The Mixed Bag of Athletic Emotions

Kevin Votaw
2 min readMay 26, 2022


Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Fiero is an emotional mixed bag

Nostalgia, the returning (nostos) to the pain (algos), produces positive feelings, self-esteem, and feelings of love while reducing loneliness and meaninglessness (126).

Humans, like failure, flow, and fiero, have an innate desire for happy endings, to look back at the journey and not void discomfort and trial, but cherish it (127).

Pogancy’s mixture of happiness and sadness, particularly when highlighted at the end of an experience, elevates moments as small and insignificant as the “last chocolate” and as momentous as the last day of college (128–129).

The fiero of memories is the full range of experiences and emotions. Just like the archetypal character of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth or “hero’s journey”, we paradoxically crave the challenge and the tragedy, the triumph and the change (130).

An autotelic experience embraces innate emotions, positive and negative, to make memories. Jakk Panksepp popularized and coined the term “affective neuroscience”, proposing seven primary emotional systems: Seeking, Care, Play, and Lust on the positive side and Fear, Sadness, and Anger on the negative side (131).

With flow and fiero, milestones and memories in mind, we need the bad to get to the good and for it to be good, it has to have been bad.

Philosopher Aaron Smuts paradox of painful art, similar to Juul’s paradox of failure, explains this mixture unbelievably well (132):

People do not seek out situations that arouse painful emotions.

People have painful emotions in response to some art.

People seek out art that they know will arouse painful emotions.

Planning for, making, and capturing memories of fiero remains an untapped arena of study within athletics and how it relates to intrinsic experience.

Even so, the principles presented offer a promising potential implementation to build upon.

An autotelic athletic experience unashamedly celebrates fiero, develops a system of milestones big and small, and makes memories throughout the hero’s journey within an athletic season.

References to the above can be found here.



Kevin Votaw

Flow Coach. Applying flow in school, sports, and life: ❌ Flow x Fiero ♦️North of Happy ⚾ The Pitching DJ 🧠