The Pre-Performance Ritual: A Recipe for Success or a Path to Burnout?

Cali Werner – McLean OCD Institute
Lennie Waite – University of Saint Thomas
Karina Turner – McLean OCD Institute & University of Houston – Clearlake
Eric A. Storch – Baylor College of Medicine
Thröstur Björgvinsson – McLean OCD Institute
Elizabeth McIngvale – McLean OCD Institute

The mental well-being of athletes is a topic of continual discussion due to the rising pressures to succeed and strive for perfection. The present study surveyed 178 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I collegiate athletes in order to determine risk factors associated with ritualistic and superstitious behaviors in relation to athlete burnout. Collegiate athletes completed the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (ABQ), Sports Ritual Scale (SRS) and the anxiety subscale of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale – 21 (DASS-21). Results showed anxiety as a mediator in the relationship between sport rituals and burnout, indicating that ritualistic behaviors were not detrimental to athletes unless they also reported high levels of anxiety. The added component of anxiety predisposes athletes that engage in ritualistic behaviors to burnout. Implications of this study reinforce the importance of following recommended NCAA best practices for mental health and specifically the need to educate athletes, coaches and trainers on the impact that sport ritualistic behaviors can have on collegiate athletes’ well-being, specifically athletes prone to anxiety, in order to prevent burnout.