Get your head in the game: a look at sports psychology

Emily Rybak
The Cascade

“A sport always has been — and always will be — more than just a game.” (Image: University of the Fraser Valley/flickr)

“A sport always has been — and always will be — more than just a game.” (Image: University of the Fraser Valley/flickr)

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. (CUP) — Spectators are often envious of professional athletes. The player has gotten to make a living out of doing something they love, and they’re also getting way overpaid for it! However, they may now groan at doing what used to be something they loved in the morning after their routine sawdust-flavoured power shake. This is what we call intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation occurs naturally by doing something simply because you love it and are passionate about it, like becoming a volunteer coach as your way of giving back to the community. When you are only willing to do something while compensated for it, you are motivated by an external source, such as money, and are therefore extrinsically motivated since there is something in it for you.

A problem occurs once extrinsic and intrinsic motivations cross paths. A basketball player may sign on with a team for all of the right reasons: they love the sport, are passionate about it, and have potential. After long enough, if their compensation is retracted, they will likely no longer enjoy their once-beloved sport. At least not nearly as much as they once did. What they were once motivated to do by passion has been influenced externally by money. It is difficult to find it enjoyable once the extrinsic motivation is gone.

Ever notice after a victory, your uncle won’t stop saying “we won” and “that was a great win for us?” This is called BIRGing: basking in reflected glory. A fan will personally identify themselves with a team of their choice and hold themselves personally responsible for the team’s success. They associate themselves with triumph without having to do any of the work, leaving them to bask in their unearned glory. BIRGing is an impression-management technique personally designed to protect one’s distended self-esteem to counteract any threats toward it. The downfall of the mechanism occurs once a person realizes that they play little to no role in their cherished team’s victory.

Now, heaven forbid, your uncle’s favourite team loses, it turns into him saying “they lost,” and “they did terrible last night!” This is CORFing: cut off reflected failure. Suddenly a dedicated fan doesn’t want to be considered as a part of a losing team. They suddenly use words like “they” instead of “we.”

Whether or not a person participates in CORFing exposes either a true or a fickle fan. Using both BIRGing and CORFing, a person’s behaviour over a victory and / or failure may be understood. A true fan will buy all of the memorabilia and will wear the team jersey the day after an embarrassing loss, or even during a losing streak. A CORFer may go as far as to deny they watched any of their team’s games.

When your voice starts to give out in the final quarter, ask exactly who are you cheering for. If they lose, slightly or exponentially, will it change how you feel about your beloved team? Will you quietly remove that bumper sticker, or feel proud when you see another person with the same one? Whether you’re a team or fanclub member, adrenaline and score are not the only things that matter, because a sport always has been  — and always will be — more than just a game.

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Get your head in the game: a look at sports psychology