Insights into common athlete mistakes and the role of sport motivation on goal commitment


Athletes train to develop technical and physical skills in order compete, but how much of poor performance is due to the mental and emotional aspects of sports? To better understand athletes' perceptions of barriers to optimal performance, this study investigated the type, frequency, and severity of mistakes elite athletes (N = 58) reported making and how they responded in these times of failure. Associations between sport motivation and goal commitment were also examined. Results suggest that feelings of frustration, low self-confidence, and even overconfidence are just as impactful on performance as sport specific skills such as poor shot selection in basketball (38%). Athletes also reported not practicing enough, overtraining, and lack of physical care as other common harmful mistakes (9%, 9%, 7%). Following failure, over 80% of athletes recounted negative self-talk despite having high state self-compassion (M = 4.74, SD = 0.85). After describing their experience, athletes wrote one goal they could pursue which would help them overcome their error. Goal commitment was assessed and correlations to sport motivation were evident. Intrinsic motivation to know as well as intrinsic motivation towards accomplishment positively correlated with goal commitment (r = .28 and r = .35, respectively, both p <.05) whereas amotivation was negatively related (r= -.43, p< .05). These findings provide insight to common athletic failures, reactions, and goals athletes set to overcome their mistakes. Future studies should further explore goal setting practices, commitment, and follow through in addition to interventions designed to help athletes cope with failure.