A qualitative content analysis of the Bahala na attitude in Filipino elite athletes

Sheryll M. Casuga, Eric B. Vogel and Alison Pope-Rhodius

College of Psychology, John F. Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill, California, USA

To date, there has been little sport psychology research investigating how cultural values and norms impact performance. This study used a qualitative method to explore elite Filipino athletes’ subjective experience of the bahala na attitude, a culturally normative value. Specifically, the study examined ways in which athletes’ use of the bahala na attitude was experienced as facilitative or debilitative to their performance. The term ‘bahala na’ translates literally as ‘leave it up to God’ and is an attitude commonly experienced by Filipinos when faced with challenging situations. Eleven Filipino athletes who have participated in an international sporting competition participated in a semi- structured interview. Conventional qualitative content analysis was utilized to analyze the data. The common themes that emerged among the participants’ description of their bahala na experience were: bahala na as adaptive attitudinal coping with anxiety and decision-making in performance situations, bahala na as an automatic response to routine stress, bahala na as problematic effort reduction, and performance pressure as prompting context for bahala na. The implications for bahala na attitude as a coping strategy for performance anxiety, managing expectations, and situational demands in sports and in similar contexts are discussed.

Keywords: Bahala na, Coping strategy, Cultural sport psychology, Philippine sports