When preparing for competition, athletes may be highly motivated to protect their self-esteem or public image from the negative implications of a possible failure. One way to do so is by self-handicapping. (Defensive Mechanism) .
When athletes skip practice, fail to put forth a full effort in practice, stay up late before competitions or otherwise reduce effort so that if their subsequent performance is low, their antics will be seen as the cause of poor performance rather than lack of ability. (Self-handicapping) .
When a performance opportunity poses a threat to athletes' self-esteem or public image, those who rely on self-handicapping will withdraw effort from preparation or create impediments to their own success. (Minimal Effort).
Experimental social psychologists have emphasized the potential benefits of self-handicapping, including the reduction of anxiety, protection of self-esteem, augmenting of ability attributions, and enhancement of internal motivation. (Positive Technique?).
Dispositional self-handicapping is, in part, a characteristic response to evaluation apprehension or the feelings of distraction, nervousness, worry, and self doubt that accompany knowing one's performance will be judged. The association with low self-esteem, statistically accounts for the influence of dispositional self-handicapping on reported self-handicapping behavior. (Self-esteem).
Researchers assessed dispositional self-handicapping in two independent samples of undergraduates and tracked their academic preparation and performance, coping, and positive and negative affect over two months. In both samples, dispositional self-handicapping prospectively predicted academic underachievement, and this effect was partially mediated by poor study habits. (Poor Results).
Lower cognitive and somatic anxiety, higher flow and state self-confidence, and better performance were conceived as positive outcomes, or benefits, while the opposite poles of each measure were conceived as negative outcomes, or costs.