Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Athletes' performance declines following contract years

Date:
January 22, 2014
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
A professor has determined that the contract year performance boost is real, but they caution team managers and coaches that it might be followed by a post-contract performance crash -- a two-year pattern they call the "contract year syndrome."

Professional athletes in the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball can reap very large financial rewards, especially if their performance peaks during their "contract year," or the last season before an athlete signs a new contract or becomes a free agent. Often, when these athletes perform well during the contract year, they receive huge raises and added benefits. Thus, sports pundits have long discussed a possible "contract year effect," where player performance artificially tops out during contract years. However, the effect has seldom been tested or studied scientifically. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that the contract year performance boost is real, but they caution team managers and coaches that it might be followed by a post-contract performance crash -- a two-year pattern they call the "contract year syndrome."

"Sports fans watch contract negotiations between athletes and their teams very closely; drafts and contract talks almost become a side sport during a contract year," said Ken Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. "We applied psychological theory to predict what happens in the contract year and the year after. Extrinsic motivation is the psychological term that refers to a behavior driven by external rewards like money and fame. Sometimes these rewards work, at least temporarily, but the downside is that the reward can often undermine people's intrinsic motivation, or their enjoyment and engagement in the behavior. This can lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation and performance. For the first time, we tested how these dynamics play out in professional sports, focusing on the contract year as the period of strong extrinsic motivation and the post-contract year as the period of undermined intrinsic motivation."

Sheldon and collaborator Mark White, an undergraduate student in the Department of Psychological Sciences, found that professional athletes did perform better in some ways in a contract year, but this was almost always followed by a slump in performance in the season after the contract was signed -- a slump that even dropped them below their pre-contract year baseline.

"We tested whether or not there was a bump in an athlete's performance during the contract year and found that to be true for some scoring statistics," Sheldon said. "We also found a lingering negative impact. In this case, there was a general drop-off in performance after contracts were signed. This holds true for both NBA and MLB players and follows the patterns found in past laboratory research. Armed with this information, owners and general managers could perhaps tie large raises to contingencies that require the athlete to maintain the same productivity in the future instead of slacking off. Or at least, fans could be prepared to expect a let-down in the performance of their team's star who just re-signed."

Researchers compiled information on NBA players who played at least 500 minutes and MLB players who played at least 300 innings in each season examined. To be included in the study, players must not have had back-to-back contract years; if players had two contract years within the period studied, only the first contract year was included. More than 230 NBA and MLB players were studied over a 10-year period.

Sheldon claims that contract year syndrome analysis provides a new type of support for self-determination theory, an important motivation theory that focuses on internal sources of motivation, and suggests that the same model could be applied elsewhere. For example, researchers could compare post-college athletic involvement of scholarship and non-scholarship athletes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mark H. White, Kennon M. Sheldon. The contract year syndrome in the NBA and MLB: A classic undermining pattern. Motivation and Emotion, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s11031-013-9389-7

Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Athletes' performance declines following contract years." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122170622.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2014, January 22). Athletes' performance declines following contract years. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122170622.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Athletes' performance declines following contract years." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122170622.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins