It has been a growing trend in professional sport for fans to join the bandwagon and cheer or the team expected to win.  It makes sense, why wouldn’t you want to root for the winning team.  Although this seems like the obvious thing to do when you don’t have any previous allegiance to a team in the sport, but the pressure this puts on the athletes is often overlooked.  When teams are doing well for an extended amount of time, there is added pressure to reach certain outcomes, such as winning night in, night out.  Along with expectations from the viewers, this status as “the man (or team) to beat” puts a target on your back for other teams.  When you are identified as a standard of excellence, there is an expectation to maintain this standard and continue the high level of performance as long as possible.  There have been research studies looking at the effects of success and failure on the perception of threat in a competitive situation.  The studies have shown that athletes with a recent history of success perceive threats at a greater rate than the groups that have achieved moderate success or failure (Scanlan, 1977).  This increased stimulus may cause athletes to be over-aroused, thus causing them to lose their composure and perform less than optimally.

This topic comes to mind because of the recent record-breaking hot start of the Golden State Warriors. Since the Warriors began their season with the longest win streak in NBA history, people are now talking about the possibility of them sustaining this pace and achieving the feat of breaking the record for most wins in a season.  If the players on the Warriors start thinking too far ahead of themselves, they may run into trouble by focusing too closely on things that are out of reach.  The best way to approach this situation and avoid over-thinking the matter is to keep events in perspective and remember that only one game can be won at a time.  The Warriors got into this situation in the first place because of their strong and composed leadership.  Research supports the claim that the more success occurs, the more likely it is for followers to have increased morale and perceive commendable leadership function (Furukawa, 1975).  Due to these findings, it is likely that with the continued success, role players and bench players will have increased buy-in, as the captains continue playing at a high level.

Usain-Bolt-Winning-Another-Race-440x265
(Justin Grayer)

This topic is somewhat of a continuation of my previous blog post, as it talks about running from the front of the pack with a target on your back, and trying to reach the expectations placed upon you by either yourself or others.  Although I agree that it is important to set goals that will be challenging and not easily obtained, it is also vital to make these goals realistic.  In addition to making the goals attainable, it is vital that the athletes do not put overwhelming pressure on themselves to accomplish these goals.  There is a certain level of arousal needed to be considered at an optimal level, and if the athletes are outside of this range performance outcomes may be detrimental.  If an athlete is too excited, they might over-think things, if they are too relaxed they might be caught flat-footed.  In situations such as these, it is important to be alert and composed.  There is evidence based literature that states that this is the best way to overcome unforeseen incidents in any environment, whether it is athletic, medical, or any other kind of pressure situation requiring an adaptation (Chikvashvili, 2011).  This phenomenon is important to apply to the field because there will always be athletes or teams who are favored in matchups. Being favored comes with advantages and disadvantages, and in order to properly prepare athletes, they must be ready to act on both of these cases.  The best athletes in the world who have managed to stay there with longevity have mastered this art by controlling everything they can control in order to give them every advantage possible, and this includes this competitive, yet humble mindset.

References

Chikvashvili, J. (2011). Overcoming unforeseen incidents: what to do when an unlikely event occurs. Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, 32(5), 44-48, Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21755894

Furukawa, H. (1975). The effect of success or failure evaluation upon followers’ morale and perception of leadership function. Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 11(2), 133-147, DOI: http://dx.doi.org.pioproxy.carrollu.edu/10.2130/jjesp.11.133

Scanlan, T.K. (1977). The effects of success–failure on the perception of threat in a competitive situation. Research Quarterly, 48(1), 144-153, Retrieved from: http://search.proquest.com.pioproxy.carrollu.edu/psycinfo/docview/616303943/C5102DD111754614PQ/2?accountid=9187

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