Influencing factors of sustained motivation in sport1 Opinion
Motivation is a significant influence during sporting activity. Within a sporting context motivational factors are imperative when an attempt to maintain standard is made. As a result, awareness towards sustainment of a performer’s motivation has become increasingly investigated in sport, both in participation and competition. In particular Deci and Ryan’s (1985) Self Determination Theory (SDT) looks at the relationship between intrinsic motivation (i.e. participating for enjoyment) and extrinsic motivation (i.e. reward, recognition) on behaviour. Deci and Ryan identified three needs as the basis of self-motivation; competence, relatedness and autonomy. They suggested that people attain these innate psychological needs that when satisfied facilitate personality integration, social development and personal well-being resulting in optimal function (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Coaches have to adapt to each individual; both the athlete and coach influence each other. The biggest influence is coach to athlete; the coach will have to adapt to suit the needs and type of motivation an athlete attains. Pelletier and Vallerand (1996) concluded that coach’s actions were significantly related to athletes behaviour, enjoyment and sustainment within activity. Results showed that children assumed to be intrinsically motivated were given the opportunity to offer input consequentially increasing intrinsic motivation. The extrinsically motivated and control groups assistors showed a more directive, autocratic approach. This demonstrated that the initial response of someone gives effect to how you react and behave to them, but more importantly, behaviour of the governing body has a significant impact on participant motivation. Further investigations suggest that if coaches think their athlete will perform poorly a resultant of this will be that the athlete will lose their own confidence, and believe they have reduced ability, consequently leading to decreased motivation. This coach behaviour will have detrimental effect, as the athlete may feel distracted from their own performance, therefore not performing optimally (Mageau & Vallerand, 2003).
Mallett (2005) investigated the effect of a motivational climate, attempting to enhance it through Deci and Ryan’s SDT. The study was aimed to promote elite athlete’s self-determination, competence and relatedness. The initial stage of the study proved to develop an autonomy-supportive coaching environment using Mageau and Vallerand’s motivational model of the coach-athlete relationship. The three key determinants proposed were; coach’s personal orientation, coaching context and perceptions of the athlete’s motivation and behaviour. An autonomy-supportive approach gave athletes provision with choice in management and performance areas. The desired coaching behaviour was utilised during squad meetings, relay-specific camps and base camps. Meetings were both formal and informal as a means to effectively negotiate for the athletes, promoting the perception of choice. The relay camps removed opportunity to produce individual performances and inherent conflicts of interest. Mallett actively sought suggestions, opinions and feedback from the athletes and their coaches to evaluate the situation. Video analysis sessions were utilised to develop athlete confidence and bring personal, meaningful choice to learning. This type of feedback initiated the athlete to work independently or together as a group, increasing relatedness. The last method employed was coach feedback. Questions were facilitative to ensure athletes considered alternative strategies to increase confidence, giving them a sense of achievement. Overall Mallett’s study produced very successful results; evaluation of the teams showed that the teams ran faster than in previous seasons. Using the differing methods, athletes sustained positive attitude and motivation before, during and after the Olympic performance.
Participation motivation is an initial stepping stone to improving and sustaining motivation. The social context in which a performer is set in, is salient to the participants’ motivation. Social reasons that influence involvement in physical activity may include affiliation, social status, being part of a team; social recognition. Previous research has also indicated that social sources, peers and family, bring about facilitative and debilitative affect to performance. Allen’s (2003) study indicated that adolescent females illustrated that social motivation influenced their enjoyment and interest in sport. It is of great importance however that superfluous pressure may result in discontinuation or encourage drop out. Discontinuation is a resultant of many sporting negative experiences but equally a lack of positive experiences.
Lepper and Greene (1975) considered overjustification, defined as, ‘the use of overly sufficient extrinsic pressures decreases subsequent intrinsic motivation.’ Their study consisted of three methods in which they investigated children reaction and consequent motivation to 1) expectation and reward, 2) unexpected reward and 3) no reward and no expectation. The first group worked quicker to finish gaining reward but this method however undermined children’s intrinsic interest. When the children were given an unexpected reward an increase in intrinsic motivation was apparent. From this study the overjustification hypothesis is proved. Teachers and indeed coach’s need to find an optimal pressure to ensure work is completed but underlying intrinsic enjoyment is attained, ensuring motivation is sustained.
To conclude, significant and positive influence on open coaching behaviours increases self-esteem, also having a facilitative effect on the interpersonal climate of the team. Evidence from Mallett (2005) illustrated that when respecting and valuing the thoughts of the athletes, an adaptive motivational climate is promoted. An open coaching behaviour enhances competence and a sense of belonging. Similarly, Smith, Smoll & Cumming’s (2007) suggested coaches are a strong influence. Interactions, attitude, evaluative feedback are all factors that are significantly influential in reducing anxiety resulting in increased confidence and therefore sustained motivation. McCarthy, Jones & Clark-Carter (2008) also commented on the enjoyment aspects of physical activity. Unnecessary pressures or negative controlling efforts of family or coach’s will reduce the ‘fun’ aspect of participating and ultimately stop involvement. An optimal balance of encouragement, control and feedback from significant others; coaches, family and peers will ensure this.
Allen, J. B. (2003). Social Motivation in Youth Sport [Electronic Version]. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 25, 551-567.
Lepper, M. R., & Greene, D. (1975). Turning Play into Work: Effects of Adult Surveillance and Extrinsic Rewards on Children's Intrinsic Motivation [Electronic Version]. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(3), 479-486.
Mageau, G. A., & Vallerand, R. J. (2003). The coach–athlete relationship: a motivational model. Journal of Sports Sciences, 21(11), 883-904.
Mallett, C.J. (2005). Self-determination theory: A case study of evidence-based coaching. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 417-429.
McCarthy, P. J., Jones, M. V. & Clark-Carter, D. (2008). Understanding enjoyment in youth sport: A developmental perspective. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, 142-156.
Pelletier, L. G., & Vallerand, R. J. (1996). Supervisors' Beliefs and Subordinates' Intrinsic Motivation: A Behavioral Confirmation Analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 331-340.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78. doi: 10.1037110003-066X.55.1.68
Smith, R. E., Smoll, F. L. & Cumming S. P. (2007). Effects of a Motivational Climate Intervention for Coaches on Young Athletes’ Sport Performance Anxiety. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29, 39-59.
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About Katie Nichols
Having completed my BSc in Sport and Exercise Science at The University of Portsmouth, I continued my studies completing an MSc in Sport Psychology. Presently, I am working for Lane4, a management consultancy company, employing sport and organisational psychology to enhance individual and business growth