The Zone: Evidence of a Universal Phenomenon for Athletes Across Sports

by Janet A Young and Michelle D Pain

Published by Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology

This paper examines the heightened states of consciousness during participation in sport termed the zone or flow. Theoretical frameworks and studies of the phenomenon are described. The notion of a universal zone in sport is explored with a review of Young’s (1999a) comparative analysis of flow experiences of professional tennis players with Jackson’s (1993, 1996) elite athletes. Qualitative analyses of tennis players’ and elite athletes’ narratives of flow support flow theory’s posited structure of flow consisting of eight dimensions. No significant differences were found between tennis players and elite athletes on the Experience Questionnaire (Privette, 1984). These analyses suggest that the zone or flow state is a universal phenomenon across sports, although intra-sport and inter-athlete differences are evident.

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