Your favorite player got a big-money deal, but it might ruin the team

Many young sports stars dream of the day when they sign a high-paying contract as a professional athlete. For many, this means becoming an instant millionaire. In reality, there have been numerous hours of hard work and dedication — success doesn't come easy or in an instant.The big-money deal is a life-changing development. It provides an opportunity to live a lifestyle previously unknown, and to possibly share that windfall with family and friends. In many cases, when athletes join the pro ranks they join a group of other highly paid athletes. In some cases, however, athletes who sign big contracts begin to stand out. After enjoying high-profile success, they receive contracts that go far beyond those of their teammates. MORE: Iconic jerseys for each pro sports city | Ranking the Sweet 16 teams While this is perceived to be good for the athlete (and possibly teammates when it comes time to renegotiate their contracts), what is often overlooked is the impact a large salary can have on the athlete and the rest of the team. For many athletes, a large salary puts a brighter spotlight on them. They receive more media attention, which often leads to higher expectations from others and themselves. Several high-profile baseball free agents will be under a bright spotlight this season after signing big deals. David Price, Zach Greinke, Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann all signed for more than $100 million. They will face pressure to perform for their new teams, or, in the case of Davis, after re-signing with his current team. The spotlight also will shine brightly this fall on NFL quarterback Brock Osweiler, who signed a $72 million contract with the Texans, as well as defensive end Olivier Vernon, who signed for $85 million with the Giants, and other NFL stars who signed megadeals. While some athletes revel in this challenge, some respond to their new situation by either becoming complacent or succumbing to the pressure of having to be worth the higher salary. After signing the big contract, some athletes believe they have finally been paid for all of their hard work and sacrifice; therefore, they feel an internal sense of accomplishment, which can often lead to changing their behaviors that led them to be successful in the first place.When this occurs, we see athletes' production decrease and sometimes their attitude toward sports changes. One study found that it is not unusual for a pro athlete who signs a new, bigger contract to experience a two-year post-contract performance crash.MORE: 11 clubhouse controversies | NFL free agency winners and losers For those of us who are not professional athletes, the athlete’s situation is similar to winning millions in the lottery. While many of us would like to kno

w what that experience would be like, it would be difficult for a lottery winner not to change his or her attitude toward work and lifestyle. If you won enough money necessary to live the rest of your life but still remain on the job, would you work as hard, give the same effort? Would the job be as meaningful to you? While athletes’ situations aren't exactly the same, many who "hit the jackpot" experience similar thoughts.Another issue that often arises is how the salary of an athlete affects the rest of the team. One study of pay inequity in Major League Baseball found that perceived pay inequities among athletes actually hurt the team's performance. In some cases, teammates become jealous and/or feel they should be making as much money as the star. If this belief is widespread, team cohesion can be severely impacted.Team cohesion comes in two forms: social and task. Social cohesion refers to liking and wanting to be around your teammates. An athlete who gets singled out because of a high salary can certainly become disliked, leading to personality clashes in the locker room.Task cohesion refers to being able to work with each other. While there have been instances where there was great dissension on a team, such as Billy Martin's Yankees in the 1970s, the breakdown of task cohesion can directly affect a team's performance. Once athletes stop working together on the court or field, not much good can come from the situation.If, therefore, the team climate is wrong, discrepancies in salaries can be disruptive and lead to individuals being less satisfied with their current status on the team. An owner's decisions to pay the team's stars enough to keep them can actually hurt the team's chances of succeeding.In the movie "Spiderman," Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility." In professional sports, it can be said, "With large salaries come large responsibilities."— Kevin L. Burke is a sport psychology professor and consultant at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter: @SportPsyching.

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