Headgames: Influence of shame affect on performance in aspiring elite female gymnasts

Kimberly A. Lannon (2005)

It was hypothesized that there would be a relationship between aspiring elite level gymnasts' level of shame and their performance. Additionally, coach's levels of shame were thought to have a relationship with the gymnasts' performances. Self-esteem, in both the gymnasts and coaches, was also measured across performances to distinguish any relationship between these two factors. Participants included gymnasts, N = 12, and coaches, N = 2. Gymnasts who were 12-18 years of age were considered for the study. The coaching staff was aged 21 and 45. The participants comprised a private gymnastics academy's competitive team, levels 5-10, elite, and the team coaches. The study consisted of 5 stages of original data collection. The first stage of data collection established the participants' baseline of shame affect and self-esteem pre-competition, using the Internalized Shame Scale (ISS). Next, performance scores from the first competition were ascertained. The ISS was given again. The athletes attended another competition and another set of performance scores were acquired. Lastly, the ISS was given after the final competition. The test results revealed that there was a significant difference and decline between shame scores from pre-competition and the post competitions 1 and 2, F (2, 11) = 8.765, MS = 184.333, p = 0.002. Post 1 competition scores did not differ from post 2 competition scores (p = .897). When the change in shame scores was compared to the change in all-around performance scores or change in all-around place from competition 1 to competition 2, there was no significant correlation (r = -0.116, p = 1). The results showed a decreasing trend in coaches' shame from pre-competition (mean 26.50) to post competition 1 (mean 18.00) and 2 (mean 6.00). Given the strength of the theoretical underpinnings of shame, it is unlikely these results accurately reflect the true relationship between shame and performance. The expectation is that research in this area will contribute to deeper understanding of the affect, and a stronger empirical foundation, which may lead to better strategies in athletic performance and in coaching athletes.