05).

4. Discussions and conclusions

Our research established the existence of certain significant statistical correlations between

creativity - expressed through fluency (wealth of ideas produced in a certain timeframe), resistance to

mental fatigue and the results obtained by the junior female handball players for the coping strategies.

There is a positively significant correlation between creativity - expressed through fluency and the

positive interpretation, as a coping strategy. Creativity in team sports is supported by the nonlinear

interactions among players. As in any other social system, the way that each player interacts with

others (on the field) influences the behaviours of players within the same team and this is a requisite to

disturb the actions of opponents (Fajen, Riley, & Turvey, 2009). Highly creative athletes, by self-

expression in the full space of constraints (set by the strict rules of team sports), may generate new and

functional actions during training and competition (Davids et al., 2014: 272). In the case of handball

players, the enhancement of creativity – fluency is related to finding a benefit even in an undesirable

situation and new ways of action against the stressful situation. This aspect can be explained by the fact

that, in sport, success sheds a rosy light on the recollection of an event and athletes often remember

their best performance. Fluency, although it is commonly viewed as a solitary experience, appears to be

a team resource and a promoter of team performance in competition with other teams (Moneta, 2014:

199). There is also a positively significant correlation between the performance coefficient (a

qualitative measure statistically calculated by relating the vigilance coefficient to the average simple

reaction time) and the results obtained by the handball players for planning, as a coping strategy. If the

junior handball players register a higher score for the performance coefficient (component of the test

assessing the athlete’s resistance to mental fatigue), this aspect is related to a better ability to plan (as a

strategy to overcome stressful situations) by orienting the thoughts towards the steps and ways of

action. Furthermore, there is a negatively significant correlation between the resistance to disruptive

factor coefficient (when facing a problem, the subject gives correct responses) and the results obtained

by the handball players in the case of: looking for instrumental support, looking for emotional support,

respectively emotional discharge, as coping strategies. Through an adequate mental preparation

completed by modelling the competition in training, the handball players will be able to improve their

ability to give correct responses when facing unpredictable distractions. This can be related to

overcoming the stressful situations: with lesser tendency to request advice, lesser tendency to seek

compassion, moral support from friends, family, colleagues, and also with a slight attempt to express

negative emotions and dispositions. This study was limited by the psychophysical state of the

participants during testing, for example the affective-motivational factors or fatigue might produce

fluctuations in the motor responses. The sample of subjects represented another limitation, because it

consisted only of female athletes. Observation and conversation are research methods which support

the value of our research. The study results provide information useful to coaches in their training

strategy, to scientifically conduct the sports training. The research data will also be used by the sport

psychologist, who will design stimulation programmes for the characteristics: creativity - expressed

through fluency (wealth of ideas produced in a certain timeframe) and resistance to mental fatigue. The

COPE Survey (Coping Modalities), Imagination and Creativity and RNE tests may be used for

psychological preparation (as complementary means) and can provide important data regarding the

coping strategies, creativity and resistance to mental fatigue.


This paper is made and published under the aegis of the National University of Physical Education and Sports from Bucharest, as a partner of program co-funded by the European Social Fund within the Operational Sectorial Program for Human Resources Development 2007-2013 through the project Pluri- and interdisciplinarity in doctoral and post-doctoral programs, Project Code: POSDRU/159/1.5/S/141086, its main beneficiary being the Research Institute for Quality of Life, Romanian Academy.


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Igorov, M., Predoiu, R., Predoiu, A., & Igorov, A. (2016). Creativity, Resistance to Mental Fatigue and Coping Strategies in Junior Women Handball Players . In V. Grigore, M. Stanescu, & M. Paunescu (Eds.), Physical Education, Sport and Kinetotherapy - ICPESK 2015, vol 11. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 286-292). Future Academy.