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An Examination of Athletic Performance and Self-Esteem Among Intercollegiate Athletes

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An Examination of Athletic Performance and

Self-Esteem among Intercollegiate Athletes

Shaquoia Ayers

University of Hartford

November 2005


Only until recently coaches and sports psychologists want to study factors that are included in increasing an athlete's performance during competition. This article investigated the relationship between self-esteem and how it would predict and possibly increase the performance of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletes. Examining an athletes' performance based on qualities that they may posses has been studied for many years but only recent research of self-esteem and how it affects and individuals' athletic performance has only been tested for some years. Higher self-esteem is said to be associated with better athletic performance while low self-esteem is said to be associated with performing more poorly. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between self-esteem and the performance of Division I NCAA athletes after competition. Self-esteem was assessed using the Rosenberg's (1965) Self-Esteem scale (RSES) and the athletic performance was rated by other athletes, their teammates and coaches based on their performance during practice that week prior to competition.

An Examination of Athletic Performance and Self-Esteem

Among Intercollegiate Athletes

Self-evaluation processes have been implicated as central to the formation of competence beliefs, known to affect athletic performance (Weiss & Ebbeck, 1996) (Gotwals, 2002). When competing against peers, in the athletic domain, the level of confidence that the individuals may have of themselves can determine how the performance of that athlete will be. The strength of the expectations that individuals have of their abilities to perform successfully determines if that athlete will be motivated and how long they will do that particular behavior. The level of self-esteem in an athlete will also either bring out the strength or hinder the athlete's ability to perform in order to reach personal goals. It is likely that the trait self-confidence, characterized as the typical or average level of self-confidence that an individual posses for a given activity, will also affect performance in individual competition because changes in state self-confidence will fluctuate around the trait level (Taylor 1987).

Self-esteem levels in individual athletes can differ from moment to moment. Most coaches are concerned with the mental state of athletes because if an athlete is having problems that he or she cannot resolve that problem can affect their athletic performance as well as their life outside of the sports setting. Self-esteem research in the non-sport setting has shown to have influences on individuals' cognition, affections, and behaviors (Jones 1973). Some coaches use self-esteem tactics to increase the performance athletes because they see that motivation comes from within the athlete. Some research shows that maladaptive athletic performance can be associated with lower levels of self-esteem. Increasing how one may perform in the sports setting shows adaptive influences upon how they would perform around others.

Certain psychological factors are essential for maximizing sports performance. Only recently have coaches and sports psychologists begun to examine which psychological factors are involved in how an athlete performs. This investigation examines the relationship between self-esteem and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletes' performance. Self-esteem would be defined as the trait-like evaluative attitude that people have towards themselves in reference to their own value, importance, and self-worth. (Gotwals, Dunn, Wayment, 2003). The relationship between self-esteem and an athletes' performance could predict and even show how it could increase the performance of that NCAA athlete. The importance of measuring self-esteem as a construct in sports is discussed including the significance of how self-esteem affects the athletes' performance and how performance is looked at when involving self-esteem.

The self-esteem theory (Dittes, 1959) suggests that individuals with higher self-esteem will perform better than those with lower self-esteem (Green, Holeman, 2004). According to previous studies individuals with low self-esteem are predicted to respond more internally for success. The positive correlation will be tested between self-esteem and athletic performance. The Self-Esteem theory (Dittes, 1959) will be applied to the athletes and their performance prior and following competition. While other assessments have been used to study self-esteem the Rosenberg's' Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) will measure the self-esteem of the NCAA athletes for this experiment.

Support for self-esteem theory has been found across a wide variety of situations which includes predicting athletic performance (Taylor, 1987), and a test across sports and genders for team performance (Green, Holeman, 2004). The self-esteem theory can be related to this investigation because the results of the RSES assessment will show either adaptive or maladaptive forms of performance. Research in a non-sport setting have shown that people with low self-esteem tend to be less happy (Freedman, 1978), experience more anxiety, and exert less effort on tasks than people with high self-esteem (Gotwals, Dunn, Wayment, 2003). The comparison of athletes to non-athletes when discussing self-esteem is on a different scale because athletes are judging themselves on performance. Within the studies reviewed, the self-esteem theory can be used to test for levels of self-esteem in athletes. How significant the relationship of how they may perform during competition will be shown in the results after the athletes complete the RSES assessment.

Self-Esteem can be defined as a construct that changes from moment to moment in response to situational circumstances and events. Research shows that self-esteem is associated with a wide variety of cognitive, affective and behavioral factors in multiple settings. (Green, Holeman, 2004). Even though self-esteem can be viewed as a trait that can only be self-evaluated, the level of how high or low one's esteem



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