Prove them wrong: Do professional athletes perform better when facing their former clubs?
In this paper, we investigated the influence of competition with a former employer on employees’ performance by examining how athletes in team sports play against their former clubs. Using the data on individual players’ performances in multiple seasons of the NBA, NHL, and major European soccer leagues, we constructed several PPML and OLS models to estimate the effect. Professional athletes executed more offensive actions against their former teams. Basketball players scored more points by making more shots but did not improve their accuracy. Ice hockey players, along with footballers in the English Premier League, also shot more. The effect strengthens in the away matches. In addition, the performance improvement is particularly apparent when athletes accumulated insufficient playing time in the former team, or accepted a wage reduction when transferring, or were waived. This study provides evidence that elite basketball, ice hockey, and soccer players perform better against their former clubs.