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QUALITATIVE EXAMINATION OF ATHLETES' SOURCES OF MOTIVATION TO
PARTICIPATE IN A COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT USING GROUNDED
BRADLEY RICHARD LANGLEY
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF MASTER OF SCIENCE IN APPLIED PHYSIOLOGY AND
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Bradley Richard Langley
Many important people deserve recognition for their contribution to this study of
sport motivation. First I would like to thank my supervisory committee chair Dr.
Giacobbi, for believing in me enough to stay with this study over the long haul, and for
constantly pushing and challenging me to make this project better. His, time, effort, and
insight were invaluable to me. I would also like to thank my committee members (Drs.
Todorovich and Tillman) for bending over backwards to make this project a success.
Two other people who deserve recognition for their role in this project are Taryn
Lynn and Amber Stegelin. Without their dedication to the qualitative research group that
helped code and analyze of the data, this project would not have been possible. They
expanded my perspective and encouraged me to follow through to the end. I would also
like to acknowledge my family and friends. Without them I would have never made it to
this point. They motivated me to stay focused, even when I lost sight of the goal. Their
faith in me is an inspiration.
This has been a long journey, and the toughest academic challenge I have ever
faced. One person could never do this alone, so I thank all of the people who made
contributions to this project directly and indirectly this is as much theirs as mine. And I
thank them for believing in me!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... ......... .. ..................................................................... iii
LIST O F FIG U R E S ......................................................... ......... .. ............. viii
ABSTRACT .............. .......................................... ix
1 INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................1
G lo ssary of T erm s ......................................................... ......................... .. 2
Early History of Theories on M otivation................................... ....................... 3
C ognitive E valuation T heory ............................................................. .....................5
Self-D eterm nation Theory ................................................... ................. ............... 10
Self-D eterm nation Research in Sport................................................. .................. 16
Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation .............. ..................19
A chievem ent G oal Theory....................................... ........................................... 27
Participation Motives From A Developmental Perspective ......................................30
Q ualitative R rationale ....................................... .................... .. .. .....................32
Philosophical Issues Related to Knowledge Construction in Sport Psychology.33
Need for New Theories of Motivation ...............................................35
R action ale ......... ................................... ...........................3 6
State ent of Purpose ......... ........................ .... ........ .... ...... ................. 37
Personal Interest .............................................................................. ........ .................. 37
2 M E T H O D S ........................................................................................................... 3 9
P a rtic ip a n ts ........................................................................................................... 3 9
Procedure ........................ ... ................. ..................... ........ 40
Purposeful Sampling and Theoretical Sampling ................. ................. ....40
Interview P procedures .............................................................4 1
Interview G uide D esign...................................................... 41
Member Checks ...... .................... ........ ... ........42
Data Analysis............................................ 43
Interviews and Data Transcription .......................................... 43
Line-by-Line Coding ...................... ......... ................43
Multiple Coders ......................... .......... .........44
In d ep en d en t A u d it ......................................................................................... 4 4
A x ia l C o d in g ................................................................................................. 4 5
C constant C om prison ................................................ .............................. 45
M e m o W ritin g ............................................................................................... 4 6
3 R E S U L T S .............................................................................4 8
H ow A athletes D efine M otivation.......................................... ........... ............... 49
H ow Athletes D efine Com petition ........................................ ......... ............... 50
Internal Sources of M otivation ........................................................ ............. 51
G o a ls .......................................................................................................... 5 1
Perform ance G oals ...................................... ...........................52
Seeing Im provem ent......... ...................................................... .. .... .... ..... 53
Fulfilling Personal N eeds .................................................. ............... .... 54
Feelings of Satisfaction and Accomplishment .......................................... 55
A n g e r ................................................................5 6
Something to Prove...................... ..................................57
O utlet for Stress/ A ggression........................................................... ............... 59
S p ort as an O u tlet .............. .. .. .............................................. .... ......... .. .. ..6 0
Escaping from Problem s through Sport ...................... ........................... ....60
Release of Emotional Energy through the Release of Physical Energy .............61
External Sources of M otivation........................................................ ............... 62
F am ily ................. ... ... ..........................................................................6 2
Initial Exposure to Sports ............................................................................. 62
Fam ily as a Support System ........................................ .......................... 63
F ath er a s C o a ch ............................................................................................. 6 4
Fam ily as a C onfidant.......... .............................................. .......... ........ 64
F rie n d s .............. ......... ....... ...................................6 5
M motivated by Friend's Participation................................................................ 65
Comparison and Competition between Friends ...............................................65
Team m ates and Team Atm osphere ........................................ ........................ 66
Team A aspects of Sport ................................................. ............................. 66
Camaraderie of the Team/ Team Atmosphere............ ................ .. ...............67
F riendship s and L oy alty ........................................................... .....................68
Shared G oals........................................................ 68
T eam m ate Su pp ort...................................................................... ...................69
T eam m ate E nthu siasm .............................................................. .....................70
Com peting against Team m ates....................................... ......................... 71
C om petitiv e N ature .............................. ........................ .. ........ .... ............7 1
E m barrassm ent ........................ ...... ................ ... .... ......... .. .... .. 72
Cheering on Teammates ........... .... ............... .................... 74
Contributing to Team Success.................................... ...................... 74
B eing Part of an Elite G roup ........................................ .......... ............... 74
Success of Teammates.......... .... ........... ...... ............... 75
Success of Team ........ ..... ..... ...... .................. ........ .. .............75
B eing a Leader to Team m ates ........................................ ......... ............... 76
C coach ................................ ........ .. .... ...................... .................. ....... 76
Setting up and Reinforcing Program Goals.............................. ...............76
Confidence in Coach's Knowledge .............. ..............................................77
Running Out of Time to Achieve Goals...........................................................78
Take A advantage of O opportunity ................................... .................................... 79
Coach's Confidence in A thlete....................................... ......................... 80
C oach as an E ncourager .............................................. ............. ............... 81
Coach as an Advisor ............................................ ........ .. ............ 82
H igh Expectations and Pressure ........................................ ........................... 82
Pressure from Self ............................................ .. ..... ................. 83
Pressure of R presenting Entity ................................. ...................................... 83
E expectations of C oaches........................................................................ ... ..... 83
Striving to Reach Personal Standards....................................... ............... 84
Striving to Reach Coach's Expectations .................................. ............... 84
Coach's Expectations too H igh ........................................ ....................... 85
B benefits of Participation .............................................................................86
T ra v e l ............................................................................................................. 8 6
M eet N ew People .......................... ............ ............... .... ....... 87
Fulfillm ent of Personal N eeds ................................... ............................. ....... 88
Physical H health B enefits........................................................... ............... 88
D evelopm ent of C onfidence................................................... ............... ............89
D evelopm ent of Life Skills ........................................ ........................... 90
C om petition .............................. ........... .... ....... ...... ........... ............ 90
Competing In Games/ Competing Against Others ......................................91
Com petition as M otivation for Practice ................................... .................92
B ein g th e B est................................................. ................ 9 5
E arly S u access ................................................ ................ 9 5
W in n in g .................................................. .................. ................ 9 6
B eing th e B est I C an B e ........................................................... .....................97
B ig G am e s ...................................................... ................ 9 8
P re-G am e M otivators.......... ........................................................ .... ...... .... .... 99
M u sic .............. ....................................................................... ...........99
Imagery ............ ......... ............................ 101
Em playing R religious B eliefs....................................... .......................... 102
Pre-C om petition R ituals ....................................... .............. ............... 103
Grounded Theory Fram work ............................................................................ 104
4 D IS C U S S IO N ............................................................................ 1 13
Study Limitations and Future Directions.................. ....... ..................... 121
A applied Im plications .............................................. .. .... ...... .. ... ............ 122
A IN FORM ED CON SEN T .................................................................................... 138
B IN TERV IEW GU ID E I .................................................. .............................. 140
L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S ......................................................................... ................... 143
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................. ..................151
LIST OF FIGURES
1. M motivation continuum ............................ ........................................ ............. ..... 12
2. Hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation..................... ........ 24
3. Sources of motivation conceptual framework................................... ...............1. 24
4. Developmental model of sources of motivation to participate in sport ............... 137
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
QUALITATIVE EXAMINATION OF ATHLETES' SOURCES OF MOTIVATION TO
PARTICIPATE IN A COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT USING GROUNDED
Bradley Richard Langley
Chair: Peter Giacobbi
Major Department: Applied Physiology and Kinesiology
How athletes are motivated is a question that has been explored since the infancy of
sport psychology. However, most of the current theories of sport motivation have been
adopted from other areas of psychology. We examined the predominant theories of sport
motivation including cognitive evaluation theory, self-determination theory, the
hierarchical model of motivation achievement goal theory We also examined studies
that have tested these theoretical frameworks are discussed. The sport psychology
literature needs more information on what motivates athletes and on new theories that
explain the motivation of athletes.
Therefore, the purpose of my study was to use grounded theory analytic procedures
to explore and assess National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes' and club athletes'
sources of motivation to participate in sport. A secondary purpose was to explore and
assess the participants' sources of motivation to compete in sport. Finally, a grounded
theory was inductively developed to explain how contextual features of the sport
environment influenced the participants' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward their
sport participation. We used this grounded theory to organize the participants' sources of
sport motivation which were influenced by environmental opportunities and significant
others such as coaches and family members.
Semi-structured interviews we conducted with 7 male and 7 female athletes who
participated in N.C.A.A. Division I/ collegiate athletics, or club-level sports. The
interviews were analyzed using grounded-theory analytic procedures. Results produced
two major overarching sources of motivation; internal and external. Higher order themes
that emerged as internal sources of motivation were goals, anger, and sport as an outlet
for stress and aggression. The higher order themes that were defined as external sources
of motivation were family, friends, team aspects of sport, coaches, pressure and high
expectations, benefits of participation, competition, and pre-competition motivators. All
of these themes were organized into a theoretical framework that helped define
relationships among the sources of motivation.
Finally we derived a grounded theory showing athletes' sources of motivation to
participate in sport from a developmental perspective was produced. Our findings
support ideas from the extant literature, however there were some contradictions.
Athletes in my study were found to have more external sources of motivation, including
competition, a factor that decreases motivation. Sources of motivation also differed for
athletes at the two competitive levels.
INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW
Michael Jordan built a reputation as one of the most complete players in
professional basketball. Yet at age 39, he was still playing in the NBA (Clarkson, 1999).
He played through injury and sickness and even scored 69 points in a game in which he
suffered severe symptoms from the flu. With little left to accomplish in the game of
basketball, and at the risk of tarnishing his stellar career, his motivation to play the sport
he loved did not dwindle. Any account of Michael Jordan's tremendous career is
incomplete without mention of his ferocious competitive spirit. Teammates and
opponents alike testify to his tireless, almost manic, drive to win on or off the court.
Instances of athletes who physically and mentally push themselves to the brink of
their human potential in the name of competition are common. Over the past 60 years,
the type of drive that enables a person to excel in the face of adversity, or propels him or
her to overcome performance obstacles has been extensively debated and analyzed in a
large number of research studies (Deci, 1972; Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000; Freud, 1969;
Vallerand, 1997; White, 1959). While manifested in many forms, motivation has been
loosely defined as an internal or external force that causes a specific behavior to occur
and persist (Vallerand & Thill, 1993). My study focused on the motivational forces that
sustain long-term participation in competitive sport and physical activity settings.
We reviewed the literature to summarize research progress in the area of
motivation. We specifically examined cognitive evaluation theory (Deci, 1972), self-
determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), the Hierarchical model of motivation
(Vallerand, 1997), Achievement goal theory (Nicholls, 1984, 1989) and studies that have
tested these theoretical frameworks. We also examined measurement issues in current
research (Harwood, 2002; Petruzzello, 2001), a push within the field to expand
acceptable methods for knowledge construction (Hoshand & Polkinghorn, 1992;
Martens, 1987), and current debates on theories of motivation (Harwood & Hardy, 2001;
Harwood, Hardy, & Swain, 2000; Treasure et al., 2001).
Glossary of Terms
We developed a list of terms and definitions used in our study. These terms are
used throughout the remainder of this thesis.
* Axial coding: The process of relating categories to their subcategories, termed
"axial" because coding occurs around the axis of a category, linking categories at
the level of properties and dimensions (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
* Coding: The analytic processes through which data are fractured, conceptualized,
and integrated to form theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
* Dimensionalizing: The process of organizing data to better understand the
relationships and characteristics within and among higher-order themes and
categories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
* Grounded theory: Theory that was derived from data taken directly from participant
interviews. The data are analyzed and organized into a framework that explains
relationships between major and minor themes in the text (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
* Open coding: The analytic process through which concepts are identified and their
properties and dimensions are discovered in the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
* Qualitative research: Any type of research that produces findings not arrived at by
statistical procedures or other means of quantification (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
* Theoretical sampling: Sampling on the basis of emerging concepts, with the aim
being to explore the dimensional range or varied conditions along which the
properties of concepts vary (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Early History of Theories on Motivation
Research on the topic of motivation progressed from two separate schools of
thought in general psychology. The first (psychoanalytic instinct theory) was proposed
by Freud (1969) who held a mechanistic view of individuals. According to Freud (1969),
people play a passive role in their interaction with the environment, and are guided by
basic instincts (e.g.,, hunger, thirst). In a second conceptualization of motivation framed
by White (1959), people were portrayed as active members in constant interaction with
their surroundings. White (1959) said that individuals were propelled by instinct to act,
and also guided by a natural curiosity and propensity to learn and explore, which he
labeled competence. The idea of an internally fueled cognitive tendency toward
discovery led to the concept of intrinsic motivation (White, 1959).
Intrinsic motivation involves the performance of an activity for the enjoyment and
fulfillment derived solely from participation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Ryan and Deci (2000)
consider intrinsic motivation an idealistic manifestation of the human propensity toward
learning and creativity. Simply stated, an intrinsically motivated athlete plays purely for
the joy of the game. An individual's enjoyment (which contributes to the maintenance of
intrinsic motivation) is contingent solely on participation in the activity. Intrinsic
motivation is self-sufficient; therefore if one participates in an activity for intrinsic
reasons one is inclined toward further participation. Continued participation in turn
increases intrinsic motivation to participate in the activity (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Intrinsic
motivation is considered the most beneficial type of motivation because of an
individual's internal locus of control. When motives for participation are fully integrated
into the value system of an individual (intrinsic motivation), that person is likely to put
forth greater effort for longer periods of time (Ryan & Connell, 1989). These actions are
positive bi-products of an individual being internally motivated.
Research in a broad spectrum of contexts has explored the dimensions of intrinsic
motivation. Fields such as psychology, business, and education linked this internal
driving force to a variety of positive behaviors. For example, Lawler and Hall (1970)
tested laboratory scientists' job-involvement attitudes, higher-order-need satisfaction
attitudes, and intrinsic motivation attitudes. Results linked intrinsically motivated
attitudes with characteristics such as prolonged effort and increased performance. Also
in the business context, a study by Meir (1972) investigated job persistence of women in
Israel according to the fulfillment of intrinsic and extrinsic needs. Fulfillment of intrinsic
needs was highly correlated with persistence in a single occupation.
Creativity is another positive factor associated with high levels of intrinsic
motivation. A study by Krop (1969) compared the creativity of college students
categorized as high, medium, and low in intrinsic motivation. High intrinsic motivation
was closely correlated to high levels of creativity. Moneta and Siu (2002) found a greater
propensity for creativity while engaged in a writing task for students high in intrinsic
motivation than for students more extrinsically focused.
Intrinsic motivation has also been linked to elevated performance and productivity.
A study by Yip and Chung (2002) identified significantly higher levels of trait intrinsic
motivation in high academic achievers when compared to the dispositions of their lower
achievement counterparts. Conversely, Struman and Thibodeau (2001) found a positive
correlation between decreased intrinsic motivation and decreased performance in free
agent baseball players.
Finally, feelings of satisfaction were observed to be indicative of community
volunteers who displayed high levels of intrinsic motivation in a longitudinal study by
Davis, Hall, and Meyer (2003). Likewise, Hirschfeld (2000) found correlations in job
satisfaction and intrinsic motivation while testing a revised version of the Minnesota
Satisfaction Questionnaire (Weiss, Dawis, & England, 1967). The research listed above,
gives further credence to a view of intrinsic motivation as an ideal driving force behind
Expanding on the ideas put forth by Freud (1969) and White (1959), Deci (1972)
completed experiments on motivation that analyzed the affects of the extrinsic rewards
(i.e., money and positive feedback) on intrinsic motivation. The results of those
experiments demonstrated a decrease in intrinsic motivation when a monetary (external)
reward was tied to an activity. In contrast, when positive reinforcement was applied in
the form of verbal feedback, intrinsic motivation increased. In light of these findings,
Deci (1972) was inclined to propose an alternative perspective than that of either White
(1959), or Freud (1969). Guided by the empirical data gathered from his own study,
Deci (1972) ushered in a new theoretical framework structured around a cognitive
approach. The new theory, called Cognitive Evaluation theory, focused on the nature and
type of the extrinsic reward as predictors of intrinsic motivation. Included in Cognitive
Evaluation theory was ideas about the nature of intrinsic motivation and conditions in
which intrinsic motivation would flourish and diminish. The focus of this review will
now turn to more cognitively oriented theories of motivation.
Cognitive Evaluation Theory
Cognitive Evaluation theory (Deci, 1972) advanced motivation research in two
ways. First, Cognitive Evaluation theory identified factors and conditions such as task
non-contingent rewards, task contingent rewards, performance contingent rewards, and
competitively contingent rewards that affect intrinsic motivation. The second innovation
was the ability of the theory to predict and describe how an individual's interpretation of
these factors would affect motivation.
The first major tenet of Cognitive Evaluation theory describes four types of
contingent rewards that affect intrinsic motivation (Ryan, Mims, & Koestner, 1983). The
first, task non-contingent rewards, are received for participating in an activity,
independent of performance. For instance, a puzzle solving activity in which everyone
gets a dollar simply for participating would be considered a task non-contingent reward.
A second type of reward, task contingent, refers to rewards received for completing
a task. It is important to note that payment of a task contingent reward does not take into
account the quality of completion. Building on the previous example, a contingent
reward would be receiving a dollar only after the puzzle was completed not simply
attempted (Deci, 1972).
A reward given when a specified level of achievement is met would be considered
a performance contingent reward. Giving a two-dollar prize for each puzzle completed
within a designated time frame would be an example of a performance contingent reward.
This type of reward varies in size depending on the success of the participant. Success
and competence can easily be assessed through the comparison to norms or set standards
through this type of award system (Ryan et al., 1983).
The final type of contingent reward was defined as a competitively contingent
reward. Also called a zero-sum reward, this form of compensation is dependent on
winning while in direct competition with other participants. For instance, receiving five
dollars for being the first competitor to successfully complete four puzzles would be
considered a competitively contingent reward (Pritchard, Campbell, & Campbell, 1977).
The second major conceptual component of Cognitive Evaluation theory involves
the explanation of the cognitive processes, which determine the impact of the previously
outlined reward scenarios on intrinsic motivation. Deci and Ryan (1980) coined the
terms informational or controlling to describe the two ways a reward can be interpreted.
Any award or communication that is construed as feedback indicative of competence
would be considered informational and thus lead to feelings of intrinsic motivation.
Conversely, rewards identified as controlling cause feelings of external pressure to act or
perform to meet outside expectations and lead to decrements in intrinsic motivation. An
example of how a reward can be interpreted as either informational or controlling might
be an athlete who is elected captain of the volleyball team. An award of this nature could
be construed by the athlete to mean that she possesses leadership qualities worthy of
respect from teammates and coaches (e.g.,, competence). In this case, the player may feel
encouraged to continue or step up effort. However, the athlete might feel that the role of
team captain has been forced upon her meaning that she must now conform to others'
expectations about what a team captain should be (e.g.,, controlling). Interpreting the
situation in this way could cause decreases in the athlete's motivation to work hard and
display leadership. From a cognitive evaluation theory perspective there are clear
individual differences in how individuals perceive and interpret rewards and information
about their performance and/or competence.
There have been numerous studies that have examined the relationship between
contingent rewards and intrinsic motivation. For example, Ryan, Mims, and Koestner
(1983) examined the relationship between informational and controlling performance-
contingent rewards of college psychology students (N=96) on hidden figure puzzles.
Results from the experiment revealed that performance-contingent rewards undermine
intrinsic motivation when contrasted to the control group (no feedback/ no reward). The
data also lent support for the hypothesis predicting controlling feedback and controlling
rewards would deplete intrinsic motivation when compared to informational feedback
and rewards. A third significant finding was that informationally transmitted feedback
and rewards enhanced intrinsic motivation, while controlling and task-contingent rewards
did not increase intrinsic motivation. The key finding of this study was that an
individuals' interpretation of rewards predicted whether that reward would undermine, or
enhance intrinsic motivation.
Strong empirical support for many aspects of Cognitive Evaluation theory has
influenced research in a variety of areas of psychology. Leadership (Charbanneau,
Barling, & Kelloway, 2001), coaching style (Goudas, Biddle, Fox, & Underwood, 1995;
Gould, Hodge, Peterson, & Giannini, 1989), education and teaching style (Black & Deci,
2000; Flink, Goggiano, & Barrett, 1990; Grolnick & Ryan, 1987), physical activity
(Kavussanu & Roberts, 1996), and sport (Alexandris, Tsorbatzoudis, & Grouios, 2002;
Baric, Erpic, & Babic, 2002) have all adapted Cognitive Evaluation theory into their
frame of reference.
The broad range of research mentioned above has provided support for the nature
of intrinsic motivation outlined in Cognitive Evaluation theory (Deci, 1972). The role
that intrinsic motivation and competition play within the context of sport and physical
activity represents an important area of interest within the field of sport psychology. One
study by Vallerand, Gauvin, and Halliwell (1986) lends strong support to Cognitive
Evaluation theory by showing competition to be detrimental to intrinsic motivation as
well as competence. Vallerand et al. (1986) examined the effects of competition on the
intrinsic motivation and competence of 5th and 6th grade Canadian boys (N = 26).
Participants were randomly selected into conditions of winning or losing a contrived
competition. The participants were then tested on a stabilometer motor task. Each
participant was told that their times were being compared to other children their age and
if their overall time was better than the preexisting best score they would receive a
reward of one dollar. One group of participants was told that they achieved the best score
(winning) and were rewarded with the dollar. The second group of children was told
their times were not better than the established best score (losing) and did not receive the
dollar. The experimenter then left the room and the children were told that they could
spend time however they wanted (a "free choice period"). Measures of intrinsic
motivation were two fold. First, intrinsic motivation was measured by how much time
was spent on the stabilometer during the "free choice period." The second measure of
intrinsic motivation was an initial choice measure in which the students were observed to
see if they went to the stabilometer first, or did other things first. Competence was
measured using the Perceived Competence Scale (PCS; Harter, 1982). Results revealed
that the winning group had a higher score on the initial choice measurement, and spent
significantly more time engaged in the stabilometer task during the free choice period.
Both of these measures supported the hypothesis that the winning group would be more
intrinsically motivated than the losing group. Data analysis from the PCS also indicated
the losing group perceived themselves as less competent than the winning group.
Cognitive Evaluation theory contributed valuable insight about the role perceptions
of rewards play in establishing and maintaining intrinsic motivation. However, ideas put
forth by Deci (1972) could not account for extrinsic motives for participation. For
instance, a basketball player who plays on the team because of pressure from his father
has motives that extend outside of his pure enjoyment of the game. In light of this need
to expand the limited scope of Cognitive Evaluation theory, Deci and Ryan (1985)
introduced Self-determination theory, which viewed motivation as a multidimensional
Building upon previous research, Deci and Ryan (1985) outlined Self-
determination theory, a two-part theory, which incorporated the ideas posited by
Cognitive Evaluation theory. The purpose behind the Self-determination theory
framework was two fold. First, was the necessity to develop a cognitive behavioral
theory that took into account individual's motives derived from external as well as
internal sources. The second reason arose from the need to understand in more depth the
cognitive processes that mediated individual's interpretation of the environment.
Therefore, Self-determination theory made two major advancements beyond Cognitive
Evaluation theory. The first was the recognition of three distinct types of motivation:
intrinsic, extrinsic, and motivation. The relationship between these three types of
motivation was predicted to exist along a continuum. The second advancement was to
identify the fulfillment of three needs, namely competence, autonomy, and relatedness, as
important predictors of motivation. These two advancements will be elaborated on
The construct of motivation possesses such an array of meaning that having a
theory that encompasses a multitude of aspects was paramount. The introduction of Self-
determination theory not only explained intrinsically motivated actions, but also
accounted for motives that lay outside the individual's own value system (extrinsic), as
well as non-motivated behavior. The extended framework enabled researchers to explore
motivation in a larger variety of circumstances and environments (Deci & Ryan, 1985).
As discussed earlier, intrinsic motivation refers to taking part in an activity purely
for the enjoyment of the activity itself. Purely self-determined action represents the ideal
expression of an individual's desire to experience and learn about his or her surroundings
(Deci & Ryan, 2000). Actions, intrinsic in nature, were posited to be highly autonomous,
and exist on one polar end of the motivation continuum. In the middle of the continuum
were extrinsic actions, which involve performance of an activity in order to attain some
external reward, or as a means to an end (Deci & Ryan, 1985). For example, professional
football players often leave one team because they can make more money playing for
another. Their action is prompted by the desire for greater external rewards and therefore
viewed as externally motivated.
At the far end of the continuum were motivated actions. Deci and Ryan (1985)
defined motivation as the lack of desire to perform. Most commonly described as
"going through the motions," a person experiencing the effects of motivation either does
not perform, or puts fourth very little effort toward completion of tasks. Athletes who
continually feel their effort, the strategies they employ, or a combination of the two, will
make no difference in the outcome of their activities, would be classified as motivated.
In fact, previous research has shown that athletes who experienced motivation for
extended periods of time also suffered performance deterioration and feelings of
helplessness (Flink, Boggiano, & Barrett, 1990).
Researchers using Self-determination theory organized these three forms of
motivation into a system that could identify the motives of an individual by the degree of
autonomy felt by the actor (Deci & Ryan, 2000). As shown in Figure 1, Self-
determination theory posits that intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and
motivation exist on a continuum of decreasing autonomy. At one extreme is pure
intrinsic motivation, representing an entirely self-determined or freely chosen action. A
volleyball player who is experiencing intrinsic motivation might participate in practice
because he or she really enjoys learning and understanding new strategies. At the
midpoint of the continuum is extrinsic motivation. Actions falling into this region are
posited to be initiated by factors that exist outside the locus of the actor. For example, a
player who's motivation to participate in a sport comes from the desire to attain the
notoriety that comes to professional athletes is driven by extrinsic motivation. Actions
with little or no autonomy lay at the polar opposite end of the continuum from intrinsic
motivation, and are categorized under the label motivation. Amotivation might occur, if
a basketball player feels no amount of practice can supply the type of skill he or she
needs to compete with a particular opponent.
TM EM AM
Figure 1. Motivation continuum
The second advancement Self-determination theory made over Cognitive
Evaluation theory was to identify the fulfillment of three needs as important predictors of
motivation. Self-determination theory theorizes that all actions fall somewhere on the
motivation continuum depending on the degree of fulfillment of the need for perceived
competence, autonomy and relatedness. Within the Self-determination theory
framework, an individual can only develop interpersonally and experience successful
interactions in social settings when he or she possesses high personal perceived
competence, autonomy, and relatedness (Frederick-Recascino, 2002; Ryan & Deci,
2000). In other words, an individual who feels he or she has the skills necessary to meet
the demands of a task, feels ownership in the outcome, and perceives support from family
and friends, is likely to feel high intrinsic motivation toward that activity. The above
aspects of Self-determination theory will be more extensively discussed in the subsequent
Competence refers to the belief that one has the necessary skills to accomplish a
given task (Deci & Ryan, 1985). A person with high-perceived competence feels they
have an adequate amount of skill or ability to achieve a desired outcome. Self-
determination theory posits that facilitation of competency by using positive feedback for
a particular task will result in higher levels of integration (Deci & Ryan, 1995). For
example, a football player who feels that he does not have enough ability and skill to
compete with the other players at his position would be considered to have low perceived
competence. If a coach compliments the athlete on his work ethic, then the player may
begin to see himself as more competent because of the positive feedback from the coach.
Autonomy refers to the degree to which a person feels they have control over the
outcome of an activity. It also pertains to how much ownership a person takes in an
activity (Deci & Ryan, 1985). When the source of motivation behind action comes from
within, one experiences the highest levels of autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2002). Take for
instance the football player from the above example. If he felt that being a starter for the
upcoming season was extremely important he might feel highly autonomous about
putting in extra time during the off-season to reach his goal. However, the athlete may
also experience very low feelings of autonomy during off-season workouts if the goal of
being a starter was brought about by the fear of disappointing a coach or parents.
Finally, relatedness is defined as the need to belong and feel connected with others
(e.g.,, family, friends). Relatedness is considered an important factor when looking at the
internalization of extrinsically motivated behaviors because fulfillment of this need is a
tremendous predictor of internalization. Ryan and Deci (2000) hypothesized that
relatedness becomes a mediating variable in motivation because the perceived value of
behaviors typically stems from the prompting or value system of significant others. An
illustration of this comes from the previous example with the football player who wanted
to be a starter because he felt pressure to assimilate the values of others deemed
important, in this case a coach or parents. Therefore, he adopted and internalized others'
goals to fulfill his own need for relatedness.
Internalization of behavior is an important part of Self-determination theory. A
behavior is said to be internalized when it is recognized as important, and taken into
one's own value system. Often internalization refers to the assimilation of goals, ideas,
or beliefs from an outside source. Integration alludes to the prioritization of the external
values into a personal value, and is a key to understanding motivated behaviors (Ryan &
The central concept behind motivation is that for action to occur, the activity must
have some degree of importance to the individual. If an activity were not important, then
there would be no action. It is easy to see that even the least self-determined (externally
regulated) activities must have some degree of identification and integration. The level to
which integration and identification take place depends on the degree to which a person
perceives his or her own competence, autonomy, and relatedness. These three needs are
considered the primary contributors to the internalization of activities, especially those
that fall in the extrinsic motivation zone of the motivation continuum. As the extrinsic
value of an action becomes more internalized and integrated, the motivation of that action
becomes more intrinsic in nature (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Each of the determinants (e.g.,, competence, autonomy, relatedness), when
increased or decreased, causes a slide to the left or right of the motivation continuum,
based on whether the three needs are being more or less fulfilled. Take for example the
football player who had the extrinsically motivated goal to become a starter on the team.
If the hard work during the off-season paid off and his goal was reached, he may have
more perceived competence because he demonstrated enough skill to win the job. He
may also have experienced higher levels of autonomy due to the satisfaction he gained
from accomplishing his goal through his own efforts. The athlete would also likely
perceive more relatedness with his coaches, parents, and teammates due to his successful
integration and internalization of their expectations. According to Self-determination
theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), experiencing higher perceptions of competence, autonomy,
and relatedness would mean that the motivation of the athlete would shift from a less
self-determined form of motivation (extrinsic motivation) to a more intrinsic type of
As previously discussed, Self-determination theory's multidimensional view of
motivation has a great deal of explanatory power. The ability to predict behavior by
understanding the sources of motivation has broad reaching implication in many fields.
One context where the Self-determination theory research has been applied is sport. The
ensuing paragraphs discuss some of the pertinent studies, which have used Self-
determination theory as the guiding framework.
Self-Determination Research in Sport
In the context of sport, researchers have studied Self-determination theory to
examine the role of motivation as it pertains to athlete's perceptions of their athletic
scholarships as controlling versus competence supporting (Vallerand, 2000). According
to Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), an award can be either perceived as
promoting competence in which case intrinsic motivation would increase, or perceived to
be controlling, in which case intrinsic motivation would decrease. For example, a study
by Ryan (1977) investigated the intrinsic motivation of collegiate male football players
by verbally surveying them about their interest and enjoyment of playing sport. Ryan
(1977) posited that scholarship athletes would have lower levels of intrinsic motivation
than non-scholarship players. Results from the study lent support to the hypothesis that
rewards decrease intrinsic motivation.
A follow up study (Ryan, 1980) extended previous research by comparing the
intrinsic motivation of scholarship and non-scholarship male athletes from both football
and wrestling, and female athletes from various other sports. The results indicated that
non-scholarship football players had higher intrinsic motivation than their teammates on
scholarship. However, the scholarship athletes from all of the female sports, and the male
athletes from the wrestling team reported higher levels of intrinsic motivation than the
non-scholarship athletes in their respective sports. According to Ryan (1980) the
contrary results were due to differing perceptions of the reward (scholarship). Ryan
(1980) hypothesized that since fewer scholarships were awarded to male and female
athletes in their respective sports, they perceived their scholarships as positive feedback
about competence. In high-profile sports such as football, the athletes tended to feel that
there were more scholarships given out within the team; therefore, a scholarship was not
perceived as proof of competence. In contrast, athletes in lower-profile sports such as
wrestling and most women's athletics at the time of the study, scholarships were viewed
as evidence of competence, because within their respective team, fewer were given out.
More recently, Amrose and Horn (2000) tested the hypothesis of Ryan (1980) by
assessing whether intrinsic motivation of scholarship and non-scholarship athletes' from
a broad range of sports varied as a function of their perception of the number of athletes
on their team receiving scholarships. The Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI; McAuley
& Tammen, 1989) was used to assess the athletes' intrinsic motivation. The results
indicated that athletes on scholarship had significantly higher intrinsic motivation than
non-scholarship athletes, which refutes previous research (Ryan 1977, 1980) stating
athletic scholarships undermine intrinsic motivation. The authors (Amrose & Horn,
2000) suggested the discrepant findings might be due to two major differences between
the two studies. First, the sample used in the Amrose and Horn (2000) study consisted of
athletes from a broader range of sports than the E. Ryan (1977, 1980) studies. Second,
the instrumentation used to measure intrinsic motivation in the Ryan (1977, 1980) studies
was different than that used by Amrose and Horn (2000). Ryan (1977, 1980) verbally
interviewed the participants, asking a series of survey questions about athlete's
enjoyment and interest in their respective sport, while Amrose and Horn (2000)
employed the IMI (McAuley & Tammen, 1989).
Another facet of the sporting context to which Self-determination theory has been
applied involves the role of motivation as it pertains to athletic performance. For
instance, Chantal, Guay, Dobreva-Martinova, and Vallerand (1996) compared the types
of motivation of medal winning and non-medal winning elite Bulgarian athletes. In
alignment with Self-determination theory, Chantal et al. (1996) hypothesized that the
medal winning performers would display lower levels of intrinsic motivation and higher
levels of extrinsic motivation and motivation than the less successful athletes. The
athletes (N=98) were given the Bulgarian version of the Sport Motivation Scale (SMS;
Briere, Vallerand, Blais, & Pelletier, 1995), which was based on the tenets of Self-
determination theory, and employed a multidimensional view of motivation. The results
from the study (Chantal et al., 1996) partially supported the stated hypothesis. While the
findings indicated the most successful athletes exhibited higher levels of non self-
determined motivation than the less successful competitors, no significant differences
were found in the levels of intrinsic motivation between the two groups. Chantal, Guay,
Dobreva-Martinova, and Vallerand (1996) attributed the contrary findings to the
possibility that athletes' motivations were a bi-product of socialization of participants
through a communist reward system. Chantal et al. (1996) surmised that the data
supported a proposal by Fortier, Vallerand, Briere, and Provencher (1995) to extend Self-
determination theory to include situational factors as elements that foster non self-
determined forms of motivation. Fortier et al's. (1995) predictions have important
implications for my study and therefore will be discussed later in this review.
The introduction of concepts embedded in Self-determination theory, such as the
previously described motivation continuum, has led to a more complete understanding of
the complexity of motivation. Likewise, the identification of competence, autonomy, and
relatedness has supplied a conceptual framework for the processes individuals use to
mediate self-determined action. Recently, Vallerand (1997) recognized the need to break
down motivation into distinct levels according to their overall impact on the individual.
Vallerand (1997, 2000) proposed the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic
Motivation as an extension to the basic components of Self-determination theory (Deci &
Ryan, 1985) into three levels of generality. The focus will now turn to the Vallerand's
theory of motivation.
Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
While there is much support for Self-determination theory, many felt that a larger,
more extensive framework was needed in order to more completely understand
motivation. Vallerand (1997, 2000) modified the ideas of Deci and Ryan (1985, 2000),
and extended them into the three-tier model that is shown in Figure 2. The Hierarchical
model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (Vallerand, 1997; Vallerand & Ratelle, 2002)
revolves around five basic assumptions.
The first, labeled Postulate 1, states that any comprehensive assessment of
motivation must consider all three types of motivation, intrinsic, extrinsic, and
motivation. Postulate 1 reiterates the importance of adopting Deci and Ryan's (1985)
perspective by examining all three forms of motivation: intrinsic, extrinsic, and
motivation. When viewed as a multidimensional construct, motivation can cover an
extremely broad range of purposeful action. For instance, an athlete who normally
exhibits great effort during practice may be fueled by internal or external sources. The
motives for an abrupt change in the player's efforts may not be able to be explained
simply by viewing his or her motivation from one perspective.
Postulate 2 of the Hierarchical Model posits that motivation must be viewed as
existing on three levels of generality, global, contextual, and situational (Vallerand,
1997). The global level is considered a trait level of motivation, the semi-permanent
disposition of individuals toward all activities. The Hierarchical Model proposed by
Vallerand views global motivation as the propensity of individuals to engage in activities
with either an intrinsic or extrinsic orientation (Vallerand & Rousseau, 2001). Simply
put, global motivation is indicative of the rewards a person receives from his or her
everyday activities (Figure 2). If an athlete tends to participate in mostly interesting
tasks, then likely he or she has a more globally intrinsic disposition. Inversely, an
individual who gravitates toward rewarded activities or situations where recognition is
inherent may have a more extrinsic global orientation. One could consider global
motivation as a function of personality.
The Hierarchical Model identifies a second level from which motivation can exist;
the contextual level. Vallerand's model predicts multiple life contexts for which a person
can have separate feelings of motivation. For example, education, work environment,
personal relationships, and sport are all individual contexts within a person's life.
Hierarchical Model predicts that within each of these individual aspects of life, separate
levels of motivation exist (Figure 2). For instance, a person may feel extremely
intrinsically motivated when they play sports because they participate solely for
recreation and enjoyment. The same person might feel coerced, and extrinsically
motivated toward their work context, because they feel their only purpose for being there
is so they can pay rent and buy food. The above hypothetical situation is a simplistic
demonstration of one person having multiple motivations toward separate contexts in
their life (Vallerand & Rousseau, 2001).
The third level of generality outlined by Hierarchical Model is the situational level.
State feelings of motivation, which are time and place specific are considered situational
(Figure 2). Whereas global motivation was very stable and consistent, situational
motivation changes constantly according to how the individual feels about what he or she
is doing at that exact moment. For instance, a female soccer player might globally feel
intrinsically motivated. The same player might also feel intrinsically motivated toward
the context of soccer practice while one particular part of practice, possibly conditioning,
may be perceived in a different manner. Thus, her situational motivation during that part
of practice may be extrinsic for that day.
Postulates 3 makes three predictions about motivation. The first states that
motivation is determined by social factors that exist in the environment surrounding an
individual. Determinants such as place of residence, motivational climate (Lloyd & Fox,
1992), the interactional style a coach utilizes with athletes (Deci & Ryan, 1987), and
sport structure (Fortier, Vallerand, Briere, & Provencher, 1995) are all considered social
factors that potentially influence motivation. Corollary 3.1 predicts social factors can be
global, contextual, or situational, and affect the corresponding level of generality. For
example, the place where an athlete lives could be considered a global social factor
impacting global motivation because a residence can affect virtually every facet of life
for that athlete (Vallerand & Ratelle, 2002).
The second hypothesis found in Postulate 3 predicts that perceptions of
competence, autonomy, and relatedness mediate the impact social factors have on
motivation (Corollary 3.2). This postulate highlights the role that internal needs play in
interpreting the impact social factors have on motivation. An example of this might be an
athlete who lives in a home that is supportive of his/her efforts on the field of play. That
environment could increase the athlete's perceptions of competence, autonomy, and
relatedness, which in turn increase their intrinsic motivation toward the sport context.
The last prediction Postulate 3 makes is outlined by Corollary 3.3, which states that
motivation can be affected by a top-down interaction from the proximally higher level of
generality. In other words, the type of global motivation (intrinsic vs. extrinsic) a person
possesses has an impact on motivation in the different contexts of life and in specific
situations within those contexts (Vallerand & Rousseau, 2001). To demonstrate the chain
reaction effects posited by Corollary 3.3 imagine a softball player who is having
problems getting along with her parents. An overarching factor such as difficulty at
home may affect the global motivation of the athlete. Prolonged unrest at home may
begin to influence her desire to be part of the softball team. Her curbed motivation
toward the context of sport could in turn, cause friction with the coach when she does not
put forth her usual effort during conditioning. The top-down effects predicted by
Corollary 3.3 outline an important characteristic of motivation previously not accounted
for by motivation theories such as Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985).
Like Postulate 3, Postulate 4 identifies interactions among the three levels of
generality. The Hierarchical model (Vallerand & Ratelle, 2002; Vallerand & Rousseau,
2001) posits a bottom-up effect on motivation from lower levels of generality to the level
immediately above (Postulate 4). Vallerand and Rousseau (2001) suggest incidents that
occur on the situational level could over time have an impact on contextual motivation,
and possibly global disposition. An instance where this might occur would be a sprinter
who continually has problems beating opponents in big races. Situational social factors
such as competition, which are inherent in sport, can interfere with performance and
erode situational competence. If the athlete continues to have problems at the situational
level his or her motivation toward the context of sport could be affected. Within the sport
context, motivation may grow and the athlete may decide to quit racing all together.
Postulate 4 of Hierarchical Model predicts that eventually, global motivation could be
From a Hierarchical Model perspective, every action has some sort of outcome or
consequence one one's motivation. Hierarchical Model categorizes outcomes into three
classifications: affective (enjoyment), cognitive (high levels of concentration), and
behavioral (persistence in an activity). Postulate 5 describes the nature of consequences
of the different types of motivation.
I HfERARCHICA LEVELS OF AoTIVA T IO
Figure 2. Hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
Autonom y : :, .. -., ,; v...'" .i .. .
n SITUATIONAL (
.t?" IM, EM, AM '
IM = do Molnl tvakbo, EM Extrinsic Moivation, AM = Amotivtion
First, Corollary 5.1 hypothesizes the increasingly negative consequences of motivation as
it moves across the continuum from intrinsic to motivation. For instance, the previously
discussed Vallerand et al. (1986) study used behavioral consequences to determine the
type of motivation children experienced during a stabilometer task. Children high in
intrinsic motivation toward the task spent a greater amount of free time doing the activity,
than children who were extrinsically motivated to participate. In the described case,
positive behavioral consequences (persistence) were correlated with highly self-
determined forms of motivation. Corollary 5.2 attributes consequences at a particular
level of generality to be indicative of the motivation at the same level of generality
(Vallerand & Ratelle, 2002). Simply stated, global, contextual, and situational
motivation will best predict consequences at their respective level.
The Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (Vallerand, 1997)
framework envelops a broad spectrum of motivational aspects. The theory's flexibility to
make predictions about factors which affect motivation, as well as outcomes of motivated
action that make Hierarchical Model a valuable asset to the field of sport psychology.
One facet of the model of particular interest to the context of sport is Corollary 3.1.
Corollary 3.1 of the Hierarchical Model predicts social factors, which exist at each
of the three levels of generality, influence motivation at the corresponding level
(Vallerand, 2000). One important factor identified by Hierarchical Model, which could
play an important role within the context of sport is sport structure. According to
Vallerand and Rousseau (2001), athletes who participate in sport leagues in which high
levels of competition are encouraged (i.e., college and professional sports), are likely to
experience decreases in intrinsic motivation. The above hypothesis has only been tested
in two studies (Cornelius, Silva, & Molotsky, 1991; Fortier, Vallerand, Briere, &
Provencher, 1995), with only the latter being published.
Fortier et al. (1995) assessed and compared the motivation levels of 221
competitive and recreational intramural French Canadian college student athletes for
differences in motivation between sport structures. The intrinsic motivation levels of
each participant were assessed using the French version of the SMS (Briere et al., 1995).
This validated measure of motivation has 7 subscales that measure the types of
motivation suggested by Cognitive Evaluation theory, (e.g.,, 3 types of intrinsic
motivation, 3 types of extrinsic motivation, and motivationn. Results from the study
indicated competitive athletes have lower intrinsic motivation toward their sport activity
than intramural participants. The data also supported predictions made by Cognitive
Evaluation theory and Self-determination theory about competition as a situational factor
that undermines intrinsic motivation. One finding, which was contrary to expectations,
suggested competitive athletes' demonstrated higher identified regulation (a self-
determined form of extrinsic motivation) than their recreational counterparts. Fortier et
al. (1995) speculated that the reason competitive sport athletes felt more identified
regulation than recreational athletes was due to long term goals set by athletes in a
competitive sport structure.
As previously discussed, little research has been done on the social and contextual
factors that might influence motivation within a structured sport environment. However,
another perspective on motivation, achievement goal theory (Duda, 1992; Nicholls,
1984), has been applied to the investigation of competitive sport structures, as well as
individual's approaches to competition. Achievement goal theory has received
considerable research attention in the sport psychology literature, and this literature
review will now focus on this perspective.
Achievement Goal Theory
Achievement goal theory, put forth by Nicholls (1984) and elaborated on by Duda
(1992), uses a divergent line of thinking from Self-determination theory and the
hierarchical model. While Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and
Hierarchical Model (Vallerand, 1997) freely use the terms intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation, achievement goal theory ascribes the terms task and ego to define motives
behind activity involvement. Achievement goal theory predicts cognitive, affective, and
behavioral responses by examining how individuals subjectively define success or failure
in a given context (Duda & Hall, 2001). Nicholls (1984, 1989) proposed that individuals
give meaning to their actions in any achievement context (e.g.,, the academics, athletics,
business) by the goals they endorse. These goals are directly linked to the beliefs of the
person about ability, and manifest into a global or trait disposition toward achievement.
Nicholls (1984, 1989) posits conceptions about ability and competence stem from
either a differentiated or undifferentiated view of success. An individual whose view of
ability is undifferentiated (task-oriented) assumes applying high effort to an activity will
result in more learning therefore improving competence. In contrast, a person with a
differentiated (ego-oriented) conception of ability believes effort can only increase
performance up to the limit of their present capacity.
A task-oriented action is performed due to the belief that effort and competence
maintain a direct relationship. An athlete successfully fulfills a task-oriented goal when
he or she feels that effort will directly impact his or her goal of competence development
and mastery (Ames, 1992). An ego-oriented goal describes intentions of an individual to
display superior competence to others. For example, an athlete acting with a task-goal
perspective would feel successful while engaging in a jump- shooting drill when he or
she becomes more comfortable with the particular shot being practiced. In the converse,
someone taking part in the same drill with ego-oriented involvement would only feel
successful if he exhibited more skill than others who were participating, or equal skill
with less effort.
Achievement goal orientations are not only viewed as a global construct, but can
also be applied to a specific context. Similar to Hierarchical Model of motivation
(Vallerand, 1997), task and ego goals can exist in separate facets of the life of an
individual. Achievement motivation in sport situations is a widely studied area (Nicholls,
1989; Ames, 1992).
Research examining achievement goal orientations in sport and physical activity
has identified differing behavioral consequences between task and ego orientations. For
instance, a study by Lochbaum and Roberts (1993) found that high school athletes with a
task orientation focused on adaptive achievement strategies (e.g.,, focus on task mastery,
prolonged engagement, exertion of effort), whereas ego-oriented athletes tended to
employ more maladaptive achievement strategies (e.g.,, reduced effort, selection of easy
tasks, give up more quickly).
An ego-goal perspective can prove to be a double edged sword, depending on the
strategy employed to prove competence (Covington, 1992). For example, a player could
exhibit superior competence by outperforming his peers in the activity (i.e., winning); but
an outcome goal such as this, with an external locus, cannot always be controlled by one
single individual because of the myriad factors involved in an athletic competition. A
maladaptive strategy an athlete might use to demonstrate overt competence involves an
individual displaying comparable ability to others in the game without appearing to apply
as much effort (Duda & Hall, 2001). Ego-goals such as this have obvious dangerous
consequences in terms of an athlete giving effort no matter the game situation.
Another line of inquiry that has been addressed in the literature is the nature of the
sport as a social environment. Social situational factors within a particular context
influence an athlete's states of task and ego involvement, as well as the perception an
athlete has of his or her environment (White & Duda, 1994). A variety of factors such as
relationships with coaches and teammates, perception of the motivational climate, and
competition, have been identified as key components in interpreting and understanding
motivational goals and behaviors (Ames, 1992; Duda & Hall, 2001).
Several studies have explored social relationships as possible situational factors
that influence motivation within sport situations. Research conducted by Alderman and
Wood (1976) and Gill, Gross, and Huddleston (1983) indicated that making friends was
an important motive for participation in youth hockey players, and youth sport camp
participants respectively. Likewise, a study by Gould, Feltz, and Weiss (1985) assessed
the motives of competitive youth swimmers. The findings showed that achievement
status, team atmosphere, and friendship were strong motives for participation in
competitive youth swimming leagues.
Another social factor that affects goal orientation is motivational climate. Ames
(1992) defined motivational climate as an environment that promotes either a task, or ego
orientation. Most often, the greatest influence on the motivational climate comes from
teachers or coaches interactions with students and athletes. Walling, Duda, and Chi
(1993) investigated high level competitive youth sport participant's perceptions of
motivational climate from a variety of sports. The results demonstrated that athletes who
perceived a mastery (task) climate also experienced higher levels of satisfaction with
being a member on the team and experienced lower amounts of performance worry. In
contrast, a performance based (ego) climate was positively associated with concerns
about failing and adequacy of one's performance and negatively correlated with team
As noted previously, research shows that the context of sport contains multiple
factors, which interact to create a unique and complex environment. One factor inherent
in many achievement settings, competition, has received a considerable amount of
research attention. Studies inquiring into the nature of competition in sport and physical
activity settings have predominantly observed individual's goal orientation in youth sport
settings. Furthermore, recent studies provided evidence that point to differences in
motives for participation in physical activity and competitive sport as individuals mature.
The subsequent sections will discuss this issue in more depth.
Participation Motives From A Developmental Perspective
Achievement Goal theory research indicates that individual's motivational goals
change as they develop from children to adults (Butler, 1989a, 1989b). Gould, Feltz, and
Weiss (1985) emphasized the need for studies that explore the motives of athletes in
different age groups as well as at different competitive levels. Their study compared the
motives of male and female competitive youth swimmers (N=365) from different age
groups. Results indicated that younger swimmers maintained more external motives
(e.g.,, achievement status, pressure from parents/friends, like the coach) than older
swimmers who rated developing fitness and excitement-challenge as important reasons
they participate in competitive swimming.
A study by Brodkin and Weiss (1990) assessed the motives of competitive
swimmers (N=100) whose ages ranged from 6 to 74 years of age using the Participation
Motivation Questionnaire (Gill et al., 1983). Analysis of the data revealed that youth
swimmers (ages 6-14) identified competition as a strong motive for participation, high
school and college age participants rated social status and significant others as important,
while young and middle adults (ages 23-59) rated health and fitness as primary motives
for involvement. All of these results lend support to the idea that motives for
participation may be a developmental process.
Butt and Cox (1992) compared the sources of motivation of (N=46) college age
(18-23 yrs.) tennis players from three separate competitive levels (e.g.,, Davis Cup,
intercollegiate, recreational players). Each of the participants was given The Sport
Protocol (Butt, 1987) to assess sport motivation, affect, socialization, and needs. The
results from the study indicated that the elite level athletes (Davis Cup players) endorsed
more feelings of aggression, conflict, competence, and competition than players at the
collegiate or recreational levels. The elite level players also scored higher than collegiate
and recreational athletes on negative affect, and feelings of frustration. With respect to
the discussed results, the authors cited the low reliability of The Sport Protocol as a
limitation of the study.
Another study, which investigated the relationship of level of sport involvement
and task and ego-orientation, was conducted by White and Duda (1994). This study used
the TEOSQ (Duda, 1992) to assess male and female sport participants at four competitive
levels (e.g.,, youth, high school, intercollegiate, recreational). Results revealed that
athletes at the highest competitive levels (e.g.,, intercollegiate sports) exhibited higher
ego-orientation than recreational athletes in the same age group, or the younger sport
participants (e.g.,, youth, high school).
The studies reviewed above indicated that athletes in different age groups may have
differing motives for participating in sport. Therefore, specific age groups should be
targeted during inquiry into participation motives. The previous section focused on
studies, which target athletes in a variety of age groups. It is important to note that
studies involving college age sport participants are most relevant to the proposed study.
However, there has been relatively little research, which investigates the motives of
participation of college age athletes within varying sport structures.
In light of previous discovery, application of a qualitative approach would be
beneficial to investigate athlete's motives for sport participation, as well as their
perceptions of their sport environment. A grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998)
approach could provide alternative knowledge construction to the limited inquiry of
previous theory driven research. A qualitative study would be ideal to explore the known
dimensions of motivation and this approach may result in the discovery of new constructs
(Eccles, Walsh, & Ingledew, 2002; Strean, 1998). The open-ended question format used
in a grounded theory approach could provide thick description about the motives of
athletes to participate in sport, and uncover insight into the complex interactions of the
sport context through the eyes of its participants.
Toward the goal of understanding how social factors influence motivation,
qualitative inquiry could be one of the most effective methods for gathering data on a
subjective issue such as athlete perceptions of the sport structure. Strean and Roberts
(1992) suggested that the complexity of a competitive-sport domain must be included in
the research design. To understand how athletes interact within a sport context, they
must be studied in a sport setting. They also emphasized the need to use less
conventional methods (e.g.,, qualitative inquiry), and multi-method approaches to capture
the richness of the sport context.
Philosophical Issues Related to Knowledge Construction in Sport Psychology
In recent years, scientists from diverse disciplines have questioned predominant
philosophical approaches to research in sport psychology and encouraged the use of new
ideas and theories to shape future directions (Hoshand & Polkinghom, 1992; Kuhn, 1969;
Martens, 1987; Petruzzello, 2000; Sparkes, 1998). For instance, Martens (1987) urged
researchers to break out of the traditional scientific methodology, which dominates the
field, and more readily embrace new, applicable schemas for knowledge. Martens (1987)
cited the false assumption of objectivity in traditional scientific methods for the necessity
to break the "orthodox science paradigm" (p. 31), which he believed has failed in the
human behavioral sciences.
Sparkes (1998) also cited the need for varying forms of knowledge construction to
be embraced in order for the science of sport psychology to grow. He advocates the use
of qualitative inquiry to expand understanding in a variety of sport psychology related
topics. Sparkes (1998) suggested that exploring new ways to understand athletes'
experiences in might enable sport scientists to answer questions that are more in line with
In line with Martens (1987) and Sparkes (1998), Hoshand and Polkinghom (1992)
emphasized the strengths of post-modern and constructivist epistemologies as necessary
additions to sport psychology literature. Cautioning against the broadening gap between
the academy researcher and the practicing psychologist, Hoshand and Polkinghom (1992)
suggested qualitative approaches might act as a bridge to bring scientists and practitioners
back to a common ground.
The above observations have important implications for motivation researchers.
The body of motivation literature, as a whole has been limited by a unidimensional
approach to knowledge construction. All of the studies in this review of literature tested
aspects of the multidimensional construct of motivation by applying quantitative methods
(e.g.,,, survey and/or experimental designs). More specifically, a great majority of all the
research done in the area of motivation uses some type of survey (e.g.,, IMI, McAuley et
al., 1989; SMS, Pelletier et al., 1995), or behavioral measure (Deci, 1971,1972; Vallerand
et al., 1986) to assess the different forms of motivation. Employment of measures such
as these has been criticized by a variety of sources. For instance, Strean (1998) cautioned
that entering a research setting with predetermined variables to observe could blind
researchers to new data outside the scope of expectation. This is an important point when
considering that surveys were designed to assess aspects of a specific theory (e.g.,, Self-
Determination theory and the SMS). The behavioral approach, in which observations are
made on how much time participants spend doing some type of experimental activity in a
contrived setting using designated "free choice periods" (Deci, 1971), have also been
considered inadequate motivation researchers (Harwood, 2002). The broad interpretation
of a behavioral measure is that people only choose to do intrinsically motivated activities
during periods in which they choose their own use of time (Deci, 1971). In sum, these
two types of measurements (e.g.,, survey data and "free choice" observation periods)
cannot possibly cover all the aspects of motivation, and are extremely limited in their
contribution to the bigger picture of motivation in sport.
Various researchers have emphasized the danger of widely employing similar
research methods. Krane, Strean, and Anderson (1997) alluded to the need to expand the
resources used to construct knowledge in the field of sport psychology. Specifically,
Krane et al. (1997) cited qualitative research as one possible avenue to avoid the
suffocation of knowledge advancement that can occur from a mono-method approach.
Similarly, Strean and Roberts (1992) emphasized the benefits of using a variety of
theories and methods within sport psychology. They warned that unchecked conformity
to prior methodologies discourages valuable creativity in scientific investigations. Many
feel that scientific progress necessitates a departure from accepted practices, and to
dismiss a variety of methodologies is to miss out on possible new means of advancing the
field of sport psychology (Strean & Roberts, 1992). In line with these viewpoints, the
present study will use an alternative qualitative research paradigm: grounded theory.
Need for New Theories of Motivation
Recently, issues involving interpretations of major concepts within the motivation
literature have brought to light some dissatisfaction with current theories of motivation.
Harwood and Hardy (2001) discussed the unrest with inadequate assessment techniques,
emphasizing the present as an opportune time to conduct studies, which employ divergent
methodologies. The use of qualitative methods to advance the motivation literature could
serve to answer their call for "innovative research" and advance new ideas about
motivation in sport (Harwood & Hardy, 2001, p. 330) Treasure et al. (2001) talk about
subjective perception of the athletic domain as key to understanding the motivation of
athletes. The use of a grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), which
employs the use of open-ended questions to attain subjective responses, appears to be a
timely approach to current research to motivation in sport.
The proposed study would extend current research in three ways. First, Corollary
3.1 of the Hierarchical model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (Vallerand, 1997)
identified sport structures as one of the social factors that potentially may have a negative
affect on intrinsic motivation. Results from the Fortier et al. (1995) study supported
Hierarchical Model, and indicated that competitive sport structures diminish the intrinsic
motivation of the athletes who participate. However, the quantitative nature of the study
allowed the researchers only to speculate on the reasons that athletes in competitive
leagues experience lower intrinsic motivation than athletes in recreational leagues.
Exploring the motives behind sport participation for competitive athletes and club sport
athletes would provide insight into the role competition plays in affecting motivation at
the contextual level.
The next way the proposed study would benefit motivation research is by
approaching motivation from an alternative perspective than that of the vast majority of
research. In line with the views expressed by Krane et al. (1997), Strean & Roberts
(1992), Hoshand and Polkinghom (1992), Martens (1987), and Sparkes (1998), viewing
the multidimensional construct of motivation from a grounded theory approach would be
a step in expanding knowledge construction in the area of motivation research. More
specifically, the present grounded theory study would allow for an in-depth and
contextually specific understanding about how individual's thoughts and feelings about
their motivation have been and currently are influenced by the social context of sport.
The third potential contribution of the present study involves the lack of theories
derived specifically from the sport context. The present study may be ideally suited to
answer the calls for new motivational frameworks by Harwood et al. (2000, 2001), and
Treasure et al. (2001). The grounded theory techniques (Strauss & Corbin, 1998)
employed in the study, which are discussed in Chapter 2, will produce a theoretical
framework that integrates raw data themes taken directly from the athlete interviews.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of my study is to use grounded theory analytic procedures (e.g.,,
Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to explore and assess N.C.A.A. athletes' and club athletes'
sources of motivation to participate in sport. A secondary purpose will be to explore and
assess the participants' sources of motivation to compete in sport. Finally, a grounded
theory will be inductively developed to explain how contextual features of the sport
environment influenced the participants' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards their
sport participation. More specifically, the grounded theory will be used understand how
the participants sources of sport motivation were influenced by environmental
opportunities and significant others such as coaches and family members.
My interest in motivation in sport comes from my background as a competitive
athlete in various sports, and my coaching experiences at the high school as well as
collegiate levels. Throughout my athletic experiences I was inclined to orient my entire
life around the sports which I loved and dedicated my time and effort. I view all of my
endeavors on the playing field as an intricate part in developing into the person I am
today. To see workouts, practices, meetings, and game study culminate into one
competitive performance is truly fascinating and gratifying. While my enjoyment of the
preparation stages varied from day to day, week-to-week, season-to-season, my love for
sport competition never wavered. The above fact has helped raise the questions, which
the following study attempts to explore. What is it about sports play that drives athletes
to sacrifice other priorities in their lives in order to participate? It is this multidimensional
construct that I desire to probe and examine within the methodology of grounded theory
order to understand more extensively the nuances of the motivation of athletes toward the
context of competitive environments.
To achieve the goals of exploring the motivation of athletes to participate and
compete, as well as developing a sport specific theory of motivation; it was important to
go directly to the source of the question, the athletes (Krane, Strean, & Andersen, 1997).
The entire basis of the study hinged on using the techniques outlined by grounded theory
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to gain insight into the complex set of motives driving athletes
to participate in competitive environments. As can be seen by the review of the
literature, grounded theory provides a much-needed change of perspective, and a unique
yet validated method to qualitatively assess athlete's experiences, and organize them into
a usable framework. The use of an alternative perspective to guide exploration has
helped to alleviate possible biases in previous studies of an established framework such
as Hierarchical Model (Schilling & Hayashi, 2001).
The participants in my study were 14 male (n = 7) and female (n = 7) athletes who
had competed at either the NCAA Division I or club sport level for a large southeastern
school. The mean age for participants was 22.5 years. The ethnic breakdown of the
participants was as follows: Caucasian (n=9), Black (n=3), Filipino (n=l), American
Indian (n=l). Each athlete was taken on a voluntary basis, and only interviewed one time
for a total of 14 interviews. Each participant was given an informed consent agreement
(see appendix A) to read and sign. The document outlined the purpose of the study as
well as the expectations put upon the participant. The informed consent also guaranteed
complete anonymity to each participant and explained the steps that would be taken to
Selection of all the athletes was done through a 4-step process that was approved
by the University of Florida Institutional Review Board. First, a letter was sent out to the
coaches and directors of the athletic programs asking for possible candidates for the
study. Next, possible participants were contacted through letter or electronic mail
explaining the purpose and requirements of the study. Each participant then signed the
informed consent. The last pre- interview expectation of the participant was to set up a
time for the 30 to 60 minute interview (Schilling & Hayashi, 2001).
Purposeful Sampling and Theoretical Sampling
All the participants were selected through purposeful (Patton, 1990) and theoretical
sampling. Purposeful sampling allowed the researcher the freedom to select participants
whose rich, thick description of experiences was most relevant to the line of inquiry.
Theoretical sampling enabled the researcher to select future participants who provided
insight into any unknown constructs, which emerged from the data. Sampling in this
manner was a cumulative process, which was dependent on past data collection.
Combining the two types of sampling afforded the researcher the ability to highlight
particular areas of interest in the experiences of an athlete, and provided precisely the
flexibility needed when the researcher was attempting to derive an entire conceptual
framework from thick rich data text (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Each participant was selected on five criteria. First, all participants needed to be at
least 18 years of age to participate in the research study. Second, each athlete must have
competed for at the high school level, and continued participation for at least 1 year at the
collegiate level. A third consideration was the achievement of a balance of data between
male and female athletes. The fourth criterion set forth by the principal investigator was
the selection of participants based on the properties of the sport (team or individual) in
which they competed. The intention of recognizing and accounting for athletes, who
participate only in one type of sport, in this case the genre of individual sport, was to
ensure the new theory integrated data on athletes with similar athletic experiences. The
assessment of athletes who only participated in individual sports enabled the emerging
categories and codes to be more precise and focused. While all sports have different
aspects, which make them unique, including just individual sport athletes provided some
stability and similarity from which to base the interview questions. The fifth and final
consideration when selecting participants was to account for a variety of sports in order to
add richness and diversity to the data collected (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Each participant sat down for a one on one interview with the researcher at a time
deemed convenient by the participant. All of the interviews were audio taped by the
principal investigator. The interviews were conducted using a semi- structured interview
guide (Blumenfeld, 1992) consisting of open- ended questions designed to allow for thick
descriptive data (Strean, 1998). The time allotted for each interview was set for between
30 and 60 minutes.
Interview Guide Design
The questions in the interview guide (see appendix B) were posed to the
participants in order to gain insight into their perceptions about, and attitude toward
athletic competition. The first set of questions was intended to gather personal
information about the background of each participant and to develop rapport and trust
with the interviewee. The rest of the questions on the interview guide were loosely
designed to give each athlete to the opportunity describe in-depth their motives for
competitive athletic participation. Along these same lines, the interview guide was
designed in a manner which allowed the researcher freedom to probe new ideas presented
by each participant in order to increase the richness of the content and further explore any
new avenues opened by the athletes (Eccles, Walsh, & Ingledew, 2002; Schilling &
A key element in the design of any successful interview guide was the pilot testing
of the questions. Because the interviewing process was so pertinent to the grounded
theory data collection process, each question needed to supply relevant text thick with
descriptive detail. In order to assure that the questions achieved that goal, they were pilot
tested on two individuals in practice interviews before they are posed to participants in
the study. Through this method, the researcher was afforded the ability to modify and
develop the guide to ensure the focus remains on answering the questions outlined by the
purpose statement of the study.
A member check was used to verify with the participant all of the statements he or
she made during the interview. First, the researcher created a summary of statements
made by the participants based on the recorded dialogue from the interview. The
summarized interpretation was then given to the athlete for review. Providing a summary
of the interview gave the respondent a chance to correct any misinterpretation of the data
by the interviewer, and afford the researcher confidence that the overall feel for the data
that guided the analysis was accurate.
Although the ultimate goal of research conducted using grounded theory is a
practical, useable theoretical framework, which is firmly grounded in the data, a scientist
must take painstaking measures to ensure analysis of the data collected from the
interviews is processed correctly. Procedures outlined by well-respected qualitative
researchers (Strauss & Corbin, 1998; Eccles et al. 2002; Strean, 1998) provide multiple
methods which, when applied to the data, maintain the relationship between the original
data, and emerging concepts incorporated into the new theory. My study was based on
the assumption that accounts given by participants are generally accurate representations
of their experiences (Schilling & Hayashi, 2001). The steps of the analyzing process,
which were used in my study, included line-by-line and axial coding, multiple coders,
constant comparison, member checks, and memo writing, and independent audit. The
combination all of the tools at the disposal of researcher, provided a rigorous standard
with which to comply in order to maintain the integrity and validity of the research. The
following sections will discuss in-depth each step of the data analysis process.
Interviews and Data Transcription
All interviews were conducted by the principal investigator and audio-tape
recorded. The principal investigator then transcribed each completed interview verbatim.
The initial stage of analysis employed a technique labeled line-by-line coding. In
this process, the researcher carefully fractured the data collected in the transcribed
interviews into manageable chunks (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). By carefully scrutinizing
every line of each interview, and pulling out significant words and phrases called raw
data themes, the investigator was able to group like ideas from separate sections of the
same interview. The process also enabled the scientist to compare similar and dissimilar
ideas from the interviews of different individuals, as well as synthesize the "chunks" of
data into coherent categories and concepts.
The use of multiple coders was another method of maintaining validity in the
analysis of data. The process calls for several trained qualitative researchers to critically
analyze and code the interviews. Each member of the research team was given a copy of
the interview that they individually coded. Research meetings were held in which the
group of researchers reviewed each line of the interview, and discussed the codes they
pulled from the text. Any discrepancy on a code was discussed and agreed upon before
the data was applied to the existing framework. Application of this research tool afforded
the primary investigator alternative viewpoints to his' own perspective on the emerging
themes. Critical questioning of coding is a valuable tool to control against bias. Quality
control of this type also challenged the researcher to reevaluate every aspect of his
interpretation of the data, and view coded material in a new light (Krane, Strean, &
Another procedure used to maintain validity was an independent audit. In this
process, an independent researcher, who was familiar with the grounded theory
methodology but not the current study, was presented with a list of raw data themes
pulled directly from the text. They were told to match each data theme to the higher
order theme they felt best encompassed the raw data theme. The results from the audit
were 81% agreement with the categorization done by the multiple coders on the research
team, which is an acceptable level.
A second audit was done with the same independent researcher in which broad
themes from the current study were matched to long quotes that were taken from the
results section. The auditor matched 74% of the long quotes to the same broad categories
selected by the research group. The high percentage of agreement between the
independent auditor and the research team on the classification and organization of data
lends credibility to the analysis and coding done by the researcher and the multiple coders
during the current study.
Another process used to synthesize emerging data was axial coding. As broad
categories began to form and similar themes arose in multiple interviews, axial coding
was employed as a method to calculate the relationships between the broad categories
and the corresponding subsidiary raw data themes. The initial theoretical framework
began to take shape within this step. Each theme, when placed into a category of
appropriate fit, helped to shape parameters, and outline another dimension of that
category (Eccles et al., 2002). Axial coding was a stage in which theoretical relationships
between corresponding data were not only grouped for similarity, but also scrutinized for
instances of incongruence. In this step, analysis was directed by the evolving theory
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
One of greatest strengths of grounded theory as a research tool and methodology
lies in its reliance on comparative methods. Through the technique labeled constant
comparison, the researcher had the ability to check the validity of emerging data in
multiple ways. First, transcription of each interview immediately, allowed the scientist to
stay "grounded" in the data, maintain intimacy, and familiarity with the text produced by
the participants. One advantage to the use of this strategy was the ability to compare
statements made at the beginning of interviews with responses occurring later for
discrepancies. A second beneficial quality of the comparative method was the validation
of raw data themes from multiple sources. Triangulation of data from more than one
participant in an open- ended interview format lent immediate credibility to the emerging
codes and themes.
The tool of constant comparison fit into the grounded theory paradigm because
comparison encouraged the researcher to draw on his or her, own experiences when
viewing the data. Grounded theory not only acknowledges the problem of separating the
scientist and the science, which is a big issue concerning quantitative research, but
embraces the indivisibility as a characteristic vital to accurate synthesis of data. In their
book Basics of Qualitative Research, Strauss and Corbin (1998) emphasized this by
pointing to the fact many researchers who have followed the guidelines in the book were
apt to incorporate their own knowledge. The ability to make real-life comparisons
between the experimental material and other experiences was a key to discovering
untapped dimensions and properties within the data.
Constant comparison was not one stage of analysis, through which the information
was filtered. Instead, the strategy was just what the label suggests, a constant perspective
that was upheld through out the process in order for the constructed theory to entirely
represent the data from the initial to the final interview (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Memo writing was a technique applied to the research from the initial stages of
interviewing. Strauss and Corbin (1998), suggested a set up similar to journal, which
can be used as a record of the thoughts and ideas, which can guide each step of the theory
building process. The journal was a conglomeration of notations about behaviors of
interviewees, surprising aspects of coded material, early sketching of possible
frameworks, and any other musings about relationships concerning emerging categories
The current study had three major purposes. The first was to use grounded theory
analytic procedures (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to identify the sources of motivation of
N.C.A.A. collegiate athletes and recreational/ club sport athletes. The second purpose
was to investigate the participants' motives to compete in sport. The third purpose was to
organize the data into a grounded theory of motivation for competitive athletes. This
chapter begins with the athletes' perceptions of the definition of motivation. Next,
descriptions of supporting quotes of higher order themes identified through the line-by-
line, and open coding procedures will be presented. Then, competition is examined as an
environmental and social-contextual factor of sport, as well as a primary source of
motivation for athletes. Finally, the codes and themes gathered during my study are
organized into a grounded theory of sport motivation based on athletes' conceptions of
their sport. The presentation of the results is organized around Figure 3. Specifically, all
of the higher order sources of motivation fell into one of two general dimensions, internal
sources of motivation and external sources of motivation. Classified within the construct
of internal sources of motivation were the themes goals and anger, and outlet for stress
and aggression. The higher order themes of family, friends, team aspects of sport,
coaches, pressure and high expectations, benefits of participation, competition, and pre-
competition motivators were categorized as external sources of motivation.
How Athletes Define Motivation
An important first step in understanding athletes' sources of motivation to
participate and compete in sport is to understand athletes' perceptions of motivation. All
of the participants in the study were asked to define motivation in their own words.
While the responses to this question were diverse there were some definite similarities
within the participants' responses (Figure 3). One definition, the internal desire to do
whatever it takes to accomplish a desired goal, incorporates two aspects of motivation
most frequently noted by participants, internal drive and goals. For instance, Lynn, a
swimmer at the Olympic level, stated "I think to be motivated is to want to do something.
And think that in order to get it done you must be able to go through any obstacle that
you come across...because you want to accomplish the goals." Cindy, a collegiate track
athlete, defined motivation by saying "I guess it's just a drive inside of you that you just
don't want to give up." Lester, a judo club athlete summed up motivation by identifying
it as "To have a reason for doing something. To be motivated, is to set goals for yourself
and then go after them. What motivates me is to achieve something. I guess to me it's a
sense of accomplishment."
Other themes that came out in athlete's descriptions of motivation included
"proving something," "having a goal in mind," "wanting to improve and get better," and
"wanting to reach your optimal level of performance." The definitions of motivation
given by the athletes in the current study lend credibility to their understanding of
personal motivators and what drives them to participate in their respective sport. In a
similar manner, athletes were also asked to give a personal definition and explain their
views on competition.
How Athletes Define Competition
Another aspect of sport that the participants were asked about was their personal
definition of competition (Figure 3). With respect to the various ideas about competition
that exist in the motivation literature, it was deemed important to gain athletes'
perspective on this component of their sport experience. There were a variety of
responses from the participants that yielded three major perspectives on the dynamic role
of competition within the lives of the participants. The most prominent conception about
competition was that of beating an opponent in head to head competition. Eight of the 14
participants made reference to "putting your skills against someone else," or "going up
against somebody or another team and seeing if you can beat them at whatever the game
is." Jeff, a collegiate track athlete even went as far as to call competition a "war with
your opponent." Five of the participants made reference to doing whatever was
necessary to win or be the best.
Another facet of competition that was identified involved competition within a
team and between teammates. The athletes in the current study produced evidence to
suggest that competition is a healthy component of a team atmosphere. They made
statements such as: "I can't imagine running without competition," and "The games are
the funniest part." A final construct of competition included "competing against
yourself," "doing your best," and "performing your best against the best teams." These
varying views of competition encompass the important sources of motivation identified
by a vast majority of the athletes and will be discussed in greater detail later in the
chapter. The following sections discuss the higher order sources of motivation that
emerged from the analysis of the interview text.
Internal Sources of Motivation
The first general dimension that was recognized during the grouping of data was
internal sources of motivation. These were characterized as such because they were
factors that acted as sources of motivation with an internal locus of control. Goals, anger,
and sport as an outlet for stress and aggression were all constructs which the participants
alone controlled. For example, goals that the participants set for themselves acted as a
source of motivation only if they represented actions that the athletes had a strong desire
to accomplish. They would not be a source of motivation if the participant did not
identify with the goal and deem it important. The following sections will elaborate on the
internal sources of motivation that the participants in the current study possessed.
The first important higher order theme that emerged from the axial coding was
"goals" the athletes set for themselves. The general dimension of goals (Figure 3) was
defined by "long term goals," "performance goals," "seeing improvement," "fulfilling
personal needs," and "feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment." The athletes in the
current study tended to be heavily motivated by their goals. Eight of the participants
described a variety of goals as major sources of motivation. The goals expressed by the
participants encompassed a variety of goal types. For instance, Diane, a collegiate soccer
player, revealed "I have a long term goal of actually signing with a semi-pro [soccer]
team in Europe so I know that on a daily basis I have to go out and workout every day."
This statement illustrated how her long-term goal acted as a daily or short- term source of
Lucy, who threw the shot put at the collegiate level, described how she used her
goals to increase her motivation when she was not performing at peak levels by saying "I
just go back to my goals I made. I write them down and stuff. And just look at them and
just like this is just a tough time, you gotta push through." Likewise, Cindy described
how she employed goals when she was frustrated with periods of poor performance, "I
just try to look at future goals and why I need to get motivated." These statements
identified athletes' use of long-term goals to increase motivation when it was low. One
athlete, Amy, a collegiate soccer player, even explained how her goal to be a collegiate
athlete drove her to overcome pain from chronic illness:
I knew I really wanted to play soccer in college, and it got hard because I had to sit,
or I couldn't train as hard as I would like. But you know, it just motivated me to
hang in there and stick with it, and just get through it regardless of how I felt. Just
to get out there and play. It's my motivation to keep going.
Performance goals were another type of goal that emerged as a source of
motivation. The athletes discussed the importance of being able to set incremental
benchmarks tied to their performance in sport. Athletes looked at both practice and
competition as an opportunity to set and achieve performance goals. Steve, who
discussed how important hitting his target times during practice was said, "As a runner
[practice times] that's all you really have to indicate where you're at race-shape wise, is
what you do in practice." Doug discussed his approach to goal setting during games in
this quote, "I always have an idea when I step out on the floor how many assists I want to
get and how many steals I need to get for us to win a game."
A variety of quotes from the participants also gave insight into why performance
goals were motivators. They discussed aspects such as "they are a huge factor in what
you think you're capable of," and "it [setting performance goals] was the best situation
for someone that really likes to see their work come to fruition. You can see how you're
actually doing in comparison to what you're actually working towards." These
statements supply important information about specific components of goal setting
strategies that appeal to athletes. The above quotes not only describe how performance
goals affect an athlete's confidence, but how they are used to maintain motivation.
Cindy, a high jumper, explained how she combined different types of goals to
increase her motivation. She described melding performance and process goals in this
quote, "I set goals, heights, like I want to clear a certain height [in the pole vault]. But I
also set other goals with my technique and my form, that's so important." Terry, a
distance runner at the collegiate level, said "I'm more interested not so much in place [in
the race] as time." These types of goals carried a strong relationship with another higher
order source of motivation, "seeing improvement."
Ten of fourteen participants identified "seeing improvement" as an important
source of motivation (Figure 3). As previously discussed, the participants in the study
were definitely goal oriented. The participants used goals and goal setting as a system for
marking improvement over a period of time. Accomplishing a series of goals established
a step-by-step path which displayed progress which in turn increased motivation. For
example, Ryan, a club judo player, indicated that "being able to see a definite
improvement in my work and my abilities? Oh yeah, it really motivates me." Athletes at
both the collegiate and club sport level attributed "seeing improvement" to increased
motivation. A quote by Cindy displayed her perception of how "seeing improvement"
impacted her motivation:
When I'm doing better, when I can see the results I'm more motivated. We do
testing with all our drills and our [weight] lifting and stuff every 8 weeks in the fall.
So you can actually see improvement from the first day you're in the weight room
on the weight card, and then you test it 8 weeks later and you see how much you've
improved. That's really motivating!"
The preceding paragraphs show how the different types of goals set by athletes
serve as sources of motivation. The next question that needed to be answered was, "Why
are these goals a source of motivation?" The participants in the current study identified
two constructs that gave value to the goals that had been set. The first was a set of needs
that were satisfied by achieving goals. The second dimension was the feelings that the
athletes experienced when their goals were accomplished. The following sections will
focus on the reasons that goals are a source of motivation to the athletes.
Fulfilling Personal Needs
Throughout the interview process the participants discussed certain "needs" that
drove them to set and achieve goals. One first order theme that arose was a need to
"receive credit." Three athletes identified a need to be recognized for their talent or
accomplishments as a source of motivation. David, a collegiate swimmer, explained one
of the reasons that he worked hard for team instead of individual goals in this way, "It
always seems like team champions get more credit." Another athlete discussed his goal
to make the top traveling squad, attributing his desire in part to his need to affirm his
place as one of the top runners and prove himself competent. Steve said:
But to be part of the group that was traveling, it was like oh yeah, we're going to
California. Not because you want to go to California so much, but because it was a
privilege that okay, if you were in the top three or four guys you were going to go
to Stanford to go to THIS meet, and the rest of you guys... You're going to Western
Michigan. Where would you rather go, San Francisco or Michigan? So part of it
was being able to go to better places, and part of it was just being involved with the
best guys on the team. And you're like, okay, I'm sort of in this upper-echelon of
Athletes also revealed that their sport fulfilled a need to perform for others.
Specifically, Cindy explained that one of her motivations for participating in sport was, "I
enjoy performing and doing stuff like that." Diane possessed a similar perspective when
discussing what was motivating to her about her sport. She said, "[The games] That's
when you see the fans. The fans are one of the biggest motivations, especially at Florida,
because they're great. And they come out every single day, and every single game, just
to come watch you play."
It is important to note that the need fulfillment described by the participants in my
study is similar to the ideas put forth in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985;
2000) and the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (Vallerand,
1997). The quotes in the preceding paragraphs lend weight to the construct of need
fulfillment as a factor in motivation. Each of the above athletes described particular
aspects of their sport that satisfied in inner desire. Specifically, David and Steve both
make reference to their need to feel competent or display competence, which is one of the
three basic needs outlined by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985; 2000).
Feelings of Satisfaction and Accomplishment
The second reason goals served as a motivator was the feelings athletes received
from achieving them. Six of the participants in the current study described their feelings
of accomplishment and satisfaction when they reached a goal as important sources of
motivation. A quote from Steve articulated those feelings, "[When I look back at] stuff I
set out at the beginning of the year on that note card I was like I want to win as an
individual and I want to win as a team and I actually accomplished both of those things.
It's the greatest feeling when you actually achieve that stuff." Doug said, "It was just an
amazing accomplishment for me to reach my goal of playing college basketball, but to
actually get out on the floor and play in the first game felt unbelievable." Lester gave
insight into the feelings of satisfaction that he got from setting high standards for himself
during practices. He said, "I'm very satisfied when I get pushed so hard [in practice] I
think I'm gonna die. Cause at the end I think, ahh, I made it through; I can do this
again." Steve echoes Lester's mentality with his statements on difficult workouts:
Workouts were more fun than the easy days, because you knew you were going to
get a lot out of it. You were going to be pushed to your max. I always liked that
anyway. I actually liked the hardest workouts better than the easy workouts. I feel
like I accomplish more, even if I wasn't able to finish the whole thing.
The way in which the athletes above described their willingness to push their limits
in order to gain a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from goals lends depth to the
strength of goals as a powerful source of motivation. The use of goals was a great
example of an internal driving force for athletes, but it is not the only one. The
participants in the current study also used their emotions to channel physical
performance. The next section will discuss athletes' use of one specific emotion, anger
as a source of motivation.
Throughout the interview process a number of different emotions were linked to
athletes' experiences in their sport. The participants described feeling love, excitement,
nervous, disappointed, and stressed just to name a few. One emotion that athletes'
isolated as a source of motivation for them was anger (Figure 3). Five of the athletes
provided evidence to support the construct that athletes can use emotions such as anger as
sources of motivation to succeed. Statements like, "If someone does that, pisses me off, I
use it", "Sometimes when I get mad it helps", and "You know I'd get mad, just very mad
and take it out", show athletes' awareness of their use of anger. The anger may come
from a variety of sources for instance; Lucy talked about being mad at teammates and
how she used that to supplement her performance. She explained the scenario in this
way, "You know to me I use it [anger] and I've done it before when some of my
teammates might have said something so off the wall that makes me mad, I'm just going
to like okay, I'm going to use it." She commented that it gave her "some kind of extra
adrenaline flow." David further defined the link between the teammate dynamic and
anger in this quote:
[When my teammates talked trash to me] then I'd get pissed off and I'd just go up
and start swimming really fast and I'd just start screaming at him and I'd just say,
"What's up now?" kind of thing. And we were really competitive with each other
and it helped us in practice.
Jeff described a time when he had personal issues that he drew on to perform better
during a competition. He detailed the event like this, "I was so mad. I was just so mad
that that last 200 meters I don't think my feet even touched the ground I was running so
hard...'Cause anger is a very strong feeling. It can be used in a positive way." Lucy
said, "I just use anger toward working hard basically instead of just feeling sorry for
myself." A statement such as this provided evidence which suggested that athletes
consciously chose to use anger to accomplish something positive. The first order theme,
something to prove, emerged to provide insight into the ways that athletes interpret the
feelings and emotions associated with anger.
Something to Prove
Athletes in the current study who felt that anger was a source of motivation
interpreted their feelings of anger in a way that translated into athletic success. When
they felt slighted or threatened they channeled their emotions into physical performance.
Five participants discussed how their need to show people that they were talented and
good enough to participate in sport at a high level was a source of motivation. For
instance, Jeff said:
I just want to prove something to people. I just wanted to show off basically. What
I had in me; my talent. You just want to show to the best that you deserve to be at
that level. I deserve to be here. You just want to say, "Hey I'm here and I'm going
to be a force to be reckoned with.
David described one of his most memorable experiences as an instance where he
and his swim team of "nobody's" ended up as one of the top ranked teams in the country.
He had this to say:
Probably my most memorable moment [of my athletic career] was my senior year
[in college] when we got fourth in NCAA's and that was a real big accomplishment
for our team because we were a bunch of nobody's. My teammates, the whole
senior class, and most of the other people were just a bunch of nobody's and no one
recruited us out of high school, and we ended up getting fourth our senior year and
we were ranked tenth or eleventh all year long. And we were the fourth best team
in the nation was kind of an accomplishment.
Three of the athletes interviewed for the study struggled to get accepted to their
universities, and were motivated to prove that they belonged in college. Jenny said, "[It]
has definitely built my character. Having to show that I belong, having to prove that I
could get into this school. Whether it be through the appeals process or whatever." Jeff
also had trouble meeting the academic requirements of his university. He said, "With the
academics it was like I don't even deserve to be here [college]. So I'm like I wanna show
people what I'm made of." David had the most revealing quote that tied his struggles
with admittance to the university to his desire to prove himself. He described it this way:
I had good grades in high school; I just couldn't get into UF. And my coach at the
time, he is no longer here, gave me a little money to get accepted. It was
something like a $20 scholarship-athletic scholarship to get in. 'Cause that was the
only way I could get in. Anyway, my freshman year I wanted to prove myself and
he didn't get resigned [contract renewed] after my freshman year. And then the
new coach came in, and my whole sophomore year I had to start all over. I had to
prove myself all over again. And that was a big thing; proving to myself that I was
a good athlete, that was pretty much it. I was trying to prove it too my coaches, but
most of all I was proving it to myself. Because I'm not going to go around and
say...Point to them and say "Look, look what I've done. I've done this all by
myself. I just wanted to prove to myself that I'm capable of being better.
The athletes who felt they had been in some way underestimated were motivated to
prove that they belonged. David explained how he used his feelings of being slighted as
a source motivation. He said:
I guess you've got to get fuel from somewhere. I've been doing this for so long, I
wouldn't call myself lazy, I'm just a relaxed easy-going guy, and if there's
something that drives me, it helps a lot. I guess in swimming, showing the most
and getting pissed off and proving my coaches wrong, especially my head coach
[was big motivator].
Only one athlete who discussed anger did not feel that it was a source of motivation
for her. Cindy acknowledged that athletes she knew used anger as a motivator, but did
not feel that she had the disposition to employ such a source herself. She summed up her
experiences with anger this way, "I don't really get angry about stuff or mad. I'm kind of
laid back. So that doesn't work. I don't really get fired up about anything." Her choice
to use emotions in a positive way leads one to wonder if the process was simply a
beneficial mechanism for coping with emotions, or were athletes drawn to sport as a
physical outlet for stress? There was evidence that supported the idea that athletes used
their chosen sport as an outlet for stress, and this in turn acted as a motivator for them to
continue in their participation.
Outlet for Stress/ Aggression
Participants in the current study described how participation in sport carried with it
a certain degree of stress for the athletes, whether it is from high expectations or
competition. However, the athletes in my study also indicated that their sport was an
outlet for stress. Four first order themes defined this category (Figure 3), "Sport as an
outlet," "Escaping problems through sport," "Release of emotional energy through
physical activity," and "Feeling better after participation."
Sport as an Outlet
The participants in the current study cited the physical exertion required during
participation as a major release for them. Both levels of athlete, collegiate and club sport
athletes in particular identified this benefit as a source of motivation for participation.
The athlete's sport served as an outlet for stress precisely for the reasons described in the
previous section. Participating in a sport enabled individuals to separate themselves from
their emotions and frustrations by refocusing their attention on a more enjoyable task, and
allowed them to release and express their built up emotions through physical actions.
The athletes from a broad range of sports conveyed some highly similar experiences
involving their sport as an outlet for relieving stress.
Escaping from Problems through Sport
One aspect that received a considerable amount of focus was the participants'
tendency to step away from outside problems while they were engrossed in the activity.
Diane expressed her experience as an escape:
Being able to forget everything else in your life and just being able to play on the
field. For ninety minutes you don't have to worry about anything else. You can
get a lot of aggression out; you can get a lot of anger out. And just having fun
being surrounded by good people...
Similar ideas were expressed by Ryan, "Just being able to go to Judo, work hard,
and not think about anything else, that's more my release." Kacy had this to say:
[Playing your sport] It kind of lets you; it's a way to let you relieve yourself from
everything else. All your other pressures, and all that kind of stuff. You're out
there and there's nothing else you have to worry about. You just out there to play
and have fun. And I think for a lot of people that can be very therapeutic...It is [for
me]. I guess what I'm saying about it being therapeutic. If things aren't going
well, in your life, when you step out there and all of sudden you're doing all these
things well; you're playing these great balls, it kind of lifts you up.
Release of Emotional Energy through the Release of Physical Energy
Another aspect of sport as an outlet that was emphasized was the release of
emotional energy through the release of physical energy. One participant, Ryan
expressed that exchange in this statement, "All your stresses, everything just bleeds out
on the mat..." Lester described his release of aggression through sport by saying, "You
don't have to be aggressive in judo to get out aggression. It's just the physical activity
itself that helps relieve the aggression." A very in-depth explanation of the interaction
between physical and emotional energy release was displayed in a passage from Diane:
I guess it's like a non-contact sport [soccer], if there's someone else who has the
ball in front of you and they've sort of knocked one of your friends over, you can
get a lot of frustration out by just okay you're going for the ball, but you're also
going to get half of the player as well. And it's like a physical, very physically
demanding game. If you're angry, and like you're really screwed up, like stuff
inside you, like just to go run for 90 minutes; it just gives you a breath of fresh air.
You just kind of get it all out. Then you're too tired to be angry.
Lester provided a summative statement about the reasons that sport, being an outlet
for stress and aggression, was a source of motivation. He said:
I find that my confrontation level goes way down when I use my sport as an outlet
because that's my confrontation out there [on the mat]. I don't know whether it's
just an ego thing or what, because I always feel that I have to match wits with
somebody or physical confrontation. What motivates me to work out is that I know
I'm much easier to get along with in my personal life. I feel that my stress level is
way down. I feel better. I just feel clearer. So it motivates me because I just feel
better when I work out. So that's definitely a high motivation factor for me...Yea
so my mental health as well as my physical health is a big motivation for me.
Through the wide range of testimony given by athletes in various contexts, one
begins to gain an understanding of how sport can serve as an outlet for stress release, and
how this type of benefit could serve as a major source of motivation to participate. Up to
this point this paper has discussed sources of motivation that exist internally within
athletes; however there were also a variety of motivators with an external origin.
Important people in athletes' lives were another source of motivation. The next sections
will focus on these and other external sources of motivation.
External Sources of Motivation
In the current study the external sources of motivation were defined as sources of
motivation that exist outside of the athlete, but within the social context of sport. These
include family, friends, team aspects of sport, coaches, pressure and high expectations,
benefits of participation, competition, and pre-competition motivators. All of the factors
listed above play a role providing motivation for athletes. Many of these sources
supplement the athletes' motivation when internal motivators are not enough to maintain
the type of effort necessary to compete in collegiate level and club level athletics. The
first external motivator that most of the participants discussed was the role that family
played in their motivation. The following section will provide a more in-depth look at
family as an external source of motivation for athletes.
Family was a significant source of motivation that participants in the current study
deemed important on multiple levels. Figure 3 outlines four first order themes that fell
under the category of family; "initial exposure to sports," "family as a support system,"
"father as coach," and "family as confidants." Each of these dimensions of the family
construct instills depth to the category as a source of motivation.
Initial Exposure to Sports
One way that family served as a source of motivation to athletes was that parents
and siblings acted as the mechanism for getting the athlete involved in sport for a
majority of the participants (10 of 14 participants). Six of the participants described their
dad as being "athletic" or as having an "athletic background." Two others were exposed
to sports through the influence of the entire family. For example, Amy said:
I guess our family is just really into sports and pretty athletic. So once I started I
just didn't want to stop. Sports was just something our family does all the time.
We would also go to the pool and swim together and run together. And always
play games outside when we were little, like soccer games...cause we have six
people I our family I guess it kind of came naturally to us.
Kacy, a collegiate soccer athlete, described how she was first introduced to her
sport through the participation of her older siblings. She said, "Everybody in my family
is really athletic. My brother and sister both played soccer. All of us played a whole
bunch of different sports. It [soccer] was the one that I always wanted to play when I
first saw my brother and sister play I was like I want to play that!" Nine of the
participants had brothers or sisters that participated in sports. It is also interesting to note
that a majority of the participants competed in the same sport that other athletes in their
Family as a Support System
A second capacity in which family served as a source of motivation involved the
support system that loved one provided for the athletes. Four athletes felt that their
parents were a source of strength for them, especially when they struggled with their own
motivation, or things did not go well with their sport. Athletes listed examples of support
such as unconditional love as in this quote from Jenny, a walk on collegiate soccer
player, "I call home and I talk to my parents, and they're there, you know the they're
going to love you if you played the worst game, or if you played the best game, it's all
going to be the same." Lucy explained that her family was a source of inspiration to her
because of the sacrifices her mother made to encourage and attend competitions. She
said, "She [my mom] is my biggest motivator. She is where I get most of my motivation
from... she never missed a game, never missed anything."
Father as Coach
Coach was another capacity that family fulfilled that served as sources of
motivation. Two of the participant had parents who were involved coaching them during
the beginning stages of their athletic participation, which served as a motivation to stay
involved the sport. Lester discussed his father's extensive background in judo, and his
role in coaching him like this:
Over the years it was very difficult for me to get my black belt because of who my
father was. He eventually promoted me, but it was like a lot of people surpassed
me that I was in judo with for the same amount of time and got promoted before
me, but... I was always expected to do things perfect, better than the average
people, so I was held back a little longer. You know I'm my father's son and I'm
expected to do this perfect. And over the years I've beat 10's, hundreds of black
belts over the years before I was even promoted to black belt. While my skill level
was certainly up there, it was just when my father felt it was the right time. I was
always motivated to achieve by his expectations.
Family as a Confidant
Athletes also made mention of parents who listened to complaints and helped to
provide perspective and wisdom when times were tough. A statement by Jenny
illustrated this role, "I find it [motivation] from my family. My dad helps me out a lot.
He's like, 'its okay, today shall pass too' and that helps me. He does motivate me. He
pushes me a lot [because he knows me so well], even though he doesn't know anything
about soccer." The theme of "family" provided a variety of external resources that
athletes used as sources of motivation. The next section explores the role of friends as
another external source of motivation to athletes.
All of the athletes who participated in my study were influenced to participate by
some outside force. Along with family, friends were a significant source of motivation
for athletes' participation in sport (Figure 3.) Two first order themes pertaining to friends
were identified by participants as playing a role in providing motivation for participation
in sport, "motivated by friend's participation," and "comparison/ competition between
Motivated by Friend's Participation
In the instances identified by the participants in the current study, they were
inclined to participate in their chosen sport because a friend was already active. Terry
described his reasoning like this, "[My friend was running] so I'm like okay, Ijoin the
track team too." David pointed to a similar experience when he said, "I guess one of the
reasons why I started swimming competitively was to be around her [friend] more."
Cindy cited a specific instance when she was already participating in one sport and she
became interested in pole vault just because a friend thought it would be fun to do. She
said, "I just remember her [a friend] talking about it, and I was doing gymnastics at the
time, and another girl from gymnastics was doing pole vaulting also. And I just wanted
to try it; it sounded neat."
Comparison and Competition between Friends
Not only did friends play a direct role in getting the athletes involved in sport, but
they also served as a source to continue participation. "Comparison and competition
between friends" was portrayed as a strong catalyst for one athlete's continued
participation. Terry, discussed how he used his competitiveness with friends as a
motivator in this passage:
I just always compare myself to a lot of my friends and how they're doing, and
other elite athletes that I felt were not too far above me, but you know close where I
would say, "Well this guy is a little bit better than me, so I better run faster or run
harder, to more to catch up you know."
This statement supported the concept that comparison of self to successful others
can drive athletes to be successful. This theme will become even more prominent in the
upcoming section dealing with teammates and the team atmosphere.
Teammates and Team Atmosphere
The athletes in my study reported that they drew on the highly contextual resource
of teammates to provide motivation in a variety of ways. The category "teammates"
acted as a source of motivation when the participants felt their teammates were successful
(Figure 3). In addition they used the support of the other athletes, as well as their
seemingly contagious enthusiasm as sources of motivation. The participants in the
current study also obtained motivation when they felt included by the team, and when
they strove to separate themselves from the group in order to be the best. To better
understand how athletes derive motivation from their teammates, one must first obtain an
understanding of how the athletes perceived the environment in which they practiced and
Team Aspects of Sport
Axial coding produced a higher order theme which was titled "team aspects of
sport." It is important to note that in the methods section of my study, one of the sample
criterions for the selection of the initial participants was that they were an individual sport
participant. The primary reason for sampling athletes who competed in individual sports
was to get a view of athletes' sources of motivation as they related to the athlete's
personal experience with their sport. It was originally thought that participants who
competed in individual sports might provide more focused insight into the internal forces
that drive athletes to participate and compete in sport. However, all of the initial
participants cited sources of motivation embedded in relationships with teammates or
some aspect of being part of a team. The emphasis placed on team by the individual
sport athletes created the need to look at athletes involved in team sports for possible
similarities and differences in motivation to participate. The following paragraphs will
expand on the sources of motivation that existed within the team context for individual
sport and team sport athletes.
Camaraderie of the Team/ Team Atmosphere
Athletes from both individual and team sports received motivation from contextual
influences based on the social interactions that are inherent in sport. All fourteen
participants in the current study alluded to particular aspects of being part of a team as
important to their personal motivation. Athletes in individual sports as well as team
sports made mention of the "camaraderie of the team" or "team atmosphere" as important
sources of enjoyment and motivation within the sport context. Terry, a distance runner,
described his experience with team in this way: "I just loved competing with three other
guys against other teams. I liked it more than the individual races in track... I guess it's
just the team atmosphere that I enjoy better than the individual." Diane, a soccer player
I think the biggest thing about soccer is that it's a team sport. That was my best
motivation. It's like; okay you have a team around you that are going to take half
the blame for it if you mess up. You have a responsibility to, you know...I like the
camaraderie; I like being able to hang out, and the socializing aspect of it as well as
the actually physical and mental playing wise.
These quotes from the individual and team sport athletes displayed the athletes'
keen interest in contributing to the success of the team, and feelings of accountability for
Friendships and Loyalty
The reasons for feelings of commitment and dedication seemed to be tied to two
factors. The first was friendships and loyalty developed within the team. Kacy, a soccer
player elaborated on the importance of friendships with teammates in this statement:
Since I've been at Florida these are my closest friends... It definitely makes you
want to play for the other person when you're out there... That's a good relationship
to have. That's the best part. That is definitely by far the thing I have gotten the
most of playing here is the friendships, for sure.
Another athlete referred to his club as a "second family." These athletes seemed to
carry a strong sense of duty to their teammates. They felt that others on the team were
depending on them, and their sense of responsibility and relatedness pushed them to
practice and play at a high level.
The second factor that appeared important to athletes' feelings of accountability
was "shared goals". Four participants stated that they felt accountability to their
teammates because they were working toward the same goals. Revealing personal
motivators to teammates seemed to drive athletes to succeed even when their internal
motivation is low. For instance, Steve recounted his feelings about team goal setting in
I think it's good especially when we shared our goals with our teammates and stuff.
So there's sort of some accountability there. Like, alright everybody knows I want
to place, such and such, at a state meet or national championships, and there's no
getting off the hook now. When you're sort of hurting in practice they're going to
say, "Hey, you want to be in the top 20 in this race you're going to have to step it
up." I always use them as a motivational factor as well.
The previous statements show the motivating power of athletes playing for each
other. The participants were more motivated when they felt that everyone on the team
was playing for the common good of the team. The athletes viewed the idea that
individuals play together as a team as being similar to a whole being stronger than the
sum of its parts. They also indicated that dedication and commitment to the same goals
and to teammates allowed for the greatest opportunity for success.
Jenny, a soccer player, also gave evidence that a lack of these types of feelings
about team and teammates might have an equally damaging effect on individual
motivation. She described her struggles with staying motivated during last season in this
quote, "Sometimes I think I feel like the players make you feel that way [like you are not
good], and that's why I say it's a blow to your confidence sometimes. And that's why
you can't rely on them; you have to rely on yourself." She elaborated by saying:
It's high [the within team competition at the university level] and it's... sometimes I
feel like they're going for me and I have the team behind me, and then sometimes I
feel that they aren't. And that might be because I'm not as skilled a player as
everyone so I mess up more and getting yelled at more than I am getting cheered on
or "good job", you know, praised. It's very different on this team. It's different
than any other team I've been on because I've never been in question of whether or
not my team is behind me, and here I am.
Her statements were in sharp contrast to that of the other participants, but lend even
more support to the importance athletes placed on commitment to the team and the
motivation derived from the relationships, and the shared goals within the team structure.
The support of teammates was also a team related dynamic that was cited as a
contributor to the motivation of the participants in the current study. Based around the
same beliefs that made the players feel accountable and committed to their teammates,
the athletes' confidence was bolstered when their teammates showed belief in their
ability. Five of the participants cited instances where they were not playing well, and
demonstrations of support by their teammates provided them with the motivation to
increase the level of intensity in their play. One athlete described an interaction
involving teammate support like this:
With soccer if you're having an off day, then you have other teammates to lean on
you know? I mean they're always going to be supportive, you know. You can tell
if your friends are having a bad day, or you can tell if your friend's like touches
aren't normal, or they're not pushing as hard as they can. They would always ask
for, you just get to know each other more, you know? You don't want to let
someone down again. You want to...they're your teammates you know, and they
know you better than anyone else... So I definitely like to bounce off my
teammates, and look to them for support.
Three participants in the study talked about the role that their teammates'
enthusiasm played in keeping their own motivation high (Figure 3). The athletes
discussed the enthusiasm of their teammates as an outside inspiration used to help get
them motivated, especially during practices when their individual motivation was low.
Kacy said, "I like the encouragement [of teammates]. When I'm out there [on the field],
it helps. Lucy stated, "I can say that I get more motivated when I saw that the rest of my
team was also getting motivated to do better. Cause when they weren't motivated it was
kind of a struggle." She goes on to say, "Once one or two people get like that [being
excited and motivated] it gets infectious. Cindy described the contagious effect of
teammate enthusiasm this way:
I guess it's from everybody else. I think it feeds off each other, at practices when
we're maybe not all there. You know, you've had a long day or something. I think
you can feed off other teammates you know when they're all there, and they've got
that motivation in them for the day, it kind of rubs off.
The term "feeding" off of teammates' enthusiasm was an interesting phrase that
was repeated by multiple participants. It insinuated being hungry or in need of
enthusiasm and motivation. The infectious property of enthusiasm made it an important
source from which athletes could draw the everyday motivation they needed to continue
the rigorous workout routines required for high level competition.
Competing against Teammates
The aspect of the team context most frequently mentioned by the participants was
the interpersonal competition between teammates. The higher order theme "competitive
atmosphere of team" divulged insight into the inner workings of the athletes'
relationships with their teammates, and the constructs surrounding their sources of
motivation within this context. Five of the athletes interviewed for the study made
reference to comparing themselves to high level teammates. This competition between
teammates seemed to motivate the athletes to work harder in the practice setting. David,
a collegiate swimmer described his interactions with one of his teammates this way, "The
guy I mentioned earlier, he was highly recruited out of high school, when we were both
in the pool we were really competitive and we'd always I guess you could say talk c**p
to each other during practice. And it helped motivate us." Ryan detailed the benefits of
his competitive relationship with his teammate in this statement, "Blake, he's in Russia
right now, the Ukraine to be exact, and he's awesome. He's better than me...when we go
together we really push each other hard, and we've gotten to the point where we're
stalemating each other and we have to try new things." The drive to best teammates
seemed to come from an internal desire or need to compete. Some athletes in the study
referred to this quality as competitive nature.
Three participants made reference to their "competitive nature." This first order
theme was strongly tied to a person's need to win, another higher order theme that will be
described in more depth in the following sections. A majority of the athletes in my study
(n= 9) admitted to being competitive in areas other than sport. The tendency to pit
oneself against others in general contexts in life was considered "competitive nature."
The athletes described it as, "I don't like to give up on something", and "Always wanting
to win. Having the competitive attitude, it definitely helps." This competitive nature,
along with other factors intertwined in the environment of competitive sports was an
important force behind motivation.
Another aspect of athletes' competition with their teammates that surfaced within
multiple data points was embarrassment if one was showed up by teammates. Athletes
made references to different situations within the team context where they expressed
shame if their performance in practice wasn't up to the level of a particular teammate. A
quote by David lent depth to this idea:
They [teammates] could just embarrass you pretty much if you have an off day.
Someone could just, it makes you seem like they're just swimming laps back and
forth just passing you. And sometimes its embarrassment coming off an off-day is
what motivates. That would have motivated me to work harder and be better the
next day, or the next practice; whatever it was.
The idea that David alluded to was an important concept in understanding what
triggers motivation in athletes. An athlete's chosen sport was one way they represented
themselves to others. It was considered a reflection of self. Athletes who competed at
the collegiate and club sport level spent a great deal of time preparing for competitions,
and the hard work created a sense of pride in their ability and skill as it pertained to their
sport. When an athlete felt that they were being overshadowed or outperformed by
others, that sense of pride or that image of self was damaged, and the feelings of
embarrassment were triggered. That then became a source of motivation to work harder
and perform better. A statement by Steve illustrated the thinking that went on when
athletes dealt with teammates who they felt were trying to show them up:
I don't know if it was good or bad, but it definitely mattered. When those people
weren't around we were like, "I wonder what this guy is doing today? Trying to
show everybody up in practice when everybody knows he doesn't belong up there
[at the front of the pack]." Or, "What was this guy doing sand-bagging the whole
time and then he would come on the last one and try and beat everybody when he's
been running a minute slower on the first four of the five [laps] and then he's
running one fast one?" I don't know if it was good or bad but people definitely
noticed what was going on. I think to bring it all into perspective with motivational
sources definitely for me too, there was definitely one teammate of mine that really
got steamed when guys would try and run with him. He was one of the best guys
and he would get real mad when lesser caliber athletes would try and run with him,
even if it was the first of five intervals. And he would get so mad; he would try so
hard to drop these guys. I guess it helps; it's a source of motivation. I guess people
don't want people that they don't feel are at their level yet to try every practice and
I don't know maybe if that's good or bad, but definitely served its source.
Athletes who chose to participate and compete at higher level athletic endeavors
had made important investments and sacrifices to achieve at that particular level. The
dedication to their sport and to excellence in their sport produced an environment in
which competition and success were necessities. However, contrary to previous research
(Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000), there was evidence within my study to support the idea that
athletes who participate at more highly competitive levels of sport, such as the
participants in my study, thrive in such environments. Lucy explained that, "I like the
competitive atmosphere. I know that everyday if I go, somebody's gonna be competing
with somebody in something, whether it's verbal or nonverbal [physical]." She
elaborated by saying, "There is always room for more in this environment." Amy had
this to say about competition, "I think it [competition] makes it more fun personally,
because everyone out there is giving it their all." Terry revealed this about competing
against high level teammates, "practices were more competitive though [than high
school].. you come to college and you're racing against, you're practicing with people
who are your ability level or better you know? It made you run harder at practice I can
tell you that much." In subsequent sections, competition will be examined more closely
as a contextual factor as well as a source of motivation to athletes.
Cheering on Teammates
Other sources of motivation that occur within the context of team included cheering
on teammates (Figure 3). Cindy said, "I just like to be around other people and I enjoy
cheering each other on, and keeping focused on the competition. That keeps me
motivated during it [competitions], mentally." Kacy also stated, "I like to motivate other
people. I talk a lot, and it's like...I'm very positive." The evidence indicated that
athletes gained motivation by motivating others, or feeling that they were. This source
was tied closely with another first order theme, "Contributing to team success."
Contributing to Team Success
Three of the participants felt that they were motivated by wanting to contribute to
the team's success. Terry illustrated this point when he said, "I feel good when I run a
fast time and help out the team, you know?" He continued by adding "I care more about
the team than I do about the individual performance." Cindy talked about her motivation
to help the team in this way, "You just feel better about yourself when you know what
you're doing and when you know you're helping out the team win the championship."
Being Part of an Elite Group
One driving force that existed only for the collegiate athletes who participated in
the current study was being part of an elite group. Lending support to this construct,
Lucy discussed how being surrounded by high level teammates acted as motivation for
her to achieve their level of performance. She said:
Like I see it like if I want an individual kind of title I have to do it in one of the
events by myself. And it is not going to be easy, because I got some extremely
good teammates. Like they are on the Olympic level basically. So like that's just a
challenge to me to see if I can work extra hard to get to that...being a part of the
number one throwing group in the country, the number one throwers in the country,
individual people [that motivates me].
Lynn further detailed this construct when she emphasized her desire to have
expectations set for the highest level of achievement with this statement, "Wanting to be
an elite college team, rather than just a college team." Jenny discussed the difficulty and
importance of keeping her confidence in an elite atmosphere in this way:
These girls are good. You're training with the best. You really do have to
constantly work at yourself, your insides. I always find that is the hardest thing for
me. Not even working on my tactical or technical, it's giving myself the
confidence to be like okay "I'm going to win this ball." Giving myself the
confidence to say "okay you're good enough to be out here, so now show it."
Success of Teammates
The team atmosphere yielded yet another source of motivation in the "success of
teammates." Athletes who participated in my study identified others' success as a source
motivation. Lucy spoke of teammate success in this manner, "Five of my teammates who
went before me all had PR's (personal records), and I was like yea, I can do this too."
She went on to talk about using the same sort of motivation during the off-season in this
quote, "I'm like even more highly motivated, even though I'm not in season right now,
like just watching my teammates. Like all of them are breaking personal records, and
I'm like "I can't wait till next year!"
Success of Team
Similarly, the success of the team had enhancing effects on motivation. For
instance, athletes spoke of the importance of being on a winning team this way. David
said "I always wanted to be on a winning team. And so when I came to college that's
what I worked for the most, is a team championship. That's probably what fueled me the
most." He then finished off the topic by adding this phrase, "Individual accomplishments
came with training for a team goal."
Being a Leader to Teammates
A final theme that emerged from the data text was "being a leader to teammates."
Jeff, a middle distance runner, talked about experiencing the pressures of leadership, and
why he felt motivated from those demands. He said, "The guys who were with me
[teammates] worked so hard, and looked up to me so much that it was like I want them to
feel how I feel." The theme of leadership was a powerful dynamic to team atmosphere
because it really illustrated how the athletes were tied together by common goals and
aspirations. Often the unifying vision for the goals a group of athletes wanted to achieve
came from another source of motivation for athletes, the coach.
One motivator that was essential to the success of all of the athletes was the coach.
Figure 3 delineated how the player-coach relationship revolved around a plan that the
coach has for an athlete, and the athlete's willingness to follow that plan through to
completion. The athletes in my study provided a wealth of evidence to this affect. For
the participants, the coach served capacities that ranged from being "an advisor" to
"being demanding" and "having high expectations."
Setting up and Reinforcing Program Goals
The first key to the coach acting as a motivator was that he or she provided a set of
goals and expectations that the athletes' believed would make them successful. The
theme "coach setting up and reinforcing program goals", emerged as a source of
motivation because the athletes indicated that they were motivated by an environment
structured around goals. For instance, Lynn talked about all of the swimmers on her team
understanding and meeting the expectations of the coach. She said:
I think that [everyone on the team having the same goals] all stems from the
coaching staff. I think we had fun, but at the same time we knew what we were
there for and I think that was very important and it usually weeded out the people
who weren't very serious... [coach would say] "I'm going to expect you to be a
practice every time there is a practice, every time you're supposed to."
An interesting aspect of the above quote was Lynn's statement about "weeding
out" the athletes who did not take the swimming seriously. This statement lent further
credence to the view that team atmosphere played an important role in the motivation of
athletes. It also illustrated how the coach was tied to creating and maintaining that
unified source of motivation for the athletes. By only keeping athletes in the program
who worked hard and took the sport and goals of the program "seriously", the coach
facilitated the competitive team atmosphere that served as an important motivator to his
or her players.
Confidence in Coach's Knowledge
Another component necessary for the coach to function as a motivator was the
athletes' "confidence in the coach's knowledge." Lester cited the need for his coach's
guidance and knowledge during his training because he did not feel that he had a
"realistic picture" of what it would take for him to be successful. He stated it this way:
[I don't have the ability to push myself] not as hard as my coaches. I've had some
very good coaches... Those guys push me hard. I can't...I mean I have so much
knowledge. They have far more knowledge. They know what I need to do. It is
very hard to be objective about one's self. I have my picture of myself that I have
drawn. They know what the real picture is. They know what needs to be done, I
know what I think needs to be done.
The importance of an athlete's confidence in a coach's knowledge was elaborated
on by Lucy discussed her coach's role in her development this way, "Now I know I have
a coach who has thrown before and he knows what he is doing. Then that helps out.
Cause he can tell me from what I did wrong, why, and how to fix it." She goes on,
expressing her feeling of urgency to acquire as much knowledge as she can get because
she was beginning her last year of eligibility. She said, "I wish I could have spent all my
years here, because I kind of came into a situation where I had to get it [coach's
knowledge] now and get it fast, because now I'm on my last year." The statements made
by Lucy not only described the coach's role as a source of motivation, but also helped to
more clearly define a theme that was previously discussed, "seeing improvement."
Running Out of Time to Achieve Goals
As discussed earlier, one of the major sources of motivation for athletes was seeing
improvement in their performance. The relationship between a player and a coach was
strongly based on this need, and the coach's ability to facilitate it. The intensity of the
relationship was compounded by the sense of urgency athletes felt because they only had
a limited amount of time to achieve their goals in their current collegiate setting. There
are two first order themes that relate to this topic. The first was labeled "last year/
running out of time to achieve goals." One of the athletes described this source of
motivation is this way, "I'm so much more motivated because it's my last year and I want
to do good." Another participant discussed the feelings he had about taking for granted
his opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. He said, "Man, I really feel like a jerk
for feeling like I was wasting my time the last year, so I was really motivated to make
better use of my last year." David gave an in-depth look at how strong a motivator
"running out of time" could be in this dialogue:
I had a bad summer and it was my senior year. I got second the year before at
NCAA's and won my individual swims and I wanted to go out with a bang my
senior year and I trained. I was training the hardest I've ever trained in my life.
And that was probably one of the most motivated times in my life. And I was
doing things I never thought I could do before, and it's just amazing to look back
on it... I decided to give it my all everyday and I was eating right and doing things,
off the field things. I was eating right and sleeping, and not going out as much, and
trying to be fresh so I could do my best everyday at practice.
Take Advantage of Opportunity
The above passage reinforces the powerful impact that goals had on an athlete's
motivation, as well as highlights the sacrifices he or she was willing to make to achieve
those goals. Three of the participants in the current study viewed the chance to compete
at the collegiate or club level as an opportunity. The desire to take advantage of this
opportunity was identified as another source of motivation. Diane explained how she
was moved to change her lifestyle in order to get the most out of her opportunity. She
[I was] blown out, partying, I had an awesome time. And then realizing you know,
you need to get focused, and that you are her for a reason. So that whole summer I
was so highly motivated I would train twice a day. Go out on my own, like I didn't
need anyone to push me or anything.
Steve also illustrated these same motivations by saying:
So I want to take advantage of being young and stuff like that. Be able to say,
"Yeah, I did the best I could." I don't want to look back and say, "Oh man, I was a
real bum... stuff like that keeps me motivated saying, "Okay, I'm going to do
everything right so that I can accomplish what I want to do.
Athletes who participate in sport at such a high level recognized the chance that
they had been given to pursue their goals to such an extent. They used their opportunity
as a source of motivation by keeping in perspective that it could be over at any time.
Cindy illuminated this factor with her statement, "it's such a great opportunity that I just
try. That keeps me motivated, my goals, how I can improve, and what I can get out of it.
I just want to make the most of my experience."
Coach's Confidence in Athlete
As with an athlete's relationship with teammates, the relationship between coaches
and players motivated some players to give maximum effort. Similar to the effects
teammates had on a player's motivation, when an athlete felt that a coach had confidence
in him or her it became a reservoir from which to draw motivation. By adding to the
players' own self-confidence, a coach's confidence inspired feelings that drove the
athlete to fulfill the coach's expectations for them. This was clearly illustrated in a
paragraph by Diane:
Just knowing that a lot of people [coach] had a lot of faith in my ability, and I was
getting; they were giving me opportunities. They were giving me money, they
were giving me their time, they were giving me their energy. And I didn't want to
let people down, and like it was just a point where I was like, "okay, this is not the
reason I'm over here. Yeah, I want to get an education, but too I think it's to
represent this college so... A lot of it was I didn't want to let people down.
The influence of a coach's confidence in his athletes extended in the other direction
as well. If a player felt that the coach lacked confidence in him or her, it had a damaging
effect on the athlete's motivation. Jenny describes what happened to her motivation
when she did not feel that the coach had confidence in her ability. She said:
I'm in question as to whether my coaches want me here because it's a totally
different atmosphere. There are different things at stake. There are times when I
want to go up to my coaches and ask them, "Do you want me here?" Not that I feel
like, and I don't think they would ever answer that because I think that they expect
you to build that up on your own, and be totally driven by your own self-
motivation. And that's all, and that's why my family is so big, and that's why God
is so big. Because I can't rely completely on myself, because I can't do it by
myself. I can do it with God's help. It's just so hard at this level.
Not only did this passage illustrate the impact that a coach's confidence or lack
there of, can have on a player's motivation, but it also underlined the importance of some
of the other sources of motivation athletes rely on such as family and religion.
It is important to note that within the above quote there was an important discrepant
perception suggested by this athlete. Jenny was a walk-on to the varsity soccer team at
her college, meaning that she did not receive a scholarship or financial compensation for
her efforts toward the soccer team. She also had not experienced much success in her
first season with the team, and these factors seem to have lowered her confidence and
motivation to participate. She expressed in her interview that she felt the coaches
expected her motivation to come from within. The perception that she was the only
athlete who maintained external sources of motivation, and needed the coach's
confidence, contributed to her feelings of low motivation. Because she felt her needs and
sources of motivation were different from those of her teammates, she prevented herself
from engaging them as a highly valuable resource from which to draw strength.
Coach as an Encourager
Another role that the coach fulfilled that served as a source of motivation for
athletes is that of an encourager (Figure 3). The participants cited examples of their
coach's influence in both getting involved, and staying with in their chosen sport. For
one athlete in particular, Lucy, it was her coach who got her involved in her sport (shot
put). Taking the place that parents fulfilled in getting some of the other athletes involved
in sports, Lucy was introduced to her sport by her middle school coach. She said, "I
didn't want to play sports. I wanted to be like a cheerleader or something. They
[coaches] kind of kept bugging me everyday like just try, just try, and I was like okay
fine I'll try." She elaborated on this topic by saying, "But when I got to high school, I
don't know they just kind of made me stick with throwing." Once again, the above
passage cited how an athlete was exposed to sport by an outside influence, which lends
further weight to the importance of significant others' as a source of motivation for high
A second way in which a coach was an encourager was through inspirational
speaking. The data coding yielded evidence that athletes used things the coach said as a
source for motivation, especially immediately preceding a performance. Quotes such as,
"The stuff he [coach] says is inspiring...I hear what he says and it kind of picks me back
up", and "I think the team talking is huge. Especially what the coaches say to you right
before you go step out onto the field. That's a huge thing."
Coach as an Advisor
A final way in which a coach served as a source of motivation was by being an
advisor. Lynn recounted her relationship with her coaching staff by saying, "Also
talking, mostly to the coaches. The coaches here helped a lot with that [keeping me
motivated when I was feeling burned out] and usually they had really good advise." It is
easy to see the complexity of the player-coach relationship in high level sport
participation. One must have an understanding of this construct as the discussion turns to
a source of motivation that involves the athlete and coach, "expectations" and "training at
the highest possible level."
High Expectations and Pressure
Thirteen of the fourteen athletes interviewed for the study talked about the pressure
and expectations that went along with participating in sport at a high level. There were
six first order themes that fell under the category of high expectations and pressure.
Figure 3 highlighted pressure from self, pressure of representing entity, expectations from
coaches, striving to reach personal standards, striving to reach coach's expectations, and
coach's expectations too high all as subcategories. The overall perception presented by
the athletes was that they used the expectations to increase their intensity and
performance, and viewed the pressure as a positive influence on their performance. To
best understand how the athletes accessed this source of motivation we must first get an
idea of what the expectations were and where they were coming from.
Pressure from Self
Some of the pressure that athletes coped with was self- imposed. For example, this
quote by Lucy, "I would probably place it [pressure] on myself first, and then the team.
Cause you have to look at yourself first before you look at everybody else. At least that's
the way I look at it." Steve talked about the pressure he felt when he set his goals and
how that motivated him. He said, "You set the bar high in certain areas; in athletics for
Pressure of Representing Entity
The athletes also felt the pressure of representing an entity larger than themselves
and their team such as a university or a town. One athlete discussed the prospect of
competing against others who were going to be in top form because they were facing "the
best." Jeff described having competitors "gunning for you" in this way, "I think
[competition] is very stressful because you are a Florida Gator. You've got to be at
you're A game all the time."
Expectations of Coaches
Still even more lofty expectations were applied by the coaches. A paragraph by
Lynn displayed some of these expectations:
In the pool you were expected to do one hundred percent each time. Naturally
people are human and you can't do one hundred percent, but any sort of, I
mentioned before, all of them keeping you in line if you weren't giving one
hundred percent, they'll be in your face.
Another quote by Diane provided insight into an athlete's perceptions of an
environment where the goals of the program and the expectations of the coaches and
players were nothing short of excellence. She said:
As the competition gets higher, the pressure gets higher. That can be a good thing
when it's a final four. But it can also be a bad thing, because you just...as it gets
harder you have a lot of expectations of what you're supposed to do. Especially
coming to a program like UF, the motivation to succeed is a lot higher, especially
from the coaching staff, because they've been there and they've done it. And
you're going to get different players and they're going to bring in different types of
players, but there is still that thing that they've done it before. They're going to use
every single strategy, coaching and stuff like that the same way. And it's not going
to work with most people, some of the girls on the team don't...their coaching style
doesn't sit well with them. They're very demanding and if you can't do it then get
out. I don't know. The higher competition, you want to strive... You're motivated
to strive to get to a higher level, but the competition does get more stressful.
Striving to Reach Personal Standards
The various athletes had different interpretations of what the pressure meant to
them and how they responded it. For some of the athletes, the motivation came from
their desire to participate in their sport at the highest possible level. Diane said, "My
motivation is I don't ever want to let my standards slip," speaking about expecting
nothing less than playing at the highest level possible. Jenny supplemented this argument
with her testimony:
For me, I liked it [soccer], and I just got better and better each year. And then you
reach a point where you can either keep going and keep getting better, pin-pointing
those skills you need to master, or you can stay at the same level.
Striving to Reach Coach's Expectations
Athletes also gained motivation by trying to achieve standards set for them by a
coach. David talked about his interactions with his swim coach and how he used the
aggression he felt when the coach would "chew" him out. He cited this:
My coaches yelled at me a lot, and I always wondered why and then one day one of
the old coaches was like, "Well, the reason he yelled at you was because you could
handle it and he knows that you're not going to bolt." And as I looked back on it
he would chew on me every day and I never let it bother me. And Ijust got pissed
off and it was my fuel. And I would end up doing what he'd asked me to do and
surpassing what was expected of me. So it was my fuel I guess.
The experience David had with his swim coach brought to light an interesting
social factor within the context of sport. David, like other athletes cited feeling "pissed
off" when the coach would "yell" at him and that he used it for "fuel." David's response
was to use his feelings of anger in a positive way by deriving motivation from his
emotions. He was not the only athlete who referred to feelings of anger as a source of
motivation. Previous sections discuss the use of anger as a source of motivation for
athletes to achieve at high levels.
Coach's Expectations too High
Another social contextual factor that needs to be addressed was possible negative
effects that extremely high expectations, particularly from a coach, could have on
athletes' motivation. While many of the athletes pointed out the need for demanding
goals and expectations, there was also evidence that indicated when a coach is too
demanding it could be detrimental to an athlete's motivation. For instance, Lynn
discussed in depth her relationship with one of her coaches in which she felt that the
coach's expectations were necessary for her, but only to a point where she felt supported
by her coach. She had this to say, "I needed them [high expectations]. I'm the type of
person that needs someone behind me to do things, but as I said my coach before was a
lot worse than they [the coaches at UF] in terms of expectations." Lynn then described a
time when her coach's expectations were so heavy that it lead her to feelings of burnout.
She spoke of this particular incident:
Luckily with him [my first swim coach] it was only swimming that I had to worry
about, but he had extremely high expectations in terms of training, going fast one
hundred percent. Really strict work ethic towards everything... By the time I left,
cause I left not on really good terms or anything, but at first it wasn't too bad, but
then he got a little psycho and then it started to hurt me more than help me... I hated
swimming. I didn't want to swim for him, but I was to the point where I didn't
care if I did swim.
She went on to say that, "I think there is a point where coaches can push too much
and I got to that point with him [her coach]. So that became a problem with my
motivation. I was a lot less motivated to do anything."
Benefits of Participation
Another higher order source of motivation identified by participants was benefits of
participation in their respective sport (Figure 3). Many athletes (n=10) pointed out that
they were motivated by the fringe benefits that came along with being an athlete. Cited
were themes such as travel, meeting new people, and fulfillment of personal needs.
Participants in the current study felt that there were some external benefits to their
participation in higher level sports. For instance, a quote by Kacy gave insight into this
source of motivation:
For me, you get a lot of things out of playing. Not just the soccer, and part of being
successful and having a lot of fun, but we also get to travel. We go a lot of places,
we get to do a lot of things nobody has ever done. We get a lot of benefits. I mean
our locker room is incredible. During classes, if you have a break you can go back
there and sleep. We have big leather couches, they feed us. We get food all the
time. There's just a lot. They take us fun places. We've been to California a few
times, Europe. There are a lot of benefits to it.
Kacy alluded to a variety of benefits that she received from being on the university
soccer team, one of which was travel. Six other athletes said the places they got to go for
team road trips were a source of motivation for them. Cindy said, "I've gotten to travel a
lot [with the team], a few different places. When we do travel our coach takes us out and
we go sight seeing. We went mountain climbing; we go snowmobiling." Lucy added to
this idea with her statement:
Yea [traveling is motivating].., the biggest benefit you get from traveling [with the
team] is that you get to go places on them [the school]. I mean that's like I get to
go places that my family be like "Wow," you know I take pictures, but they'll
probably never go to California.
Lynn expanded her feeling about travel to include not only the things she got to do
while she was visiting new places, but also the people. She said, "I love traveling [to
international competitions] and meeting different people and experiencing different
cultures. Her perspective provided more clarity into why travel was motivating for
It is important to point out that the athletes who mentioned travel as a source of
motivation were all collegiate level athletes. None of the club sport participants
identified any travel that they did as a source of motivation. The discrepancy in
motivation may have been because the club sport athletes had to pay for any travel that
they did, where as the collegiate athletes' travel was paid for by the university. However,
collegiate and club sport athletes both felt that meeting new people was a source of
motivation for them.
Meet New People
Four athletes identified the people they met while involved in their sport as a
source of motivation for them. Similar to Lynn's viewpoint Lester had this to say about
his experiences, "I mean there are people all over the world that I've met that if I was not
a part of this sport I would never have had an opportunity to." Cindy agreed, "I feel like
the track team is a very well-rounded group of people. So it's giving me a lot of
opportunities to meet new people and that's what I like." Lucy, who was African
American, discussed how her experiences with new people were valuable because they
have allowed her to be comfortable around people with backgrounds different from hers.
She said, "I have no problem now being around just all whites or just all Puerto Ricans,
or just all blacks. I can mix in now. That's what has taught me a lot." Lucy's statements
provide insight into why meeting new people was motivating to some of the participants.
Her quote about being able to "mix" insinuated that she saw value in being able to
understand the people around her better, and her experiences in her sport gave her that
The next subcategory that fell under the higher order theme benefits of participation
was fulfillment of personal needs. This broad category encompassed a variety of first
order themes such as: development of self confidence, taking care of and defending
oneself, physical health benefits, and maintaining personal relationships. The following
section will explore this category further.
Fulfillment of Personal Needs
A statement by Lester provided an overview of the general dimensions of this
construct. His quote encompasses the multiple functions that a sport can serve in an
individual's life. He said:
The actual sport itself, to me is everything. It's aerobic; it's strength building. I get
it all right here. It's very gratifying. It's applicable not just as a sport, but as a self-
defense. I don't thing I'm invincible, but at the same token I have the confidence
to do what I need to do. So it gratifies me in so many ways, and I'm probably
leaving a lot out. The physical and mental aspect of it. The fact that it does a lot
for me. Not only the mental aspect as far as it makes me feel good, but it helps me
get along better in my personal relationships, because it helps me think clearer.
Physical Health Benefits
Lester brought up a spectrum of benefits that he received from judo which fulfilled
his personal needs. For example he discussed the positive physical payoffs that he
received by participating in his sport. Terry also identified the health gains he received
from running as a motivator. He had this to say, "[It motivates me] being able to go long
distances and not be out of breath, or run really hard for a long amount of time.
Likewise, Amy felt that "running around and being in shape" was a source of motivation
for her to play soccer.
Development of Confidence
A second element of sport that Lester talked about as fulfilling a need was the
confidence to defend oneself. This is an interesting concept because both judo athletes
made reference to the importance of knowing they could defend themselves. Ryan
discussed his perspective in this quote;
Being able to say to myself if someone wants to start something with me, I'm more
than happy to bring it to them, wherever, whenever. That motivates me. It gives
me the self-confidence. I mean, I'm like the most non-violent person you'll ever
meet, but it makes me feel good knowing that I can defend myself, knowing that I
can take care of my friends. It gives me great pleasure.
Ryan's quote from the previous section brought up another component of sport that
fulfilled needs for athletes. Throughout the data coding process, the development of
confidence was brought up as a by-product of sport participation in a variety of ways. It
was discussed in reference to parental support, teammate support, a coach's role as a
source of motivation, religious beliefs, as well as fulfillment of personal needs. Kacy
described how sport helped her develop confidence in this quote, "I guess it's the success
you get out of it. Knowing that you're good at something." Ryan added this about the
role that sport played in changing his self-image, "It's given me a lot of confidence in
myself. I don't know if I'd call it a life-changing experience, but it's changed my outlook
on a lot of things."
Development of Life Skills
As the current study illustrated in Figure 3, athletics endeavors involve a complex
mixture of physical and mental demands on athletes. The athletes recognized that the
stressful conditions in sport emulate similar circumstances that all people encounter
throughout life. They also felt that the fundamental aptitude necessary to be successful
within the domain of sport carried over to those real-life situations. Lucy delineated her
attitude about this subject in this quote:
[One thing that motivated me about sports was that] I saw that it could teach you a
little discipline about things. Like anything I run into; just kind of related it to real
life stuff. A lot of determination was in it. I was pretty much the only minority on
the team, but after a while I got used to it and I enjoyed playing with them [other
athletes on the team], and I learned a lot just being around different people
Lucy's statements pointed to her understanding of the benefits she could receive
from her sport participation. She recognized the long-term value of being around people
who were different from herself, and developing "determination," both of which she
knew she could relate to "real life stuff' that would help her in the future.
Up to this point, my study has looked at athletes' sources of motivation to
participate in sport. A second purpose for my study was to explore the construct of
competition that is intertwined with all sports at the collegiate and club levels. As
discussed earlier in the paper, each of the athletes was asked to define competition in
their own terms, and a majority viewed competition as two individuals or teams
struggling to better the others' performance. However upon further questioning, the
participants in my study presented a variety of viewpoints on competition as a source of
motivation. There were seven first order themes that fell under the higher order theme