By Lorraine Pelley

As the Winnipeg Jets weave their way through the NHL playoffs with game scores as unpredictable as the weather, fans near and far are riding a rollercoaster of emotion with every game and every step that brings the team closer to the Stanley Cup.

Psychologists and other elite therapists have spoken openly about the emotional side of sports, especially the rise and fall that comes from the wins, near wins, comebacks, and defeats.  It is, without question, exciting, nerve wracking, exhilarating, jubilant, even frustrating, deflating, and depressing times.  But the emotions that never waiver are hopeful, proud, loyal, jubilant and a strong sense of community thanks to the powers of the city’s beloved hockey team and Whiteout Mania!

Watching these pros give it their all has created a much needed and engaging conversation about the emotional effects of competition on the fans and the players. In a smaller market city like Winnipeg, the majority of the conversation has been around the NHL playoff games, other locations are studying all exercise enthusiasts, their external supporters, and the relationship between performance, competition, and mental health.

Professional and younger competitors are not the only players who are affected by mental health. As more and more older adults engage in competition, emotional responses once applied only to younger fitness buffs are now being examined in master’s athletes.

At this time, there still is not a lot of research completed about mental health and the mature fitness enthusiast. This is, after all, still a relatively new area in an aging population, so what is available, tends to focus more on the positive side of sport. Several studies have categorized the emotional responses of older athletes into five areas:

  1. Older athletes like the challenge they get from competition
  2. There is a greater sense of pride in their abilities because they can “still do it”
  3. Pride and satisfaction that comes from the discovery that they can still win
  4. Greater understanding and acceptance where they stand in fitness and their abilities
  5. Positive social engagement – enjoy the travel and companionship they get from sports

Masters Athletes evolve emotionally, mentally, and physically as they get older. What was once primarily about the win in their younger years, has a lot more meaning in the later years. Perhaps it is because our priorities have changed, we are more aware of our mortality, older athletes view athletics as more than just a game, or all of the above.

But do they still feel a strong sense of defeat when they lose? We know about the highs experienced during competition, but there is still much research needed to assess all the emotions related to competitive sport and the Masters Athlete.

At The Sports Masters, we are always excited to hear from our readers and members. Now that I’ve talked about this important topic, I would love to hear from you, the reader. Do you have an experience or lesson to share?  Please feel free to share your experience by leaving a comment below. Let’s start a conversation.


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