The recent coaches’ ban on sex at the World Cup raised this question again.
In summary, the coaches for teams Russia, Chile, Mexico, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Brazil (partial ban) banned sex, calling it a distraction. They did not state sex itself hindered performance yet global reports treated this issue as an odd news story with little respect to the reason behind it.
In the end only two teams draw nearer to the finals. Does the lack of winning void the claim that sexual abstinence is the key to an athlete’s best performance?
The question of abstinence in one 1990’s study of twenty men were split down the middle, proving nothing.
Sports superstitions amount to a mental edge. If you believe it helps, then it can help because confidence is a big part of success in any athletic endeavor.
For example in baseball, if a player begins to make a mistake they have never made prior in their career such as overthrowing first base on a put out, they may dwell on the mistake and subsequently force the next throw, making the mistake again. Their physical skill is not suddenly lost, yet it has become a mental hurdle. In attempt to not make the mistake again, the player continues to make that same mistake. Eventually they finally overcome the problem mentally.
Physically the ability to make that throw was there for years, the sudden lack in ability is no more than a mental hang-up. This is true of any sport.
The demands of the Soccer (Football) World Cup coaches amounts to hoping in the self fulfilling prophecy. What is the self fulfilling prophecy? It is when you cause your own belief to be true by positive feedback. In other words wanting something to be true and subconsciously causing it to be true. Your own behavior makes it happen.
This is what the world cup coaches wanted to play out. Imagine if these teams had moved deep into the match? Athletes around the world in various sports would begin practicing this theory in belief they would be superior in events.
The coaches’ own prophecies were wrong. Olympic athletes don’t need to delete their Tinder accounts at the next summer or winter games.
In fact, history is on the side of sex if the theory is flipped. Consider the story of the Buffalo Bills, the American football team. They lost four Super Bowls. Their coach Marv Levy banned sex before the big games and even separated married players from wives in his efforts.
In other cases where players have succeeded they don’t cite the abstinence itself. They insist the athletes have suffered, suffered only by staying up all night looking for sex – not the sex itself.
Randomized control trials cited by the Journal of Sports Medicine detected no difference across many sources. If sex has an impact on performance it is mental, not physical – not considering loss of sleep.