The experience of losing: Qualitative study of elite lacrosse athletes and team performance at a world championship

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Objectives:To examine the motivational experiences and psychological responses of members of an under-performing national lacrosse team at their four most important games (all losses) at a world championship tournament.Design:Structural (deductive) qualitative methods supported by reversal theory.Method:Volunteer participants, from a national men’s lacrosse team, took part in semi-structured post-game interviews.Results:Team performance problems: a late change of warm-up location; the impact of the preliminary ceremonies and national anthems; emotional reactions to substitution provoked negative psychological responses in some participants. Analysis suggested that these negative responses were the result of inappropriate metamotivational states, reversals and emotions that were not conducive to participants’ preferred performance states. The study also identified participants’ motivational and emotional responses to losing which were related to inadequate performance rather than losing itself.Conclusions:The findings direct attention to possible causal factors for motivational reversals, allowing subsequent studies to start with a number of known focus areas. The implications of the findings for reversal theory-based sport psychology consulting were examined.

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