Men’s basketball team wants to lose, say sport psychologists

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By Astrid Poei

The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team may think they’re going to lose, so that’s why they lose, believe some sport psychologists, who say that losing is a self-fulfilling prophesy.
In the wake of an abysmal season, where the boys in blue and gold went on a 22-game losing skid, the Rye ballers may need to rethink their mental game during the off-season.
“If you continually lose in something that is important to you and you put effort into, your self-efficacy becomes compromised,” says psychologist Michelle Dionne, who teaches psychology of sports at Ryerson.
“Self-efficacy is how confident you are and your capacity for a skill or endeavour you’re involved in. It’s connected to self-esteem but it’s not the same, it’s much more specific. So I would suggest that some members of this team are going to have compromised self-efficacy and at the end of the day, they’re going to stop believing they can win.”
Sel Lenderman, a sport psychologist with a private practice in New York City, who specializes in the mental effects of losing on athletes, agrees.
“Psychologically, we all have a positive and negative side to us. Once the negative side takes over, it has the power to run our lives and make events that we think about come out in our lives. For example losing. Losing has the power to become an addiction, where athletes want to stay in that rut,” says Lederman.
Lederman also adds that the team may just need a change such as new players and fresh fans and with the recruitment the team is doing for the upcoming season, it looks like the Rams are on track.
“The only way out of it is to admit that we want to lose and we don’t want to do that anymore… I believe we learn more from our failures than our successes.”
Some teams in the same predicament as the Rams may experience feelings of disappointment, sadness and possibly clinical depression in some instances, suggests Dionne.
“If you don’t care about winning or losing then you’re not going to put the effort in and at the end of the day, it’s self-handicapping – you either consciously or subconsciously tell yourself that ‘it doesn’t mean anything to me, we’re not expected to win.’ So you don’t put the effort in and when you do lose, it doesn’t compromise your self-esteem in the same way,” she says.
Although neither of these psychologists follows the Rams religiously, they are not convinced their problems are all in their heads.
“I’m not convinced from what I know that it is psychological,” says Dionne. “Maybe they didn’t practice their fundamentals. Maybe they don’t dribble well. It could be a hundred things. Maybe it just wasn’t a very strong team.”

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