In the current study, we consider that optimal sprint start performance requires the self-control of responses. Therefore, start performance should depend on athletes’ self-control strength. We assumed that momentary depletion of self-control strength (ego depletion) would either speed up or slow down the initiation of a sprint start, where an initiation that was sped up would carry the increased risk of a false start. Applying a mixed between- (depletion vs. nondepletion) and within- (before vs. after manipulation of depletion) subjects design, we tested the start reaction times of 37 sport students. We found that participants’ start reaction times decelerated after finishing a depleting task, whereas it remained constant in the nondepletion condition. These results indicate that sprint start performance can be impaired by unrelated preceding actions that lower momentary self-control strength. We discuss practical implications in terms of optimizing sprint starts and related overall sprint performance.
Chris Englert is with the Department of Sport Psychology, Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany. Alex Bertrams is with the Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany.