How the Score Affects your Mindset and Performance

The score, meaning whether you are winning, losing or tied, can affect an athlete’s mindset, and therefore performance, in many ways. When a game begins, the score is tied at zero. Keeping all things equal, both teams generally try their best during the first few minutes of the game. Then once the score begins to fluctuate, the mindset and performance of the teams also fluctuates. There are many ways in which this can happen. Here are many examples:
  • If both teams are tied during the first few minutes of a game, neither team really has a reason to be happy or sad. The score is neutral so they remain emotionally neutral and they continue to try to play their best.
  • If one team gains a slight lead, this can motivate them. It is positive reinforcement for the things they have been doing. However they are playing, they are motivated to keep playing this way, because it is working.
  • However, if their lead gets too large, they can become complacent and begin to step off the gas.
  • If one team is losing by a slight deficit, this can motivate them to try harder to change their strategy. In this way, the score acts as punishment to motivate a team to change their behavior that isn’t working.
  • However, a slight deficit can also lower confidence and motivation in some cases. A mentally weak team can begin to give up even after a slight deficit.
  • If a team is losing by a lot, it is more likely that they’ll become discouraged and give up. Sometimes a team that is getting destroyed uses the score as a wake up call and is motivated to come back.
  • If a team loses their lead and the score becomes tied, they may feel bad about losing their lead. Even though the score is now neutral and they shouldn’t feel too bad about this, they usually still do because they think they blow an opportunity. This can cause panic and/or frustration, resulting in the team doing even worse. However, the team can also use this as a wake up call and refocus.
  • If a team comes from behind to tie a game, they may feel very happy, even though the score is only neutral at this point. This usually causes the team to begin losing again because they become relieved and let off the gas a little bit. But they can also continue to use their momentum to play well and take the lead.
As you can see, there are many ways in which the score affects your mindset. Throughout a game, with the score constantly fluctuating, both teams experience many different kinds of mindsets, with their motivation and confidence constantly changing.  For example, while one team may be complacent with a large lead, the other team may be motivated to come back. This usually causes the losing team to come back and take the lead, which then usually motivates the complacent team. Then both teams generally play with similar mindsets until the margin of score changes again.

As a player or coach, you need to recognize these patterns. Always know how the score affects both you and your opponent. Try to prevent yourself from having the negative kinds of mindsets. Your goal should always try to play your best no matter what the score is. You can still use the score to your advantage by drawing motivation from it whether you are winning or losing. But you should never want to become complacent when winning or discouraged when losing. Your mindset should be proactive, where you’re determined to play your best for the entire game, no matter what. Don’t be reactive, where your mindset constantly fluctuates according to the score. Control yourself, don’t let the scoreboard control you.