In an exploratory study, the relationships between two major concepts in psychological adjustment, coping strategies, and defense mechanisms were investigated. Sport competition is an example of a real-world context in which people's responses to stressful situations can be investigated. The extent to which participants reported different uses of coping strategies and defense mechanisms was assessed in terms of performance. 26 elite kayakers were classified into one of two groups, depending on the discrepancy between their standard performance and their performance in competition. Correlations were found among the coping strategies of seeking social support, positive reappraisal/planful problem solving, and mature defenses and between the coping strategy of distancing/avoidance and immature defenses. The results of multivariate and univariate analyses confirmed a significantly different use of coping strategies and defense mechanisms between the two performance groups. In light of these findings, certain recommendations in terms of methodology and application are warranted. Coping strategies and defense mechanisms should be studied to improve adjustment to sport performance.