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Win or Lose: the Mindset and Feelings of Athletes Who Lose

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  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2883
  • Category: Games

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Athletes are always inevitably faced with two paths in every game– winning or losing. Either of these two can generate strong waves of emotions and may emanate even long after the match had been set (Allen, Jones, & Sheffield, 2010). The behavioral consequences of winning and losing always have a far cry over future performances (Reeve, Olson, & Cole, 1985). It comes to attention that in losing, the athlete must effectively cope with failures. Athletes who do may also motivate themselves even further in order to achieve the goal they originally aspired for (Ashley, 2010).

Athletes are always driven to win, and this drive motivates them to strategize in attaining this goal (Taylor, 2009). Failures are windows of opportunity, so as long as the athlete is willing to accept and prepare ahead, he/she will turn these adversities into a motivating force to change the tides. The experience of losing a game, therefore, must be the motivating force for an athlete to do better.

Though there are other definite motivational factors which affects the athlete’s performance (Berger & Pope, 2011), this study aims to find the significance of emotional responses of losing a game to the mindset of athletes in the following games.

Main Argument

“Experience losing a game serves a motivating force for an athlete to do better.”

Athletes are always driven to win, and this drive motivates them to strategize in attaining this goal. Failures are windows of opportunity, so as long as the athlete is willing to accept and prepare ahead, he/she will turn these adversities into a motivating force to change the tides.

Research Objectives

* To find the relevance of experiencing a loss to the mindset and feelings of an athlete for the subsequent games. * To gather in-depth information regarding the mindset and feelings of athletes who experience losing and winning a game or sports competition. * To find out the effect on the mindsets and feelings of athletes before entering games, after winning or losing games, and what preparation they do for the next games to come.

Theoretical Framework

Symbolic Interactionism
The theory used is symbolic interactionism, which is concerned primarily with micro level social phenomena and represents more of social psychology. “If people define their situation as real, they are real in their consequences.” (Thomas, 1928, p. 572). People respond to things on the basis of the meanings those things have for them (Blumer,1969). Symbolic interactionism is the way we learn to interpret and give meaning to the world though our interactions with others. This theory focuses attention on the way that people interact through symbol like words, gestures, rules, and roles.

The research focuses on the interaction of the athletes to the result of their games. And the way they react to this results to their mindset and feelings.

In relation with our study as to how athletes perceive wins and losses and how that affects them in their training and games which follow. The different rituals they do on and off the court to prepare and unwind depending on the outcome of each game. Also the amount of work they put in weather they choose to be relaxed or to push harder than normal during the situation they face.

Human Agency

“Human agency emphasizes the active, willful, goal seeking character of human actors” (Reynolds & Herman-Kinney, X). The emphasis on agency focuses attention on those actions, events, and moments in social life in which agentic action is especially palpable.

This shows the motivational side of the research wherein the athletes are characterized as goal seeking and their goal is to win their sport game.

Review of Related Literature

Athletes do have significant differences with eliciting emotional responses and behavior compared to non-athletic people, and they have good reasons for it. Winner-take-all contests elicit natural responses associated with increased risk-taking and sometimes inefficient (Gilpatric, 2009), but in the world of sports competition, athletes are driven because the nature of sports is winner-take-all and they have to adapt different strategies of adapting than normal people or risk losing the game (Taylor, 2009). The mere fact of athletes’ rigorous lifestyle helps them consciously, and eventually unconsciously adapt to it (Ashley, 2010). Based on current research (Umbach, Palmer, Kuh, & Hannah, 2006), student-athletes are found to have better coping skills in the educational setting than their non-athletic peers. Ciucurel (2012) found a significant correlation between anxiety and performance level in athletes. A higher state of anxiety due to the game results in faster reaction time. These are some highlighted factors which have huge impacts over pre-, mid-, and post-event performances of athletes, but motivation presents itself as an explicit factor in the prediction and control of future behavior (Taylor, 2009).

Sloman, Sturman, & Price (2011) state the involuntary defeat strategy (IDS), as well as the involuntary winning strategy (IWS) to describe the automatic psychological and biological responses given by athletes who either win or lose in a competition. These two phenomena, the researchers contend, can become primary functional sources of motivation, implicating on how large of a factor the results of every game has on athletes.

The emotional component is also considered to play a large role in the prediction and control in athletic performance, and the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model presents that people have different emotions which can elicit optimal performance in various activities (Bebetsos, Kamperis, & Papaioannou, 2010). There are two types of coping strategies: emotion-focused and task-oriented (or problem) focused coping (McLeod, 2009; McLeod, 2010). According to recent research on these strategies, it is found that emotion-focused coping leads to increased risk of depression; although, the personality of the person becomes the overall arbiter of eventual behavior (Goodwin, 2006). A study was conducted and found significant influence of positive. reflection of post-competitions to the emotional attributes of athletes (Allen, Jones, & Sheffield, 2010).

There are also other theoretical sources of motivation in sports competition. Langens (2007) supports the claim of “Illusions of Control” (IOC) to buffer negative emotions and further motivate people even in the midst of failure. Based on the Social Interaction Theory (SIT) and subsequent evaluative study (Omar-Fauzee, 2011), athletes try to find coping strategies following a loss in a game. Coping mechanisms work best with social support. A study by Arathoon and Malouff (n.d.) contended that the use of cognitive intervention strategies in coping from the loss of a competition leads to decrease in the affective component normally associated with losing. An analysis of more than 18,000 professional basketball games shows that the teams in the losing end by half time generally increase in performance level and have higher percentage of winning during the end game (Berger & Pope, 2011).

In light of these contemporary researches, athletes draw their motivational force from internal, external, or environmental conditions existing upon them. Interacting with these conditions help them better understand how to increase their motivation for the games in the future.

Design and Respondents
The researchers used phenomenological research as their approach since the research was based on the athletes’ experience, mindset and feelings when losing. This approach made it easy for the researches to gather data since it’s from the athletes’ firsthand experience. The research studied 5 male team sports from the University of Santo Tomas, specifically: Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Baseball and Frisbee. The range of age of the athletes was 17-22 years old. They are undergraduates of the University of Santo Tomas. The researchers interviewed 14 athletes, taking 3 athletes per sport and 2 athletes from baseball. A series of standard questions regarding their mindset and feelings when losing competitions were given to the athletes through an interview. Data Gathering Procedure

Survey method was used to gather the data needed. It was done through interview and audio recording was also used to record the answers of the athletes. With the exception of 2 athletes who wrote down their answers since they refused to be audio recorded. Through this method, we will be able to see the reactions of the athletes to the questions regarding their mindset and feelings. The athletes were asked about their motivation in playing their respective sports. They were inquired on how they prepare for pre-season. Their motivation, feelings, emotions and response during the game were also asked so that the researches could further know their mindset while playing, before winning of losing. They were also asked in what they do after losing and whether or not their motivation after losing improved their performance for the next game. Lastly, the athletes were asked whether or not losing gives them benefits and advantages. Ethical Considerations

Consent forms were given to the athletes before the interview informing them about the questions and audio recording. This form was signed by the interviewer and interviewee. This was done to inform the athletes that their answers will be confidential and will be used for research purposes only and that they will remain anonymous. Data Analysis

The answers from the surveys were compiled for data analysis. Since all of the sports that we studied consisted of team sports, we compiled their answers together based on the questions. We compared their answers to find similarities and differences. Based on these comparisons, we could know if the research objectives were answered.

During pre-season, everyday training is common for all UAAP athletes. But by doing extra work e.g weights, conditioning, plyometrics and improving their individual skills, they then can excel more than their opponents.

Happiness, positive mindsets, learning through experiences, more pressure, staying humble, improvement and playing their best as if it’s their last game to play are the answers of the athletes when winning. But when athletes lose, bouncing back, thinking of what they did wrong, focusing on their next game, proving to the other team that they’re better and relaxation are their mindset.

During the game the fans, family members and God are their motivation. They are always doing their best for them. By playing hard and pushing themselves to the limit motivate them to play harder.

Focusing during the game is important, so that athletes can stay calm and enjoy their game. But being intimidated by their opponents make them feel nervous and they get emotional but this doesn’t stop them to win.

Motivating and supporting their teammates are how they respond during game. Motivating their teammates improves their teamwork and makes them focus in the game. They do their best and respect every player they play with.

Thinking of their mistakes during game, bouncing back, eating comfort foods, improving their skills and teamwork, and praying are what athletes do after losing.

Motivations of Basketball athletes are winning the championship and their fans because some students go to the extent of not attending their classes just to watch their games. While Volleyball, Baseball, Football and Frisbee athletes said that seeing their love ones watching their game make them play better. Every game counts and playing and winning for the university also motivates them.

After being motivated athletes feel more challenged to do better and their performance level changes because they are more confident while playing.

Experiencing a loss has pros and cons. By losing, they can be better because they can learn from their mistakes and challenge themselves to be better next time when they play. Losing can also make them humble. A losing experience is your best teacher, by experiencing this they won’t commit the same mistake again and again.


The experience of loss on the athletes does indeed have a positive effect on them because as they said it will keep them grounded and make them be able to focus on the mistakes they have made. This will initially be a negative response because it is a loss but after it can serve as a motivating effect on the players and the whole team to want to better themselves and win the games to come. Losing can become the driving force of a player to work harder because it shows what they are currently lacking to win. It may be a push that will become the game changing effect for a player, which is why there are re matches because after losing athletes are expected to become stronger than they were in the past.

Research Findings

* The group has found out that the athletes get their motivation from God, from their family and from their friends. They also get motivated because they are representing their school. * When they lose, they consider the mistakes they have made, and they contemplate on how to get back on their game. They think of how they are going to do better on their upcoming games. * During their games, most of the athletes feel that they should stay calm, and to never think of losing. They do not like losing because they don’t want to disappoint their fans and everyone supporting them. * Their motivation for their next games is to just win again, their drive to always win. * The athletes think that there is a difference in their gameplay because they challenge themselves to become better even though they played a somewhat good game. * When the athletes experience loss, they get to see their shortcomings individually and as a team. And they get the chance to correct their mistakes and do better for their next game.


After the research was conducted, the group was able to identify the athletes’ traits that associate with the theory used, the Social Interactionism Theory. The results showed that many outside factors contribute to how they perform in their games, and that their perception and feelings have an effect on their games. When they win, they keep their streak and maintain their training habits. When they lose, they reflect on what they did wrong, train harder and step it up on their upcoming games.

The research finding about the emotions that athletes feel as they play their games is supported by the literature, “The emotional component is also considered to play a large role in the prediction and control in athletic performance, and the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model presents that people have different emotions which can elicit optimal performance in various activities (Bebetsos, Kamperis, & Papaioannou, 2010).” The research finding that states how athletes deal with loss, like how they see their shortcomings individually and as a team, and how they get their opportunity to do better is supported by the literature, “Based on the Social Interaction Theory (SIT) and subsequent evaluative study (Omar-Fauzee, 2011), athletes try to find coping strategies following a loss in a game. Coping mechanisms work best with social support.”


Through the athletes’ loss, they strive to train harder and play better to achieve their goals because through a loss, they get humbled and focused on the things that they lacked in the last game.


Since the study is only about male athletes in team sports, the group recommends to do further studies about female athletes and individual sports. Also, to conduct a clearer interview, that the questions will be answered by all the participants.


Allen, M.S., Jones, M.V., & Sheffield, D. (2010). The influence of positive reflection on attributions, emotions, and self-efficacy. The sport psychologist, 24, 211-226. Human Kinetics Inc. Retrieved on October 8, 2012, from http://www.academia.edu/1066453/The_influence_of_positive_reflection_on_attributions_emotions_and_self-efficacy Arathoon, S.M. & Malouff, J.M. (n.d.). The effectiveness of a brief cognitive intervention to help athletes cope with competition loss. Journal of sport behavior, 27(3), 213-229. Ashley (2010). Jump in the driver’s seat & hit the gas! Retrieved on October
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