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ELITE ALPINE SKI RACING COACHES' ACHIEVEMENT GOAL ORIENTATIONS
AS PREDICTORS OF THEIR COACHING BEHAVIOR
HALEY S. PERLUS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN EXERCISE AND SPORT SCIENCES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I would like to express profound gratitude to my advisor, Dr. John Todorovich for
his invaluable support, encouragement, and supervision throughout this research. His
moral support and continuous guidance enabled me to complete my work successfully. I
am also thankful to Dr. David Fleming and Dr. Christine Stopka for serving on my
committee and for their helpful suggestions throughout this thesis.
I am grateful for the cooperation of Canadian Alpine Ski Racing FIS coaches. I
would like to acknowledge all of my respondents who filled out the questionnaire. I
would specifically like to thank the six coaches who participated in the interview portion
of this study. I appreciate their kindness and thank them for providing me with valuable
data for analysis.
I am especially indebted to my family for their love and support throughout my
life. I am grateful to my father who, over the years, has become my editor and biggest
supporter. I am thankful to my mother for getting me through the lonely times away from
home. I would like to thank my brothers and grandmother for their confidence in my
ability to succeed. I also wish to thank Brad for always being there for me and believing
in me. Moreover, my sincere thanks goes to my friend, Eric Model, for his valuable
insight and guidance. Finally, I wish to thank my friends for their encouragement
throughout this process.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... .................................................................................... iii
LIST OF TABLES ........... ............................... ............... ............. vi
ABSTRACT ........ .............. ............. .. ...... .......... .......... vii
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
Qualitative Rationale ........................ .............. ......................... .... .2
Purpose of the Study ............... ............... .................................. .3
R research Q uestions............ .................................................................. ........ .. .. ...
D definition s ......................................................................... . 3
L im itatio n s ................................................................................. 4
A ssum options ............................................................ 4
Significance of the Study ................................................................ .4
P erso n al In there st ................................................................................ 5
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE .............................................................. .............. 6
Achievement Goal Theory.......................................... ........6
Influence of Achievement Goal Orientation............................................ 6
M otivational Clim ate ............................. ............................ ... ...............
Achievement Goal Theory in the Coaching Domain ...........................................9
Influence of Dispositional and Situational Orientations .................. ................. 9
Influences coaches have on their athletes .....................................................11
Athletes' perceptions of a motivational climate ...............................................12
C o a c h e s' g o a ls ............................................................................................... 1 3
F av orab le orientation ..................................................................................... 14
Coaching behaviors .................................. .......................... ....... 18
Influences of all significant others .......................................... 22
Purpose of the Study ......................................... .......................................23
3 M E T H O D .......................................................................................................2 4
P artic ip an ts .....................................................................................................2 4
TEO SQ ................................................................ ............ 25
Validity and Reliability of the TEOSQ .................................................... 25
P ro c e d u re .......................................................................................................2 6
D ata A nalysis................................................... 27
Issues w ith Trustw orthiness............................................... ............................. 27
4 R E S U L T S .............................................................................2 9
P assion for A lpine Ski R acing ........................................................................ ......30
Themes ............... .. ...................... .............. ..................... ......... 30
Theme 1: Focus on Overall Development.......................... ...... ............... 31
Theme 2: Creating an Enjoyable Environment...............................................33
Theme 3: Training Sessions for Overall Development and an Enjoyable
Experience .................. ......... ................... 35
5 D ISCU SSION ............. ................. .................................................................37
Task Orientation and Overall Development...................... ...................... 37
Task Orientation and its Influence on the Motivational Climate ............................40
Influence of Coaches' Task Orientations ....................................... ............... 43
C on clu sion ................................................................................................... 4 3
Future Im plications ......... .... ...... .. ... ........... .. ...... .... ........44
A TASK AND EGO ORIENTATION IN SPORT QUESTIONNAIRE....................45
B IN T E R V IE W G U ID E ...................................................................... .....................46
LIST OF REFEREN CES ............................................................................. 47
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................52
LIST OF TABLES
1 RESISTANCE components .................................. .....................................14
2 TA R G E T com ponents............................................ ....................................... 19
3 TE O SQ scores.................................................. ................ 29
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Sciences
ELITE ALPINE SKI RACING COACHES' ACHIEVEMENT GOAL ORIENTATIONS
AS PREDICTORS OF THEIR COACHING BEHAVIOR
Haley S. Perlus
Chair: John R. Todorovich
Major Department: Exercise and Sport Sciences
Research that examines how achievement goal orientations affect behavior and
motivational climate can contribute to the understanding of an athlete's motivation in
sport. The purpose of this study was to assess how the achievement goal orientations of
elite Alpine Ski Racing coaches elicit specific behavior patterns that impact on the way
they develop the motivational climate of the sporting domain. Seventeen elite, FIS level,
Canadian alpine ski racing coaches completed the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport
Questionnaire. Six high task- and low ego-oriented coaches participated in an interview
that focused on their coaching philosophies, beliefs, and behaviors. The three themes that
emerged were the following: a) the coaches focused on overall development, b) the
coaches created an enjoyable and intense climate, and c) the coaches utilized training
sessions to improve sport specific skills and life skills as well as providing an enjoyable
and successful experience. Alpine ski racing is extremely ego-involving and it is not
surprising that a coach would adopt an ego orientation in training and
competition.However, the coaches in this study were able to maintain certain beliefs and
philosophies consistent with their task orientation. Further, the task-oriented coaches
influenced a mastery motivational climate such that the athletes could work towards their
personal goals in a serious, yet enjoyable, competitive environment.
Achievement motivation refers to an individual's effort to persist with a task,
achieve mastery, and strive for success (Weinberg & Gould, 1999). Hence, it is an
important driving force behind one's orientation to strive for task success and personal
excellence. It modulates persistence in the face of failure to overcome perceived and real
obstacles, and the general pursuit of excellence in an area of interest.
It is critical for coaches to understand athletes' achievement motivation. Athletes'
motives for participating in sport are the precise characteristics that allow athletes to
achieve excellence. Coaches must acknowledge the unlikeliness of athletes adopting a
strictly non-competitive orientation such that the only objective is to achieve mastery of
skills. The competitive nature of sport is extremely intense in that there is a constant
focus on the performance outcome. It is therefore not surprising that the role of the coach
can be critical in influencing athletes' achievement goals. The behavior patterns and
beliefs exhibited by coaches can influence the competitive sporting environment and
have direct impact on the achievement goals of athletes.
Research on achievement motivation has concentrated on athletes' goal orientations
and on the motivational climate created by significant others. To date, studies have not
examined the impact that coaches' achievement goal orientations have on the
performance of their jobs. Since the motivational climate that surrounds the athlete is
primarily initiated and directed by the coach (Harwood & Biddle, 2002), it is of interest
to gain insight into the beliefs and value systems held by coaches and the behavior they
exhibit that ultimately influence the sporting environment. The purpose of the present
study, therefore, was to identify the achievement goal orientations of Alpine Ski Racing
coaches in order to understand how their goal orientations might influence what they say
and do during practice and competition.
Qualitative research grasps the multidimensionality of meanings, contexts,
unanticipated phenomena, processes and explanations that can be found in the word of
sports, games, and physical activity. This paradigm assumes that cognitive processes are
social, developing and active. They cannot be broken down into discrete elements, and
can be studied in their relationship to one another (Martens, 1987). Qualitative research
allows a researcher greater freedom to exercise intuition or rely on tacit knowledge in
decision making and theory development. Qualitative research has typically higher
external validity and generalizations can be made more readily (Martens. 1987).
Qualitative studies take place in natural environments. Researchers do not have to
manipulate the research setting or the subjects, thus allowing the study to be conducted
under natural circumstances. In addition, there are no predetermined outcomes, results, or
hypotheses made prior to the study. A qualitative study follows its natural course and
conclusions emerge from the data collected.
The present investigation will consist of a qualitative study employing a single case
study design, and will include a sampling strategy referred to as Extreme or Deviant case
sampling (Patton, 1990). This type of purposeful sampling involves an examination of
unique or unusual cases to elucidate more typical situations. The idea is that lessons can
be learned from these extreme cases that are relevant to improving more typical
processes, operations, programs, or effects. Using extreme or deviant case sampling
(Patton, 2002) will allow the researcher to investigate the specific behavior patterns of
elite Alpine Ski Racing coaches based on their achievement goal profiles.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to assess how elite Alpine Ski Racing coaches' goal
orientations elicit specific behavior patterns that impact the way they develop the
motivational climate of the alpine ski racing skiing sport domain.
The following questions were investigated in this study:
1. How do alpine ski racing coaches' achievement goal orientations influence their
2. How do alpine ski racing coaches' behavioral patterns affect the motivational
climate they create for their athletes?
1. Achievement Goal Orientation addresses a pattern of beliefs that leads to different
ways of approaching, engaging in, and responding to achievement situations.
2. Achievement Motivation-refers to an individual's effort to persist with a task,
achieve mastery, and strive for success (Weinberg & Gould, 1999).
3. Disposition vs. Situational Orientations-dispositional orientation refers to
achievement goal orientations. Situational orientations accommodate for a
motivational climate as a predictor of behavior and beliefs.
4. Ego-Orientation-ability is measured by how well one does in relation to another
5. Extreme Goal Orientation-individuals who score 4.0 or higher or 1.9 or lower on a
5-point scale for displaying a task- or ego-orientation.
6. Extreme or deviant case sampling-"learning from unusual manifestation of the
phenomenon of interest, for example, outstanding successes/notable failures; top of
the class/dropouts, exotic events; crises." (Patton, 2002, p. 243).
7. Motivation-the direction and intensity of an individual's effort toward a specific
task (Weinberg & Gould, 1999)
8. Motivational Climate-social climate of achievement settings created by significant
9. Task-Orientation-ability is measured by how well one does on a task
10. Data collection will depend on the operation of the audio taping equipment.
11. With a small sample size, generalizations will not be made beyond the scope of the
study. However, findings may transfer.
1. The researcher and the participants will have an open relationship during the study.
2. The participants will be candid and truthful.
3. The methodology used in the study will be appropriate for the research question.
Significance of the Study
Alpine Ski Racing is not only inherently highly ego involving in that performance
is judged by competitive outcomes, but it is also significantly non task involving in that it
does not provide objective personal performance feedback to the ski racers. Each race run
in alpine skiing is different with respect to the coarse setter, snow and weather conditions,
and length of course. Unlike sports such as swimming that relate to the competitors clear
information about their performance regardless of their finish placement, the results of
the ski race do not offer any direct feedback to the athletes on how they performed
relative to themselves. Consequently, the ego-involving nature of ski racing causes
athletes and their coaches to judge success on the outcome achieved rather than on the
quality of the performance.
Coaches play a significant role in determining an athlete's achievement goal
orientation, and this is particularly noteworthy given the lack of direct feedback given to
skiing athletes. Researchers have investigated the influence of perceived motivational
climate on athletes' goal orientations. However, to date, researchers have failed to look at
the goal orientations of coaches to determine if and/or how those orientations affect what
coaches say and do when they coach their teams or athletes and, therefore, how they may
impact the motivational climate in the sporting domain.
This study is significant because it will explain how elite ski racing coaches' goal
orientations influence specific behavior patterns that influence the development of the
motivational climate of the skiing sport domain.
The researcher has interacted with many ski racing coaches who have displayed
task and/or ego orientations. As an athlete and coach, the researcher has had experiences
working with coaches who have overemphasized criteria outcome, ultimately affecting
her own values and beliefs. On the other hand, the researcher has had experiences with
task-oriented coaches who focused on the enjoyment of the sport while encouraging
personal success. Therefore, the researcher understands the significant influence coaches
have on athletes and understands the importance of demonstrating a task orientation (e.g.,
encouraging personal mastery) and a positive ego orientation (e.g., encouraging a healthy
competitive drive) to help athletes achieve personal success.
The findings of this study will be used as a tool for the researcher to help coaches,
both old and new, understand the impact they can have on athletes' motivation. The
researcher will be able to identify specific behavior patterns elicited from a disposition
toward either a task or ego orientation. In addition, the researcher will be able to guide
coaches in the process of adopting an achievement goal orientation appropriate for
displaying behavior patterns that encourage athletes to participate in sport for enjoyment
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The purpose of this literature review is to define and describe achievement goal
theory in general and how it is manifested in the coaching and sport domain.
Achievement goal theory, therefore, is reviewed with the perspective that coaches'
achievement goal orientations are pertinent to how they behave in a sporting context.
A review of achievement goal theory from this perspective reveals the theoretical
perspective and background relative to the present study.
Achievement Goal Theory
Achievement goal theory helps us to understand the athlete's motivation to
participate in sport. Goal orientations outline what success and failure mean to athletes
and how these beliefs interact with their perceptions of self-worth and ability (Weinberg
& Gould, 1999; Pensgaard & Roberts, 2000). Athletes who measure success by
comparing themselves with others display an ego orientation. In contrast, those who
participate to develop, improve, and master the sport for its own sake display a task
Influence of Achievement Goal Orientation
Achievement goal orientations affect athletes' cognitions, affective reactions, and
behavioral patterns in achievement settings (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Athletes' goal
orientations influence how they interpret different situations. For example, with a failure
outcome, ego-oriented individuals, concerned with performance comparison, would see
themselves as inadequate and most likely elicit a helpless attitude that may inhibit them
from continuing to participate in the activity. In contrast, task-oriented individuals, who
focus on self-improvement, would view a failure outcome as a sign that they need to
work harder, continue skill development, or revise their strategy to be successful (Dweck
& Leggett, 1988).
Achievement goal orientations influence how individuals define competence and
success in sport, (Harwood & Biddle, 2002). Furthermore, goal orientations reflect
differences in conceptions of ability. Ego-oriented athletes believe that success in sport is
due to ability. In addition, these athletes view ability as a fixed entity (Dweck & Leggett,
1988). Task-oriented athletes view ability as a malleable quality that can be increased by
applying more effort (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). These athletes believe that the harder
they try, the higher their ability will be. The amount of effort applied is used to assess
competence levels in an entirely self-reflective manner (Harwood & Biddle, 2002). Ego-
oriented individuals believe that effort and ability are inversely related (Dweck &
Leggett, 1988). Having to try hard and exert effort to achieve a specific standard of
performance indicates low ability. However, if athletes can be successful at a task by
applying little effort, then they have high ability.
How athletes interpret success and failure influences how they react to events. Ego-
oriented athletes, who experience failure or execute effort, resulting in low perceived
ability, may experience a decrease in self-esteem leading to anxiety and, in extreme
situations, depression (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). In the same situation, however, task-
oriented athletes may choose to apply more effort in an attempt to learn more. In return,
these athletes may increase their intrinsic motivation and may experience a sense of
pleasure, pride and enjoyment (Duda, Chi, Newton, Walling, & Catley, 1995; Dweck &
Athletes' cognitions and affective reactions lead to differences in behavior patterns.
Ego-oriented athletes, regardless of their perceived ability, would most likely choose easy
tasks where they have a higher chance of succeeding. These athletes would refrain from
challenging tasks that would pose a threat to their self-esteem (Dweck & Leggett, 1988).
Task-oriented athletes would prefer challenging tasks where they would have the
opportunity to learn more and increase their ability regardless of the outcome (Dweck &
Recently researchers have presented an orientation that combines both a task and
ego orientation (Harwood, Hardy, & Swain, 2000). In a competitive sporting context,
athletes may report being both high task- and ego-oriented. They value self-referent
achievement and seek satisfaction from the mastery of their skills. However, they also
value normative achievement and seek satisfaction from demonstrating superiority over
others. For example, an Alpine ski racer can work extremely hard on improving his
slalom technique, understand the importance of keeping his upper body quiet, but during
a ski race, demonstrating superiority over others is important. In the race, the skier may
invest considerable effort in maintaining a process focus (e.g., concentrating on keeping a
quiet upper body). However, there is an underlying goal that reflects the normative
requirement of winning.
Sport psychologists have not only studied how achievement goal orientations
influence motivation in achievement contexts, but also observed how the social climate
influences effort, persistence, cognitions, emotions and the behavior of individuals in
sport (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999). Ames (1992) explains that the social climate of
achievement settings, created by significant others (e.g., coach, parent, spectators), vary
significantly according to the tasks that athletes are told to perform, authority patterns,
recognition system, athlete ability groupings, evaluation procedures, and times allotted
for tasks to be mastered (Ames, 1992).
Individuals who collaborate with their coach and teammates, evaluate success
based on individual effort and improvement, who are encouraged to learn new skills
without a time constraint, and who are grouped not based on ability experience a
mastery-oriented motivational climate (Ames, 1992). In contrast, athletes who evaluate
success based on normative standards, are expected to learn new skills in a specific
amount of time and who are grouped based on ability experience a performance-oriented
motivational climate (Ames, 1992).
Achievement Goal Theory in the Coaching Domain
The coaching domain is a very dynamic situation, and many coaches often talk of
the importance and influence of motivation on athletic performance. Moreover, many
researchers have investigated the impact of various motivational constructs on athlete
performance. Unfortunately, researchers have paid little attention to the role that a
coaches' motivational constructs have on how a coach works with his or her athletes. For
the reason that coaches have a dramatic impact on athletic performance, it is important
that we look to these factors as contributors to athletic performance.
Influence of Dispositional and Situational Orientations
Achievement goal theory states that both dispositional goal orientations and the
motivational climate are important motivational factors that affect behavior in an
achievement context (Ames, 1992; Duda, 1996; Harwood & Bidle, 2000). Research to
date has primarily investigated these two variables (behavior and climate) in isolation. A
few studies, however, have assessed the interaction affect, as well as examining the
relative influence these variables have in sport settings. Results suggest that the
motivational climate will override dispositional goal orientations, especially if the
dispositional orientation is weaker than the situational goal (Treasure & Roberts, 1998;
Duda & Hall, 2001; Treasure & Roberts, 2001). Xiang, Lee, & Bennett (2002) explain
that although individuals' goal orientations will determine a particular behavior pattern,
situational variables may have the potential to alter the behavior. Duda (2001) suggests
that situational goals may be more influential than dispositional goals because of the
nature of the task. She explains that when the dependent variable of interest is more state-
like (e.g., self-efficacy and beliefs), the motivational climate will be the better predictor.
However, if the dependent variable of interest is more dispositional (e.g. source of
confidence), goal orientation should override the motivational climate. Dweck and
Leggett (1988) maintain that individuals will behave inconsistently across situations
when the strength of the situational cues varies across settings. In addition, Pensgaard &
Roberts (2000) contend that when athletes are high in both goal orientations, the
motivational climate will have an increasing impact on their behaviors and beliefs.
Pre-competitive goal orientations can differ from dispositional orientations. Given
the competitive nature of sport, it is possible for athletes' goal orientations to shift just
prior to and/or during competition. Harwood and Swain (1998) have shown that the
motivational climate can help to predict pre-competitive levels of task and ego
involvement. For example, in alpine ski racing, athletes not only have race-specific
perceptions of ability (expected to place in the race), and perceived importance of placing
well in the race, they also have perceptions of the achievement goal most preferred and
recognized by parents, coaches, and spectators. In other words, the social context
influences athletes' achievement goal state (Harwood & Biddle, 2002).
Influences coaches have on their athletes
Coaches play a critical role in the success of athletes. They are partly responsible
for the physical and emotional development of athletes, enabling their performance to be
the best that it can be. With this role comes inevitable power and tremendous influence.
Smith, Smoll and Curtis (1979) studied the actual influence that the coach had on the
athlete's social and psychological experience with sport. They concluded that the
athletes experience with sport and psychological development are directly related to the
structure and supervision of the particular program. The coach has direct authority to
structure and supervise the program as he or she sees fit, and in so doing, becomes a role
model and direct source of motivation (Vemacchia, McGuire, & Cook, 1996).
Coaches have the ability to inspire each athlete to perform to the best of their
ability. Providing support and care for athletes and focusing on those aspects athletes can
personally control (e.g. improvement), coaches can serve to maintain or enhance self-
esteem and intrinsic motivation, leading to increased effort and persistence in sport
(Ferrer-Caja & Weiss, 2000)
Coaches are responsible for creating the sporting environment, and, in return, are
strong predictors of athletes' goal orientations for sport (Carr & Weigand, 2002;
Pensgaard & Roberts, 2002). Weiss and Ferrer-Caja (2002) maintain that coaches have
the capability of creating a more extrinsic or intrinsic environment through control of the
direction of the social and athletic context. The structure of the skill development
environment and the coach's mindset as to the criteria for success send clear messages to
the athletes regarding what is valued as positive achievement in a particular sport setting.
The coach can either make the sport experience enjoyable or ruin it completely by being
over zealous about winning (Oden & Avens, 2001). Competing as an elite athlete is a
stressful experience in itself, and the coach can add to the stressful experience by placing
too much emphasis on winning (Pensgaard & Roberts, 2000). Suggesting that winning is
the most important part of the sport can have an important effect on athletes'
expectancies, values, and involvement decisions (Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2002). Baker,
Cote, and Hawes (2000), performed a study using 228 athletes to measure the interaction
between performance anxiety and coaching philosophies. They found that coaches who
emphasized competition strategies were a positive predictor for semantic anxiety,
disruption and worry among their athletes. This is strong evidence that the coach is the
key factor in not only physically training, but also emotionally training athletes
(Balaguera, Duda, Atienzaa, & Mayoc, 2001).
Athletes' perceptions of a motivational climate
Coaches, along with many significant others, influence the motivational climate in
an achievement context. However, as a result of unintended behavior by these groups
(e.g. overemphasizing outcome criteria or giving a disproportionate amount of criticism
over praise), it is possible for athletes to perceive the climate to be different than
originally intended (Pensgaard & Roberts, 2002). Athletes' perceptions of the
motivational climate can affect their beliefs, values, and attitudes toward sportpersonship,
coaches and fellow competitors (Fry & Newton, 2003).
Pensgaard and Roberts (2002) explain that when elite athletes are high in both task
and ego orientation, their perception of the motivational climate may be vital for
determining which goal orientation will be overtly displayed. Results reveal that
perceptions of a mastery climate are positively associated with adapted sources of
confidence, social sources, and the belief that motivation and effort is the cause of
success and satisfaction (Magyar & Feltz, 2001; Treasure & Roberts, 2001). Further,
Duda (1996) showed that athletes' perceptions of a mastery climate reduced potential
aggressive behavior. In contrast, perceptions of a performance climate were related to the
belief that aggression and deception causes success (Treasure & Roberts, 2001).
Pensgaard and Roberts (2002) also revealed that perceptions of a performance climate
were associated with viewing the coach and team as sources of distress.
For the benefit of athletes, it is crucial for coaches to become what Duda
(http://www.positivecoach.org/documents/pcmmresearch.pdf) refers to as the "double-
goal coach". The idea is to steer away from a "scoreboard" mentality, and to adapt a
mastery orientation. Coaches should want to win but should also want to help the athletes
develop positive character traits necessary for success in life. Weinberg, Butt, Knight and
Perritt (2001) interviewed 14 NCAA head coaches and found that, although goals were
set for process, performance, and outcome, and related to fun and enjoyment, coaches
focused more on performance and outcome. It is important for coaches to emphasize
working, personal improvement, and the importance of learning from mistakes (Duda,
1996). Harwood and Biddle (2002) suggest working towards a "self-challenge" to
improve and maximize personal skills. This self-challenge can then be used to work
towards a "game-challenge" to overcome the performance goal set for a specific event.
Harwood and Biddle (2002) used an acronym, 'RESISTANCE', to help coaches enable
athletes to refocus their attention on the importance of the self- and game-challenge.
RESISTANCE stands for rating, esteem, seeding, importance, score, team, audience, no
justice, comparison, and endorsement. Each component is followed by a phrase that can
help cope with the negative ego-involving characteristics of athletics.
Table 1. RESISTANCE components*
Rating It's not the rating or ranking that produces the performance
Esteem Separate the person from the outcome
Seeding Competitions aren't played on paper they are played on the field
Importance Any competition is just as important as any other competition
Score It's not about the result, it about your effort, discipline, and focus
Team Effective team members compete like the competitors who earned
Audience An audience's main desire is to witness a competitor trying their best
No justice One bad result is not the end of a season.
Comparison never base achievement solely on comparison with others
Endorsement High fashion and sponsorships never won a competition
*This acronym was developed by Harwood and Biddle and modified for athletes of any
sport (Harwood & Biddle, 2002)
Researchers have demonstrated the benefits of adopting a task goal orientation. A
task goal orientation is associated with adaptive motivational patterns (Xiang, Lee &
Bennett, 2002). Researchers refer to these motivational patterns as adaptive because
challenges and obstacles are pertinent in most important life pursuits. Response patterns
that encourage individuals to confront obstacles and commit to goals, ultimately lead to
achievements (Dweck & Leggett, 1988).
Since task-oriented athletes believe that effort increases ability and ultimately
perceived competence in sport, it is the preferred goal orientation. Further, since effort is
controllable, believing that trying hard will bring success reflects an "I can" feeling
(Harwood & Biddle, 2002).
Researchers have related a high task goal orientation to intrinsic motivation. People
with intrinsic motivation participate in activities to learn new skills to the best of their
ability. These athletes participate for the love of the sport and to achieve self-mastery
(Weinberg & Gould, 1999). Duda et al. (1995) showed that high task-oriented athletes
tried harder in the activity and participated for enjoyment. Both effort and enjoyment are
indicators of intrinsic motivation. Furthermore, when athletes enjoy participation for its
own sake, they use more adaptive learning strategies and exhibit incremental gains in
performance (Duda, 1996). Therefore, such findings provide an explanation for why a
task-oriented focus would be beneficial (Harwood & Biddle, 2002).
Duda (1996) related achievement goal orientations to persistence in sport. She
revealed that athletes who were most likely to drop out of sports tended to be solely ego-
oriented and associated their sport success and failure in terms of comparison with others.
However, athletes who were involved in sport for long periods of time tended to display
both task and ego goal orientations. Task-oriented individuals thrive on hard work.
Athletes anticipate future sport participation where they will have the opportunity to
improve their skills and performance outcome.
Achievement goal orientation has been found to relate to sportspersonship. In a
study with basketball players, low task oriented and high ego oriented athletes were more
likely to endorse unsportmanlike play and cheating (Duda,
http://www.positivecoach.org/documents/pcmmresearch.pdf). A survey of high school
athletes revealed that low task and high ego oriented individuals endorse unsportsmanlike
play including aggressive behavior and injurious acts. Conversely, task-oriented athletes
have respect for social conventions and exhibit a personal commitment to the rules and
regulations of sport (Duda, 1996).
Recent work by Roeser, Midgley and Urdon (1996) related anxiety and enjoyment
to achievement goal orientation. Ego orientation was found to lead to a greater sense of
pressure, tension, and worry. In contrast, task-oriented athletes, focused on mastery and
improvement, experienced increased levels of enjoyment, and reported higher levels of
self efficacy. For these athletes, goals were viewed as achievable, and therefore
performance was not impaired by anxiety, tension and worry about performance
Ntoumanis, Biddle and Haddock (1999) found that task-oriented individuals use
problem-solving coping strategies to succeed. These athletes tried hard and, when
needed, sought social support. On the other hand, ego-oriented athletes used negative
coping strategies such as getting upset and venting emotions.
A general conclusion is that a high task orientation is positive. However, recent
researchers have suggested a high task orientation with a positive ego involvement may
be beneficial (Harwood &Biddle, 2002). It is important for athletes to develop a high
level of task orientation. Athletes need to feel satisfied with their positive performances,
regardless whether they perform better then their competitors. It is important to keep a
positive perspective regarding athletes' performances and their potential as an elite
athlete. At the same time, athletes must maintain their competitiveness and desire to be
the best competitor. Maintaining a healthy ego involvement can provide athletes with
competitive direction and purpose for each competition. Without ego involvement,
athletes are less likely to be concerned with a top placement. With ego involvement,
backed up with a high level of task involvement, athletes will have the intrinsic
motivation and the competitiveness they require to be successful.
Similar to a high task-involved goal orientation, a mastery climate is associated
with adaptive motivational and affective patterns (Treasure & Roberts, 2001). Mastery
climates use effective learning strategies, positive attitudes towards the activity and
increased effort (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999). Burton (cited by Duda,
http.www.positivecoach.org/documents/pcmm_research.pdf) examined the behavior
patterns of intercollegiate swimmers who participated in either a mastery- or a
performance-based goal setting training program. Results revealed that athletes who were
a product of a mastery climate displayed more effort and greater improvement in
performance. Furthermore, the positive effect of a mastery-based training program was
influential for athletes with initially lower levels of perceived competence. These athletes
looked forward to the opportunity to try harder and increase their ability. They ultimately
increased their perceived competence (Duda, 1996).
Ferrer-Caja and Weiss (2000) explain that motivational climates that promote
learning and participation, influence individuals who focus on activities and evaluate
their success using self-referenced sources such as effort and improvement. It has been
shown that in a mastery motivational climate, athletes participate for enjoyment, fun, and
a desire to learn. They have high-perceived ability and therefore choose difficult tasks,
put forth high effort, and persevere in the face of failure (Ferrer-Caja & Weiss, 2000). In
contrast, a performance motivational climate that promotes success in competition
influences athletes to focus on outcomes and to evaluate success by viewing their
standings relative to others. These athletes learn to fear making mistakes, and are likely to
be distressed (Ferrer-Caja & Weiss, 2000; Pensgaard & Roberts, 2000). As a result of
distress, athletes experience negative thoughts and worry about their performance that
can lead to a decrease in self-confidence and, eventually, decreased motivation (Ferrer-
Caja & Weiss, 2000; Newton, Duda, & Yin, 2000; Pensgaard & Roberts, 2000)
Different coaching styles and behaviors can affect the motivational climate and an
athlete's learning and performance in training and competition. The acronym TARGET
has become a basic building block of an achievement setting (Epstein, 1988; Ames,
1992). The TARGET components (i.e. task, authority, rewards, grouping, evaluation, and
time) can be manipulated by coaches to create either a mastery- or a performance-
oriented motivational climate in a sport setting (Todorovich & Curtner-Smith, 2002). To
create a mastery motivational climate, coaches should provide individually challenging
tasks for athletes, involve athletes in the choice of the different tasks to master, and have
them participate in setting their own process goals. Furthermore, for a mastery climate,
coaches should provide equal and private evaluations as athletes make progress toward
An important part of coaching is the ability to understand athletes' social and
emotional motives for participating in sport (NASPE, 1995). Coaches must remember
that athletes are people, not machines under their control. To develop a positive coach-
athlete relationship, coaches must know what each individual athlete requires in order to
excel (Dieffenbach, Gould, & Moffett, 1999; Pensgaard & Roberts, 2002). They must
understand the individual training and competitive experiences of the athletes under their
influence. They also must recognize the importance of self-confidence and self-esteem to
the athlete's development, and learn to be sensitive to when an athlete is able to receive
constructive criticism and when he or she needs to be shown acceptance and given more
encouragement regarding his or her athletic ability (NASPE, 1995; Pensgaard & Roberts,
2002). Over training athletes both physically and mentally can put a lot of stress on them
and can cause the promising young athletes to become frustrated with sport participation
and to stop competing at or near the peak of their career.
Table 2. TARGET components*
Target Performance-oriented Mastery-oriented
Task All pupils attempt at the same task. Pupils choose to attempt different
Goals for the task are determined
by the instructor
Authority The instructor makes all decisions
about what pupils will learn, sets
up all equipment and carries out
all pupil evaluations
Rewards Recognition of pupils'
accomplishments are made public
and rewards are given for superior
Grouping An entire class or squad works on
one task or pupils are grouped
according to their ability
Evaluation Evaluation is norm-referenced or
rank-ordered and public Progress
is judged on the basis of the whole
group objectives and level of
Time The instructor gives strict time
limits for all pupils to complete
tasks and establishes timelines for
tasks. They are permitted to set their
Pupils choose what they will attempt
to learn, are given the opportunity to
set up their own equipment, and are
encouraged to evaluate their own
Recognition of pupils'
accomplishments are kept private
and rewards are given for
Pupils work on individual tasks or in
small cooperative groups. Grouping
is flexible and heterogeneous
Evaluation is self-referenced, and
private. Progress is judged on the
basis of individual objectives,
participation, effort and
Time limits for task completion are
flexible. Pupils help to schedule
timelines for improvement.
* This acronym is used to develop mastery- or performance-oriented motivational climate
(Todorovich & Curtner-Smith, 2003)
Burnout is an important issue in athletics and coaches can help in its prevention.
Coaches must have two-way communication with their athletes, and they must cultivate
personal involvement with their players. In other words, coaches must understand their
players' feelings (Weinberg & Gould, 1999). With this knowledge, a coach can work
towards creating what Dieffenbach, Gould, and Moffett (1999) refer to as a "Quality
Coach-Athlete Relationship". This relationship is characterized by mutual trust,
confidence in each other's abilities, good communication, and a sense of collaboration.
Athletes prefer coaches who allow them to have input in the decision making process
about goals, practice methods, and game tactics (Martin, Jackson, Richardson, & Weiller,
1999). Athletes respond better to an autonomy approach, where goals are dictated by the
coach and set in collaboration with the athlete, than to an approach where the coach
primarily exerts control (Weinberg, Butt, Knight, & Perritt, 2001; Weiss & Ferrer-Caja,
Coaches play a critical role in the personal as well as the athletic development of
athletes. How an athlete regards his or her sport is often dependent on the behavior of the
coach. NASPE (1995) recommends that coaches demonstrate effective motivational skills
and provide positive, appropriate feedback. Coaches must use appropriate goal setting
strategies. Their approach to correcting errors must be positive and they must recognize
the effectiveness of using inspirational speeches as ways of reducing the athlete's level of
stress felt in practice and competition or their fear of failure. Coaches should emphasize
the importance of enjoying the training sessions and competitions. They must provide
opportunities for athletes to derive satisfaction from striving to achieve their goals, both
performance process and outcome.
Coaches must learn to balance positive feedback with constructive criticism (Duda,
http://www.positivecoach.org/documents/pcmmresearch.pdf). Nunelly (2002)
recommends coaches be tough, firm, but quick to praise. In a study by Ryan, Koestner,
and Deci (1991), under conditions of positive feedback, task-oriented athletes persisted
more in their activity than ego-oriented athletes. However, this pattern was reversed
under conditioning of negative or no feedback. Smith, Smoll, and Curtis (1979) showed
that male baseball players whose coaches displayed frequent encouragement, positive
reinforcement and corrective feedback, had significantly higher levels of self esteem over
the course of the season than players whose coaches used these techniques less
frequently. In the same study, players who demonstrated low self esteem at the beginning
of the season benefited the most from positive coaching techniques. Baseball players
reported enjoying their athletic experiences more and wanting to continue their
participation when their coach gave them more positive reinforcement in response to
good performance and effort, and responded to mistakes with fewer punitive responses
and more encouragement, support and constructive criticism (Barnett, Smoll & Smith,
There is a clear distinction between athletic career phases. According to
Dieffenbach, Gould and Moffett (1999), the early years of participation are marked by
developing love for the sport and participating for fun. The middle years of competition
are when, with the help of a coach, the athlete works on long-term skill development. The
elite years are characterized by many hours of training and working towards personal
excellence. Studies have shown that during the early years of athletes' careers, coaches
focus mainly on fun and the development of goals (Dieffenbach, Gould, & Moffett,
1999). However, as athletes improve in skill and performance and progress to the next
level of competition (i.e. middle years), when the coach plays a significant role, coaches
tend to become stricter regarding rules and criteria for successful performances. Coaches
tend to focus more on results than on effort and skill development. The emphasis in the
training environment shifts from creativity in drills and segmentation of the required
skills for improvement to tactics and performance in competition. As a result of this
change in approach many talented athletes never reach elite levels of competition, retiring
due to declining interest and competence (Weiss & Ferrer-Caja, 2002). Winning
inevitably becomes more important as levels of competition increase. Nonetheless, too
much focus on the competition and extrinsic awards can diminish feelings of intrinsic
motivation. Training sessions as well as competitions provide opportunities to satisfy the
athletes' need to feel competent in their sport. Coaches should emphasize having fun and
work on creating an enjoyable competitive environment (Dieffenbach, Gould, & Moffett,
1999). Levels of intrinsic motivation will reflect the mastery motivational climate and
athletes will put forth more effort, ultimately leading to success and personal satisfaction
in the achievement context (Ferrer-Caja & Weiss, 2000; Newton, Duda, & Yin, 2000).
Influences of all significant others
In addition to coaches, the social environment is influenced by significant others
and affect athletes' goal perspectives (Duda, 1996). In athletics, parents, peers, and
society shape and mold the beliefs, attitudes, and values participants will have about
physical activity. Carr and Weigand (2002) conducted a study to explore the relationship
between motivational climates created by significant others and children's goal
orientations in physical education. Results suggest that children with a high task
orientation tended to internalize higher perceptions of a mastery climate from significant
others than children with a low task orientation. Children with a high ego orientation
tended to internalize higher perceptions of a performance-oriented climate from teachers,
peers, and sport heroes then children with a low ego orientation. Teachers were found to
promote a mastery climate that more strongly related to a task orientation, while peers
promoted a more performance-oriented climate that was strongly related to an ego
Weiss and Ferrer-Caja (2002) referred to a "looking glass self", created by Charles
Cooley to illustrate that individuals use important adults and peers as social mirrors
through which they evaluate their competence and worth, ultimately affecting their self
esteem. Duda and Hom (1993) found moderately strong correlations between children's
task and ego orientations, and the perceptions of their parents' task orientations. Hayashi
(1999) also found that gymnasts' decisions to continue in their sport significantly relied
on the perceived support from family and friends.
Purpose of the Study
As previously mentioned, coaches play a significant role in determining an
athlete's achievement goal orientation, and this is particularly noteworthy given the lack
of direct feedback given to skiing athletes. Researchers have investigated the influence of
perceived motivational climate on athletes' goal orientations. However, to date,
researchers have failed to look at the goal orientations of coaches to determine if and/or
how those orientations affect what coaches say and do when they coach their teams or
athletes and, therefore, how they may impact the motivational climate in the sporting
domain. Thus, the purpose of this study is to assess how elite Alpine Ski Racing coaches'
goal orientations elicit specific behavior patterns that impact the way they develop the
motivational climate of the snow skiing sport domain.
This qualitative study used a sampling strategy referred to as Extreme or Deviant
case sampling (Patton, 2002). Patton refers to extreme or deviant cases as a strategy that
selects unique and unusual cases that can be used to explain more typical situations. In
this case, the researcher looked at elite downhill skiing coaches' extreme achievement
goal profiles as determinants of specific behavior patters.
Twenty Canadian FIS (Federation International de Ski) coaches were asked to be
potential participants for this study. They were each contacted with a brief description of
the study. Informed consent forms, approved by the university's human subjects'
protection board, were mailed to each coach to be signed and sent back to the researcher
before they were allowed to volunteer as participants. With the coaches' informed
consent, they completed the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ)
to identify those coaches that displayed an extreme task or ego orientation (Duda &
White, 1992). This approach is consistent with the criterion sampling procedure
described by Patton (1990) with the indication that "criterion sampling can be applied to
identify cases from quantitative questionnaires or tests for in-depth follow-up" (p. 177).
Using the criterion sampling procedure, the researcher identified those FIS coaches who
displayed a high task and low ego orientation or high ego and low task orientation, based
on their TEOSQ scores. A high task orientation or ego orientation score was considered
any score ranging from 4.1 to 5.0 on either TEOSQ sub-scale. A low task orientation or
ego orientation was considered any score ranging from 1.0 to 2.9 on either TEOSQ sub-
scale. The coaches high in task or ego orientation were then asked to participate in the
interview process of the study.
The Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ) was used to assess
the coaches' goal orientation (Duda & White, 1992). The TEOSQ asks participants when
they felt most successful in sport (in this case, alpine skiing). The questionnaire has 13
items and, by indicating their degree of agreement for each item, the subjects' levels of
task and ego orientation are identified.
Seven items on the TEOSQ reflect a task involvement (e.g. I learn something that
is fund to do), and 6 reflect an ego involvement (e.g. The others can't do as well as me).
Coaches' responses to each item were recorded on a 5-point Likert scale from strongly
agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). The mean score (i.e. the sum of the scores divided by
the number of items) for each subscale were calculating to obtain each participant's
TEOSQ score. The range for each participant's degree of task and ego orientation in
alpine skiing was from 1 (low) to 5 (high).
Validity and Reliability of the TEOSQ
Internal reliability was determined using two samples (Duda, Chi, Newton,
Walling, & Catley, 1995). In sample 1, high alpha scores of .72 and .82 were found in
respect to task and ego orientation. In sample 2, high alpha scores of .83 and .78 were
provided for task and ego orientation. This shows that there is internal reliability.
Duda (1992) proved validity for the TEOSQ using two studies. In the first study,
Duda administered the TEOSQ and a Motivation Orientation Scale specific to a
classroom to 205 high school students. The results showed a high positive correlation
between the sport task and ego orientation scale scores. The second study, using
undergraduate students confirmed these results. Therefore, it is shown that the TEOSQ is
valid in regard to sport.
In order for this study to be conducted in the true naturalistic and qualitative sense,
two standardized, open-ended, semi-structured, formal interviews were utilized for the
data collection process (Patton, 2002). The standardized open-ended interview required
proper planning of each question (Patton, 2002). Each interview question was carefully
written and evaluated before accepted for application. Open-ended interview questions in
this study allowed flexibility in each coach's answers and eliminated the possibility of
receiving one-word responses. In addition, since coaches' had to respond to the
questions using their own thoughts and words, valuable data were collected.
The two formal interviews took place after the summer ski training camp, and prior
to the fall ski training camp. Interviews ranged from one half of an hour to one hour in
length. During the first interview, the coaches were asked to describe their philosophy of
coaching elite FIS athletes, describe how they design and plan for their training days,
what they think the purpose of competition is, how they would describe a favorable team
climate, what role they believe they have in creating this environment and their role as a
coach in general. The purpose of the second interview was to confirm the coaches'
responses in the first interview.
All formal interviews were tape recorded with the coaches' knowledge and
approval. Once all interviews were complete and transcribed, the researcher analyzed the
Although two separate groups (task-oriented and ego-oriented) were identified for
this study, data for participants in each group were analyzed separately because attempts
to compare or contrast the two groups were beyond the scope of this study. However, the
researcher presented the findings for both groups in this paper to the dichotomous nature
suggested by the extreme scores obtained by participants on the TEOSQ instrument.
Although data analyses were conducted separately for each group, the same techniques
Data gathered via informal interviews were conducted using individual-case and
cross-case analysis procedures (Patton, 1990). A constant-comparative approach to
analyzing the data (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990) revealed categories
that have common linkages and patterns among group participants. Next, data were
categorized into themes that represented common discourse or language used among the
coaches regarding the coaching and training process.
Issues with Trustworthiness
To establish trustworthiness, themes that emerged from the data were cross-
checked (Patton, 1990) and compared with a second researcher as well as the theory
based TARGET component, both of which acted as sources to confirm or disconfirm
assertions made by the researcher. This process, referred to as triangulation, was a well-
used qualitative technique for ensuring data accuracy. To establish credibility,
participants were asked to review the interpretations made by the researcher and to
correct any inaccuracies. Next, peer debriefing was used to assist with evaluating the
responses (Patton, 1990). This process involved a second researcher knowledgeable of
both achievement goal theory and qualitative research methods to periodically review the
assertions made by the primary researcher.
Seventeen Canadian FIS (Federation International de Ski) level Alpine Ski Racing
coaches completed the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire. FIS coaches
work with athletes from 16 to 20 years of age. Nine coaches displayed a high task (4.1 to
5.0 on a 5-point scale) and low ego (1.0 to 2.9 on a 5-point scale) orientation. Six of these
coaches participated in the interview process. There were five male coaches and one
female coach. Each coach is from a different Canadian province and/or ski racing team.
The coaches averaged 13 years of experience in alpine ski racing. Two of the coaches are
current FIS level coaches. The remaining four coaches, while not directly involved in the
FIS program, are still involved in alpine ski racing.
Table 3. TEOSQ scores*
Participant Task-oriented score Ego-oriented score Overall orientation
1 5.0 2.8 high task, low ego
2 4.6 1.5 extreme task
3. 4.5 2.0 high task, low ego
4 4.9 1.6 extreme task
5 4.3 2.6 high task, low ego
6 4.4 1.7 extreme task
7 4.8 2.8 high task, low ego
9 5.0 2.7 high task, low ego
10 4.9 2.8 high task, low ego
11 4.1 3.3 high task, moderate ego
12 4.9 3.2 high task, moderate ego
13 3.7 3.3 moderate task, moderate ego
14 4.0 3.3 moderate task, moderate ego
15 4.2 4.0 moderate task, moderate ego
16 4.3 4.0 moderate task, moderate ego
17 3.2 4.6 high task, moderate ego
Data collection from the Task and Ego in Sport Questionnaire
Passion for Alpine Ski Racing
All of the coaches interviewed had athletic backgrounds. Most of them were alpine
ski racers at the FIS or national level. All six respondents emphasized their love for
alpine ski racing. They enjoyed their athletic experiences and developed a passion for the
sport. For each of them coaching was one way they could stay involved in the sport to
which they devoted so much of their lives as competitors. One coach said:
It's very rewarding to get back and give back to the sport I truly love. That's the
main reason why I got into coaching. I wanted to give back to the sport that has
given me so much.
These individuals became coaches not only for the love of the sport, but also
because they received a great deal of satisfaction from helping future generations of
athletes in the pursuit of their own goals. They enjoyed seeing athletes improve and
progress to higher levels of competition. This is particularly well described by one coach
I was always able to help them stay happy, keen and focused. I enjoy seeing the
kids do well. I enjoy watching them progress and seeing them have fun. I take an
interest in the kids and enjoy their energy.
All the coaches interviewed were highly certified in alpine ski racing and have
stayed current with new developments related to their sport and coaching. One coach
explained that it was important to "keep our learning going ahead and not just stagnant."
The coaches believed it was important to be creative and innovative with new and
better training techniques. The coaches were constantly evaluating themselves with goals
of self- improvement and enhancing their coaching abilities.
Three main themes emerged from the coaches' responses to the interview
questions. The themes were: a) the coaches focused on overall development, b) the
coaches created an enjoyable and intense climate, and c) the coaches utilized training
sessions to improve sport specific skills and life skills, and to provide a fun and
Theme 1: Focus on Overall Development
The first theme reflects the coaches' perceptions of the purpose of ski racing at an
elite level. They acknowledged that alpine ski racing teaches the athletes important life
skills. Most of the coaches also believe that the main focus of ski racing at the FIS level,
in addition to performing well, should be on overall skill development.
Competing at the FIS level, it is understandable for coaches to want to see their
athletes perform well and progress to the next level of competition. However, most of the
coaches interviewed maintained that overall development should be the primary focus.
Once an athlete develops physically and mentally, good results will come. One
When people are strong and really understand their own bodies, their skiing just
falls into place. We have to do that instead of chasing those FIS points. The main
goal is not to develop world champions but to create people with really good life
skills. Everyone wants instant gratification we want to win now. We don't want
to wait. We don't allow kids to develop long enough. We push them way too soon.
Another coach responded:
Athletes' goals are always result oriented which is wrong. You only get the results
if you do all the things (physical skills) first and properly so, those should be your
daily goals. You really want to focus on development. Focus on how you're
improving rather than how you actually do it. The idea is to make it a
developmental thing until you're 19 or 20 years old.
The coaches reported wanting what was best for their athletes regardless of whether
the end result was a world cup holding or merely a personal measure of accomplishment
You have to look at an individual's potential and if you get the most out of that
individual regardless of what the end result is. I think that that was for sure one of
my goals at the end of every year you can say I feel good about what we've
In the event of an unsuccessful outcome, the coaches did not see value in dwelling
on the result, but instead advised to work on dissecting the performance and come to a
decision about what needs to be done to improve. One coach explained that "maybe we
are spending too much time in gates or something so they need to free ski more, spend
more time in practice session or a one-on-one session."
With a successful outcome, the coaches felt it was important to acknowledge that
individual. An athlete who has achieved a goal should be recognized and it is appropriate
for the athlete's teammates and competitors to witness the coach congratulating him or
her. In addition, the coaches agreed that it was very important to always leave the athlete
with something to work on to be even more successful in the future.
Definitely congratulations are in order. You worked hard at this, good job; this is a
step along the way. Definitely allow them to feel the success and pride of their
performance but not over glorifying it. Do I do it in front of other racers? Yeah,
sure that's the way it is. I mean it all really depends on the situation. You do have a
little one-on-one where it's personal and private to talk about things but you do that
with everybody but I'm not afraid to congratulate someone in a crowd.
In addition to race results, coaches believed athletes should be evaluated based on
other criteria. Each coach reported taking part in an evaluation process throughout the ski
season. They took the time to discuss each athlete's progress during the training season,
race season, and post season.
I reserve judgment on their technical improvement, maybe change in their attitude
or mental skills. Their FIS goals and world ranking goals is appropriate for that
person but we also set physical, technical, tactical, and psychological goals as well.
It's all living skills goals. With on-going evaluation, through discussion, you could
see how an individual develops as a person socially, physically. But I think pure
performance at the elite level is the outcome that everyone is looking for, but I
think the numbers that reach that are very few so I think you have to focus on your
accomplishments when you break down the sport into different skill areas.
Theme 2: Creating an Enjoyable Environment
The second theme outlines the coach's understanding of the importance of creating
an enjoyable sporting experience. Each coach believed he or she had a significant role in
developing a competitive environment that was both fun and intense. They each expected
their athletes to work hard but also acknowledged the importance of having fun while
training and in competition.
As coach, you are in position of empowerment. I certainly feel that the coach has a
lot to do with dictating how fun the program can be and how well the team gets
along because they have control over the whole thing, for the most part. My
athletes know that I am intense and know what I want to achieve something but at
the same time they know they can have fun it doesn't always have to be serious.
At the FIS level of competition, performance becomes more important and, as a
result, athletes are expected to work very hard. However, coaches understand that an
athlete will no longer want to compete in alpine skiing if he or she is not enjoying the
sport. Not surprisingly, coaches agreed that they should develop a fun atmosphere.
However, it is important for the athletes to understand the serious side of the sport. One
I can be your friend. We can fool around but when we're working, we're working
and that is the ethic we have to get back. There's time for play and there's time to
learn. They have to understand that I am still the coach and there is a line drawn.
Developing a strong coach-athlete relationship is an important contributing factor
in ensuring a positive sporting experience for an athlete. Since FIS is the first level of
competition that demands a great deal of travel, the athletes are consequently away from
home for a large part of the year. As a result, the coaches shared in the view that they
take on many additional roles. One coach described the situation as "actually becoming a
family when you start traveling." The coaches knew that it was essential to build a
trusting relationship in order for athletes to become more involved in the program. "It's
nice to give them some role of responsibility and some accountability. They'll be happy
if I'm not nagging them. They need to feel they can be themselves."
The coaches realized the importance of open communication with their athletes.
They are in the position to make the decisions, but athletes were more willing to
cooperate when they knew exactly what was expected of them. As one coach stated:
The thing is open communication about where they're at. I think it's an important
thing to do with your athletes. It's part of active cool down. By keeping everyone
informed about what's happening, it just alleviates a million problems.
Keeping the lines of communication open, athletes were able to state their opinions
and felt as though they had some influence over the program. The coaches believed that
athletes had valuable insights in alpine ski racing and should have had the opportunity to
communicate their thoughts and feelings with everyone on the team.
Respect each other and listen to each other because every one of those guys has
something valuable to bring to the table. We always ate together, especially on the
road. That was the time where a lot of stuff got brought to the table about what
their feelings and stuff were. We never left the hill without having a meeting first.
For me and it's for them. I believe that we can stop a lot of the problems if you find
out about them right away. Everybody thinks kids don't' understand. You have to
talk to them
The coaches had specific items they wanted their athletes to focus on and goals to
work toward. However, they understood that it was important for an athlete to be
involved in planning, goal setting, and be given the opportunity to develop his or her own
goals. Once the athletes had decided on specific goals they would like to achieve, the
coaches would collaborate with them in order to achieve a combined effort.
I think it's important to get the athlete to think about what they're doing so if you
remember we used to have I think two meetings to first explain the process and
then to go back and try to think about what they want to do and then we would sit
Theme 3: Training Sessions for Overall Development and an Enjoyable Experience
The third theme is developed from a combination of the two themes previously
mentioned. The coaches used the training days to create an enjoyable and competitive
environment with a focus on overall skill development. Results in alpine ski racing are
solely based on the clock. Therefore, the coaches believed it was necessary to simulate
race conditions as much as possible when training. This involved wearing downhill suits
and using proper timing equipment. However, to create an enjoyable experience they
encouraged fun competition with their athletes. One coach believed that:
Once they were past their second year when they were 16, we put the clock on
them and then from then on any time they were in gates, there was always a clock
on them always, never without. Free ski, nothing, just feedback, but when they
were in gates, always a clock. And they pushed themselves. I always believe that
you give 100% in training because you have to simulate the race. When you're in
training gates, you have to make each run count like it's a race. They try to beat
their own times, basically, but bragging rights on time too. But this becomes fun to
them. There isn't a nasty side to it. Very healthy and not only that but that is the
sport of ski racing.
The coaches viewed skill development as the main focus for their athletes during
training sessions. Although, the athletes were given an opportunity to express their
thoughts and feelings, the coaches agreed it was their job to plan and prepare for the
training days. One coach stated that:
My athletes have very specific things they have to do. I expect active cool down
and I want to see that. You've got to be somewhat flexible but I think by having a
certain regiment that you deal with, it gets the kids into a rhythm. M job is to make
sure when my athletes come to the hill, everything was prepared. I never expected
an athlete to carry gates and help screw, unless we were in a bit of a rush and had to
get off the hill.
Another coach explained that:
I don't think they are ready to do much of their training on their own. You've got to
look ahead to when you're racing and how important the race is. You gear training
Finally, the coaches explained that the athletes trained as one group and that there
were inherent advantages to this. In alpine ski racing, at the elite level, teams were
usually small enough to train as one unit. However, although teams trained in the same
race course and, in many situations, on the same drills, they were all working on different
skills specific to their individual needs. One coach replied:
I start with the same drill. Sometimes I have two drills within one course. Some
will start at the top and some will start on the second. I think they can all certainly
improve on every drill so it's not a bad thing. I find that younger kids develop
faster because they ski with kind of role models so they are learning more skills and
techniques and they try to do it like their models.
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of achievement goal orientations
on coaching behavior and to identify how the behavior patterns of alpine ski racing
coaches influence the motivational climate they create for their athletes. The study
revealed that those coaches who were high task-oriented and low ego-oriented chose to
be involved in alpine ski racing because they love the sport. The coaches believed that
through ski racing, athletes would not only acquire physical skills to help them achieve
success in the sport, but they would also develop important life skills that would help
them achieve success beyond the sport. In addition, task-oriented coaches believed in the
importance of developing a competitive sporting environment that was both intense and
enjoyable. The coach was the leader who was empowered to make important decisions
about training and competition. However, an athlete's insight into alpine ski racing was
never underestimated. Task-oriented coaches understood that they were able to
accomplish this through constant collaboration with and evaluation of their athletes. They
also utilized the training session to not only improve skills related to ski racing, but also
to focus on overall development.
Task Orientation and Overall Development
Task orientation is related to adaptive achievement strategies. Individuals who are
task-involved focus on self-improvement and endorse effort and persistence to optimize
performance (Dweck & Legett, 1988). Maintaining a positive work ethic and remaining
devoted to their activity, individuals develop a passion for their activity and, in return,
increase their intrinsic motivation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Duda, Chi, Newton, Walling,
& Catley, 1995). The task-oriented coaches who participated in the interview process this
study emphasized their love for athletics. They believed that with hard work and
persistence, they were able to have an impact on each of their athletes and the sport of
alpine ski racing. Once coach explained:
I really enjoy the sport in itself and what I can do with the sport. At a certain point,
I really enjoy what you can do with young people and the impact you can have on
their lives, especially with ski racing because you spend a lot of time with them so
you know you can really have an impact on their whole values and structure
and....I like that.
In the sport of alpine ski racing, athletes spend roughly three quarters of the year
either in training or in competition. There is a lot of traveling involved and athletes can
be away from their families for weeks. This gives a coach the opportunity to effectively
influence the overall development of an athlete. A coach has a tremendous impact on an
athlete's values, beliefs and behavior. A coach can effectively teach an athlete the value
of hard work and persistence not only in their sport, but also in all aspects of their life.
Task-oriented individuals recognize that ability can improve with effort (Dweck &
Leggett, 1988). The task-oriented coaches realized that an athlete can learn a lot from
both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. In the event of a successful outcome, it is
important for the coach to acknowledge the athlete's accomplishments but also to keep
the success in perspective. At the FIS (Federation International de Ski) level, athletes are
roughly 16 to 20 years old. In ski racing, these athletes are at the start of their competitive
careers. There is always room for improvement and it is important for an athlete to
understand that each success is a stepping stone for achieving the ultimate goal. In one
interview, a coach mentioned:
You've got to prepare them for that. It's nothing too complicated except that I try
to keep them focused on the process so that if they have success it doesn't make
them superstitious or overconfident. It's important they remember how hard they
worked to achieve success so they continue to have success. And they keep it in
perspective of development. It's important they enjoy their success. I don't want to
downplay it but it's important to keep it in perspective.
It is important for an athlete's success to be acknowledged. The athlete should feel
a sense of pride and satisfaction after performing well. However, the task-oriented
coaches believed that the athlete should continue to work hard to further increase their
ability for greater success.
In the case of unsuccessful outcomes, coaches in the study chose to focus on
overall skill development. Unlike the ego-oriented individual, who would view this as a
sign of inability, the task-oriented coaches understood that it was important for the
athletes to acknowledge their potential as ski racers and to help them remember why they
love ski racing. One coach found it important to "reassure him that it's going to take time.
you have to pull away from the race a little bit and you have to make sure that he has lots
of time to just go and ski."
The task-oriented coaches recognized that one unsuccessful outcome does not mean
the end of an athlete's career. It may be beneficial to take an athlete out of the
competitive environment and allow him or her to simply go and ski. When the athlete is
ready to put forth the effort and try again, he or she will improve and eventually succeed.
It was evident from the interviews that the coaches provided their athletes with
challenging tasks by having the less skilled and more experienced athletes train in one
group. Each task-oriented coach created an environment that allowed the athletes to feed
off each other and improve together. It was shown that the younger and less skilled
athletes had the opportunity to train and race against their older and more experienced
teammates, whom they viewed as role models or simply ski racers they would like to
defeat. The coaches understood that by keeping the team as one unit, the athletes were
able to challenge each other, learn from each other, and improve together.
Task Orientation and its Influence on the Motivational Climate
The social climate, principally created by the coach, influences an athlete's
achievement motivation (Harwood & Biddle, 2002). Congruent with research in
classrooms, the motivational climate displayed is defined by the coach-athlete
relationship, evaluation process, athlete groupings, and times allotted for tasks to be
completed (Ames, 1992). Previously mentioned, the acronym TARGET that stands for
task, authority, rewards, grouping, evaluation, and time help to clarify the difference
between a mastery and a performance motivational climate. Coaches who collaborate
with their athletes, evaluate success based on individual effort and improvement,
encourage athletes to learn new skills without a time constraint, and do not group athletes
based on ability, create a mastery-oriented motivational climate (Ames, 1992). In this
study, it was clear the task-oriented coaches created a mastery-oriented motivational
climate in their training sessions.
The coaches agreed it was necessary for the coaching staff to make final decisions
regarding training and competition. However, they believed that their athletes should
have an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings regarding decision-making.
The task-oriented coaches made it routine for the whole team to meet as one group after
training to discuss the day and the future plans. Coaches would share with their athletes
what was to be expected for the upcoming training days and race series. In addition, the
coaches would listen to the athletes and discuss their thoughts regarding the tasks they
were asked to perform. With open lines of communication, the coaches were able to
create a positive relationship with their athletes based on trust and respect. Keeping
athletes informed of their progress and the short and long term plans for their racing
season, the coaches were able to gain the trust of athletes. These coaches also developed
an understanding and appreciation for the athletes' personal goals for participating in
sport. One coach discussed how his relationship with his athletes had improved over the
years. He said:
I think I've learned a lot in the last few years about developing a stronger
relationship. In the first few years coaching, I'm not really sure what kind of
respect I've had from my athletes. But I think in the last several, respect has been
pretty good. I don't get athletes who don't believe in me or who don't think that
I'm doing the right thing. My relationship has been really good. I think I look after
them well and I have their interest at heart and I think that they believe that. I'm
trying to get to know them a little better trying to relax. These guys operate in
good faith. I'm not worried that any one is going to lie to me. They work hard,
they're honest by large. And I trust them so I can be a lot more relaxed. They make
it easier for me.
A strong relationship between an athlete and a coach based on trust and respect and
created through open communication, eliminates many problems they may experience in
working together. When a coach and athlete are in sync, aware of each other's needs and
wants, they are able to focus on the task at hand and enjoy working together.
Similar to the information derived from research completed in classrooms, it is
important for an athlete to be evaluated based on improvement (Ames, 1992). Alpine ski
racing is a sport in which an athlete's success is based solely on the scoreboard. With
each ski race, athletes experience changes in the weather and snow conditions, the race
course and their starting position. Every race run is completely different and therefore,
alpine ski racing does not provide an objective way to measure personal performance.
With this in mind, in order to create, in part, a mastery climate, coaches need to develop
their own criteria for evaluating an athlete's success that is self-referenced. In this study,
it was shown that task-oriented coaches evaluated success on the amount of technical
improvement shown in one season, the ability to graduate to a higher level of
competition, or on overall development as an athlete and a mature individual. These
evaluations were ongoing and personal. Each athlete had the opportunity to meet with the
coach, one-on-one, to discuss his or her individual improvement and progress toward
achieving set goals.
In a mastery motivational climate, athletes work on individual tasks with flexible
time limits for completion (Todorovich & Curtner-Smith, 2003). In this study, task-
oriented coaches reported that, although the team was kept together as one unit, each
individual was given specific skills to develop and lots of time was provided to complete
the task. As previously mentioned, these coaches believed that keeping the athletes
together benefited everyone. One coach said:
We very much work as one team. They (more experienced athletes) help me out a
lot because they help pickup the slack because they know how to do things. They
know what they're doing and the younger guys follow. We train at the same place.
We make a plan. We start off together some are a little faster, some are a little
slower. We teach the drills and then let them work at their speed. Last year I had
four of us (coaching staff) and we tried to split the guys up and each work with a
couple when we were working on technical work, but I don't really think there was
an advantage so, this year we just try to use the strength of the coaches a little
more. Some guys end up racing more than others but when we're doing technical
things we try to create an idea of what our team goals are, technical and otherwise.
We all agree on a point of reference all the time and we work from there.
The coaches did not find it necessary to create groups based on ability. Keeping
everyone together allowed the coaches to use their strengths to help each athlete improve.
Working together as one team allowed athletes to feel united and to experience the group
atmosphere. In addition, athletes could push each other for more effort and enhance
motivation for improvement.
Influence of Coaches' Task Orientations
This study has shown how a task orientation elicits common behaviors among
alpine ski racing coaches at the FIS level. As previously mentioned, alpine ski racing is
extremely ego-involving. With each ski race, there is a different race hill, a variety of
snow and weather conditions, a new course setter, and a different starting order. Unlike a
track event where an athlete's personal performance can be measured by comparing it to
previous performances, a ski racer's personal performance can only be measured by
comparing his or her finish times with those of the other competitors. With this in mind,
it is not surprising that coaches would mainly focus on race results and consequently
display ego-oriented behavioral patterns in training and in competition. However, the
coaches in this study were able to maintain certain beliefs consistent with their task
orientation. In addition to final race results, these coaches recognized the importance of
improvement for one's own sake. Further, task-oriented coaching behaviors influenced a
motivational climate such that the athletes could work towards their personal goals in a
serious, yet enjoyable, competitive environment.
This study revealed that the achievement goal orientations of elite alpine ski racing
coaches elicited specific behavior patterns in training and in competition. Furthermore,
these behavior patterns impacted on the way coaches created the motivational climate in
the ski racing realm. Task-oriented coaches can overcome the ego-involving
characteristics inherent in their sport and incorporate their task-oriented values and
beliefs into the training environment, creating a mastery-oriented motivational climate.
The mastery motivational climate enables athletes to appreciate hard work and effort.
This helps them to understand the benefits of adopting a "non-scoreboard" orientation,
regardless of the requirements of the sport, and assists them in improving their
performance to be the best that it can be.
The present study needs to be replicated among high-level athletes in other
primarily ego-involving sports in order to provide further evidence for the ability of task-
oriented coaches to overcome the ego-oriented character of their sport and integrate their
values and beliefs, consistent with their task orientation, into their training designs
leading to a mastery-oriented climate.
Another interesting question for future research concerns the impact coaches'
achievement goal orientations have on athletes' goal orientations. Does the achievement
goal orientation of the coach, that influences how they create the motivational climate,
influence the athlete's goal orientation? If so, this further illustrates the impact coaching
behaviors have on the sporting domain.
Lastly, to provide further evidence that achievement goal orientations of coaches
predict certain behavior patterns, behavioral patterns of coaches should be observed in its
natural setting. Direct observation of coaching behaviors will confirm or deny the
responses made by the coaches in the interviews. The researcher will also be able to
directly relate coaches' achievement goal orientations to their coaching behaviors instead
of having to make predictions about the relationship.
TASK AND EGO ORIENTATION IN SPORT QUESTIONNAIRE
DIRECTIONS: Give your reaction to the following statements in regards how you
usually or generally feel about the sport of snow
are asked to rank your reaction by indicating SD
Neutral, A = Agree, SA = Strongly Agree
I feel most successful in snow skiing when...
skiing as if YOU were the athlete. You
= Strongly Disagree, D = Disagree, N =
1. I'm the only one who can do the SD D N A SA
play or skill.
2. I learn a new skill and it makes me SD D N A SA
want to practice more.
3. I can do better than my friends. SD D N A SA
4. The others can't do as well as me. SD D N A SA
5. I learn something that is fun to do. SD D N A SA
6. Others mess up and I don't. SD D N A SA
7. I learn a new skill by trying hard. SD D N A SA
8. I work really hard. SD D N A SA
9. I score the most points/goals/hits, SD D N A SA
10. Something I learn makes me want SD D N A SA
to go and practice more.
11. I'm the best. SD D N A SA
12. A skill I learn really feels right. SD D N A SA
13. I do my very best. SD D N A SA
1. Why did you choose to become a ski coach?
2. What are your coaching philosophies?
3. What are your own personal goals?
4. What are the goals you set for your athletes?
5. What do you believe is the key to success in athletics?
a. What does it mean to an athlete to be successful?
b. How do you deal with an athlete who is successful?
c. How do you deal with an athlete who is unsuccessful?
6. How would you describe a favorable team climate/team atmosphere/competitive
7. How do you design and plan your training sessions?
a. Do you decide what discipline to train?
b. Do you set up the training courses and decide when to set another course
and clean up?
8. Who sets the athletes' goals?
9. In training, does everyone work together as a team?
a. Everyone works on the same task?
b. Same drills?
10. How do you reward your athletes in training and competition
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Miss Haley Perlus was born March 6, 1980, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She
achieved her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors at the University of Western Ontario
from the Department of Health Sciences. She earned a degree in kinesiology with an area
of concentration in sport psychology. She is currently completing her master's degree in
the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences. Her area of concentration is sport
pedagogy. Haley plans to continue in pursuit of a Doctor of Philosophy in sport
psychology. She aspires to become an applied sport psychologist working with elite
athletes and coaches.