Does it Matter When the Setback Happened? Assessing Differences in Setback Severity, Motivation, and Emotions in Sport

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  • Whether engaging in sport at the elite or recreational level, setback experiences in sport are inevitable and can be detrimental for motivation. Furthermore, across the globe, sport setbacks are particularly critical to study in light of the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting athletes’ sport seasons. The study objective was to compare the motivational and emotional responses of athletes reflecting on a setback they had experienced (or were presently experiencing). Thus, our study comprised two groups: 130 athletes with a past setback and 68 athletes with a current setback. North American athletes in postsecondary settings responded to online survey questions pertaining to the experience of a sport setback (e.g., past or current, severity, COVID-19 context), achievement goals in sport, setback-related emotions, and demographic information. Independent sample t-tests revealed that compared to athletes who had experienced a past setback, athletes currently experiencing a setback indicated greater guilt, shame, and perceptions of setback severity . Concerning achievement motivation, these athletes also reported lower task approach goals than their counterparts who had experienced a past setback. Additionally, 144 athletes from the full sample reported they were currently playing a competitive sport, and 54 were not. Finally, of the 68 currently experiencing a setback, 25% indicated their setback was related to COVID-19 (e.g., gym closures, fear of COVID-19, loss of motivation/effort) and many of the non-related COVID-19 setbacks were sport injuries. These findings illuminate the potentially harmful effects of setback experiences “in the moment” on athletes’ motivation and mental health.

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    Conference/Workshop Poster
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International