Nonverbal expressions of emotions during sport performances - Do spontaneous nonverbal expressions of head and hand movements characterize emotional situations of performing tennis athletes?

  • Helmich, Ingo (Projektleiter*in)
  • Reinecke, Katharina (Projektpartner*in)
  • Drewes, Viktor (Projektpartner*in)
  • Neumann, Niklas (Projektpartner*in)
  • Cotterill, S. T. (Projektpartner*in)



Nonverbal movement behavior and emotions are closely linked processes, however, it exists only sparse data about the spontaneous (/implicit) behavioral signals of emotions of athletes during sport performances.
Our own data showed that the spontaneous nonverbal post-point movement behavior of tennis athletes is different when either losing or winning (Drewes et al., 2019; Helmich et al., in Prep). In fact, when losing a point in tennis, athletes not only increase their nonverbal spontaneous (head) movements in upward and sideward (head shaking) directions (Drewes et al., 2019) but also their body-focused irregular hand movement (“hand fidgeting”) behavior, particularly with the left hand (Helmich et al., in Prep). In contrast, when winning, athletes decrease their head movements (Drewes et al., 2019) but increase their (explicit) gestural behavior by more emotion/attitude (rise) gestures (e.g., “Becker-Faust”), particularly with the right hand (Helmich et al., in Prep).
These results present the first data of spontaneous post-point nonverbal expressions of athletes during tennis matches in relation to winning or losing (Drewes et al., 2019; Helmich et al., in Prep). However, thus far, it has not been systematically investigated whether nonverbal bodily expressions during sport performances differ between post-point and pre-point situations, whether professional athletes behave differently than non-professional athletes between points in tennis, and if a particular movement behavior is associated to increased performances (e.g., so-called PrePerformance Routines (PPR)).
Thus, we investigate in the present study for the first time the entire nonverbal movement behavior of professional and non-professional tennis athletes between points during competitive matches in relation to the athletes’ previous and subsequent performances. Knowing this would not only help athletes / trainers / etc. to understand nonverbal behavior of athletes during emotional situations in sports, but also advances the understanding of PrePerformance Routines and its effect on subsequent sport performances.


We therefore videotape nonverbal spontaneous expressions of whole body
movements of 60 right-handed professional (30 1st league athletes) and non-professional (30 “Bezirksliga/Kreisliga” athletes) tennis athletes between points during competitive tennis matches.

Two trained and certified raters will analyze all occurring nonverbal movements using the NEUROpsychologicalGESture-EducationalLANguage (NEUROGES-ELAN) coding system according to previous studies (Drewes et al., 2019; Helmich et al., in Prep).

Tatsächlicher Beginn/ -es Ende01.01.2031.12.20