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."

Related Articles


"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 March 30, 2015 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 March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Soda, Salt and Sugar: The Next Generation of Taxes

Soda, Salt and Sugar: The Next Generation of Taxes

Washington Post (Mar. 30, 2015) — Denisa Livingston, a health advocate for the Dinι Community Advocacy Alliance, and the Post&apos;s Abby Phillip discuss efforts around the country to make unhealthy food choices hurt your wallet as much as your waistline. Video provided by Washington Post
Powered by NewsLook.com
UnitedHealth Buys Catamaran

UnitedHealth Buys Catamaran

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 30, 2015) — The $12.8 billion merger will combine the U.S.&apos; third and fourth largest pharmacy benefit managers. Analysts say smaller PBMs could also merge. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lights out for Earth Hour

Lights out for Earth Hour

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 29, 2015) — Landmarks in cities around the globe turn off their lights to mark Earth Hour. Paul Chapman reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prince Charles Touts Importance of 'Earth Hour'

Prince Charles Touts Importance of 'Earth Hour'

AP (Mar. 28, 2015) — People across Asia gathered to watch as the lights in their cities went out as part of Earth Hour 2015, an environmental awareness campaign that Prince Charles called a reminder "that together we have the power to change things." (March 28) Video provided by AP
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