Two field studies investigate the role of self in the tendency of athletes to engage in claimed handicapping strategies during training (anticipatively claiming that handicaps may interfere with their performance). Study 1 tested the relationship between trait self-esteem and athletes’ engagement in claimed self-handicapping. As hypothesized, low physical self-esteem athletes claimed more handicaps than high physical self-esteem athletes. For stronger evidence for the causal role of the self, Study 2 tested whether securing athletes’ self-worth through self-affirmation would lead to decreased claimed self-handicapping by using a mixed model design that allows for both between-subjects (affirmation vs. control condition) and within-subject comparisons (before vs. after self-affirmation intervention). Self-affirmed athletes had decreased levels of claimed self-handicapping. Studies 1 and 2 also demonstrate that athletes engage in claimed self-handicapping during training, which could have deleterious effects on subsequent performance. Discussion centers on theoretical implications and applications for coaches, sport teachers, and sport psychologists.
Lucie Finez and David K. Sherman
Lucie Finez, Sophie Berjot, Elisabeth Rosnet, and Christena Cleveland
One hundred and three athletes participated in a motor task that was ostensibly designed to detect their physical ability (high ego-threatening condition) or provide pretesting data for an upcoming study (low ego-threatening condition) and were then given the opportunity to claim handicaps that could impair their performance on this task. Extending previous findings that high self-handicappers (i.e., athletes who scored high on the self-handicapping scale) and low self-esteem athletes engage in claimed self-handicapping in high ego-threatening conditions, the results reveal that they may also engage in this strategy in low ego-threatening conditions. In the low ego-threatening condition, athletes’ self-esteem and self-handicapping tendency explained together 33% of the handicaps they claimed.