Recent research has indicated that rumination and reflection have inverse effects on mental health due to their different effects on self-esteem among Japanese university athletes (Yamakoshi and Tsuchiya, 2017). The aim of this study was to examine differences in the temporal state of self-esteem after facing adversity between highly ruminative university athletes and highly reflective athletes. The research was focused on 1) how self-esteem decreased in highly ruminative athletes and 2) how self-esteem increased in highly reflective athletes after facing adversity. The Modified Grounded Theory Approach (M-GTA: Kinoshita, 2003) was adopted, and participants were recruited from the study of Yamakoshi and Tsuchiya (2017). The participants were 1) 3 university athletes whose rumination score was higher than 1 standard deviation (SD) from the mean, whose reflection score was lower than the mean, and whose self-esteem score was higher than the mean, and 2) 3 university athletes whose reflection score was higher than 1SD from the mean, whose rumination score was lower than the mean, and whose self-esteem score was higher than the mean. Data were collected through the use of semi-structured qualitative interviews. All participants were national level university athletes. The interview guide consisted of 5 main question areas: 1) demographic information, 2) the type of adversity, 3) perception of the adversity and coping strategies for overcoming it, 4) relationship with teammates and coaches when facing adversity, and 5) general questions about university life.
The results indicated that after facing adversity, highly ruminative athletes 1) pondered on their inferiority in comparison with more successful teammates, 2) developed hostile and competitive relationships with teammates, and 3) felt a lack of belonging in the team, which finally led to a reduction of self-esteem. On the other hand, after facing adversity, highly reflective athletes 1) redefined themselves by interacting with others, 2) formed friendly/cooperative relationships with teammates, and 3) redefined their place in the team, which finally led to an increase in self-esteem. These results suggested that perceptions of the self, others, and the group differed between highly ruminative athletes and highly reflective athletes, and that these differences might play a role in differentiating the effects of rumination and reflection on self-esteem.