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Attribution Theory: Explaining the Cause of Performance Outcomes.

I scored a nine on the Locus of Control Scale which is low meaning I would be a Internal Locus of Control. This was a very interesting exercise for me to do because I feel like if I were to have taken this questionnaire 4 years ago, I would have scored a lot higher to an Internal Locus of control. Being a D1 athlete has taught me many things that relate to Rotter’s Scale. One point that stood out to me in the power point was the fact that athletes need or as phrased in the power point “seek” an explanation for their performance or individuals needs for achievement and to feel complete. This sentence really stood out to me because it is so true, but something that I never really thought about my entire career as an athlete. Whether it is intrinsic or extrinsic factors, we are always trying to find ways to explain or justify our performance. This is something that I did unconsciously all the time.

Why I say my answers would be different is because I realized a lot of these attributions at the end of my junior year in college. As I learnt according to Weiner’s attribution model there are four categories that we perceive and explain success and failure to. Those are ability, task difficulty, effort, and luck to explain and interpret achievement outcomes. Being part of one of the most successful volleyball programs would always make me question my ability to perform and think to myself “how am I here at my skill level?”. Going to practice everyday and competing against some of the best players in the country and in our case in the world, was a very difficult task that most days I was not willing to take on. My effort prior to my junior year was the bare minimum and I would always blame other people, such as teammates and coaches, for the lack of my performance. Lastly, I would always choose luck to explain and interpret my odd good practices every now and then.

The summer going into my senior year is when I had the realization that I cannot blame people for the position I was in. I could not blame people for the weight that I had gained. I could not blame people for the outcomes of my life because I knew I was not giving 100% of what I could give.

One of the biggest things that I have learnt over the years is shifting your focus on the things that you can control and not on the things that you cannot control. As mentioned in the power point Locus of Casualty/Control is divided into internal and externals. Internal factors have to do with ability and effort whereas external factors have to do with difficulty and luck. Young me as an athlete would tend to focus too much on the external factors such as the environment I was playing in, what people were thinking that were watching, the lighting in the gym, the temperature, the different time zone, etc. This tends to shift our focus on the big picture which is the things that we have control over such as our performance, to a certain extent, our attitude with teammates/coaches, how we handle the change rather than blame it, etc. I learnt that the more you shift your mind on the things you can control, not only will you perform better, it will help you also evaluate your performance better and work on the things that need improving.

During my junior year I fell in the feeling of Learned Helplessness (LH). I was thinking of transferring and even quitting, I was doing the bare minimum to get by and not tackle any difficult challenges, I felt like I was not good enough to play and had low self-esteem. I am glad that I managed to learn that the more I focused on the things I could control would help me achieve the goals I wanted rather than constantly focusing on external factors. In the process I also learnt that obsession with the other extreme can also affect performance so finding a good median is key.


If you are interested in taking the Locus of Control Scale here is a link to it:

Feel free to share your answers with me or reach out to me if there is anything you'd like to discuss!

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