Understanding the dynamics of motivation is fundamental to sport and exercise psychology as it can be used to enhance our understanding of human behaviour in a sporting context. Motivation is a broad term that appears to have many vague definitions, concepts and associated psychological theories related to human behaviour (Roberts, Treasure, & Conroy, 2007). The majority of motivational research in sport is based on social-cognitive theory which identifies that human behaviour is active in decision making and in planning achievement behaviour (Deci & Ryan, 1985, as sited in Roberts, Treasure, & Conroy, 2007).
People decide to participate in sport for many different reasons and there are many benefits associated with participation. These include health, well-being, fun, self improvement and winning. Achievement motivation is one aspect of motivation theory which focuses specifically on the athlete’s desire to improve competence, enjoy continued success, and achieve personal goals. Many people are programmed to be motivated by competition or a desire to prove they are the best, while others focus on improving their skills. In most cases, sport participation is connected to achievement behaviour, because it is based on success or failure of obtaining a goal. Achievement motivation theory provides the understanding of personality and situational factors that shape achievement behaviour in a person (Gill & Williams, 2008). Achievement motivation can explain why some people choose to participate in sport while others lack motivation and do not have a desire to participate.
The concept of winning or the motivation to win tends to create a blurred perspective of success, and is a key aspect of why people continue or discontinue participation in sport. Despite this dropout in participation, a ‘win at all cost’ mentality can frequently be seen within all sport as creating a downward spiral effect. It is important for a coach to structure the sporting environment to meet the athletes’ needs, and change their motives if they are inappropriate. Motivation provides the coach with an understanding of achievement behaviour and what motivates a person to participate in sport, and how motivation is used to improve the athlete’s mental and physical performance in the sporting arena. This literature review will explore the dynamics of winning through achievement motivation and competitiveness, and why some individuals are highly motivated and constantly strive for success, while others seem to lack motivation and avoid competition and evaluation.
Sansone & Harackiewicz (2000) and Anshel (1990) both suggest people are driven by two general motivational forces: Intrinsic motivation is the internal condition of performing an activity for the pleasure inherent in the activity itself. Therefore the only one who can motivate a person to participate in activity is the intrinsic drive of that person (Hodge, 2004). Extrinsic motivation is driven by external or situational factors. Extrinsic motivation is outside the athlete’s control and involves taking part in some activity for some purpose other than for its own sake (Vander Zanden & Pace, 1984). Extrinsic motivators can be represented positively by a reward such as a trophy, money or recognition. Athletes motivated by these types of rewards, they may lack a true desire to perform to their best because most of these situations are out of their control. It is extremely important to include internal motivators because this internal drive can activate positive behaviour and give them desire to achieve a goal.
Weinberg & Gould (1995) suggests personality factors can help explain what motivates people into action. Trait-centered orientation mainly focuses on the internal personality characteristics. Situational-centered orientation is closely linked to the external influences surrounding a situation that provoke action. A combination of both trait and situation, also known as interaction orientation, focuses on the consequence or explanation for behaviour.
The concept of motivation in sport provides five basic patterns of behaviour, these include: direction, persistence, continued motivation, intensity and performance (Maehr & Braskamp, 1986, as cited in Briddle, 1993). Hodge (2004) states “motivation is primarily made up of the direction and intensity of effort” (p.41). The intensity is the effort put into a particular situation to achieve a goal. Intensity of effort is closely associated with direction of effort and can be also known as activation. Hodge (2004) states “The activation of a person is on a continuum from low intensity (asleep) to high intensity (all out effort)” (p.41).
The intensity of the effort will impact greatly on sports performance depending on the sport and type of intensity required to perform the effort. Athletes who possess high motivational levels are generally very internally driven, but ultimately intensity must match the activity for optimum performance, which in turn will depend on the personality of the athlete.
Achievement Motivation Theory:
“Champions aren´t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision” (Muhammad Ali, n.d).
Achievement Motivation is one of the most used and interpreted theories of motivation in sport today, which is based on the concept that suggests the athlete wants to demonstrate competence and feel success and is, motivated to achieve a goal (Waldron & Krane, 2005). “Competence is understood as having higher ability than others and is, thus, measured through social comparison” (Shields & Bredemeier, 2006, p. 5). Achievement motivation is the athlete’s efforts to master a task, achieve excellence, overcome obstacles, perform better than others, and take pride in exercising talent (Murray, 1938 as sited in Weinberg & Gould, 1995). The concept of competence and success provides the understanding as to why some individuals are highly motivated and constantly strive for success, while others seem to lack motivation and avoid evaluation and competition.
Competence and success can be viewed through intrinsic motivation such as the internal characteristics that make up an athlete’s personality or extrinsic motivation which are the external influences that surround the competitive situation. Atkinson (1964, as sited in Gill & Williams, 2008) identified the key personality factor affecting achievement motivation as the balance between the motives to approach success and the motive to avoid failure. Therefore it is important to understand what success & failure means to an athlete, and how to manage a competitive situation effectively to cope with potential failures. Hodge (2004) states “direction of effort is the tendency to approach or avoid a particular situation” (p.41). High and low achievement motivation depends on the perception the athlete has of weather they are competent and successful. If an athletes’ perception of the skill was observed a successful and reinforced through encouragement it has potential to provide confidence to continue participation. If the perception of skill was viewed as incompetent and unsuccessful the athlete will want to avoid the same situation again and therefore increasing the chance of drop out in participation. Self-efficacy or self-worth is an individual’s conviction that he or she can successfully execute the behaviours necessary to produce a desired outcome (Van Raalte & Brewer, 2002). Bandura states “self-efficacy beliefs are a major basis for action, and they exert influence on an individual’s choice of activities, effort and persistence in achievement situations” (Van Raalte & Brewer, 2002, p. 134).
According to Hodge (2004) “a goal is an aim, objective, target or dream. More precisely, a goal is a specific standard of performance, usually to be attained within a specific time limit” (p.159). Achievement motivation allows the athlete the opportunity to set goal-oriented behaviour through either intrinsic or extrinsic motives. People can experience both orientations; however they have a dispositional tendency toward one or the other type of achievement motivation (Anderson & Dixon 2009). However, goal orientation also provides an understanding of personality characteristics and how competence and success is viewed by an athlete. Anderson & Dixon (2009) suggests that a person’s goal orientation describes the athlete’s personality through ego (outcome) and task (mastery). The concept of outcome orientation takes into consideration that achievement is a result of ability and focuses on winning. Weinberg & Gould (1995) suggest outcome orientated people are primarily motivated by a desire to display competence and success, attributing their success to talent. Choosing challenging tasks, and avoiding situations they cannot master or win. Mastery orientation measures success and achievement by effort, focusing on personal improvement of a task. Athletes’ tend to compare current performances to a previous one in order measure how well they have done. Choosing tasks with a higher level of difficulty is ok as they are not afraid of making mistakes because it is seen it as a learning outcome (Weinberg & Gould, 1995). Mastery goals generally fit into the SMART principle: Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic and Time frame so athletes and coaches have a set of guide lines to keep on track of their achievements and success.
Implications for Future Coaching
The role of coaches is to fundamentally assist and guide athletes’ behaviour to participate and enjoy sport, as well as benefiting from the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards associated with sport. A coach needs to consider the athlete’s personality and the interaction between the athlete and the situation can enhance motivation. Coaches cannot directly motivate athletes to perform or participate, however they can create the conditions to cultivate motivation. It is essential that coaches meet the needs of their athletes’ by creating an environment that nourishes a desire to learn and grow in a sporting context. Athletes need stimulation and an element of fun, and feel they have control and autonomy over their sporting participation. The feeling of competence and success is also essential. If coaches are aware of the needs of the athletes then they can create an environment that enhances motivation.
Understanding the athletes’ perception of competence and success plays an important part in how a coach deals with a competition as this has the potential to influence their continued participation in sport. Gill (1986 as sited in Weinberg & Gould, 1995), suggests achievement motivation is the desire to strive for task focused success, persist through failures, and experience pride in accomplishments. Coaches need to remember that they may have an athlete that is both trait and situation motivated. For example, if athletes are not motivated, it could be that they are simply not interested in improving or it that training is not stimulating. Implications for coaching might suggest the need to include a variety of activities and venues within training sessions, the need to set task related goals and give athletes responsibilities to feel a sense of control. It is important for coaches to emphasize what is within the athletes’ control rather than what is outside their control. Coaches need to create a fun environment and guide athletes to set realistic and achievable self identified task goals, as this gives a greater sense of control. Athletes can control their behaviour, but cannot control their genetics or the performance level of competitors. Mastery goals focus on mastering a specific skills or tasks associated to a specific sport e.g. passing, kicking, tackling, shooting (Hodge, 2004). When an athlete successfully begins to master these goals it increases the motivation levels because they are beginning to see progress and succeed. Initially focusing on task goals by using the SMART principle as a guide line maybe more effective before the athlete focuses on the outcome goal of winning or losing because there is a higher chance of achieving success. As improvements in performance begin to manifest, the results and outcome goals generally are also being achieved due to the improvements in skill mastery, which will also enhance motivation levels for the athletes. Therefore when setting goals, it is extremely important to include mastery goals because this internal drive can activate behaviour to create a positive experience for athletes, and therefore potentially long-term participation in sport.
Coaching is about supporting athletes’ decisions and helping them appreciate the important role of mistakes in the learning process. Always keep the team climate positive and constructive, coaches should focus primarily on what athletes are doing right and help them see errors as learning opportunities (Shields & Bredemeier, 2006). In essence coaches must understand the principles of motivation, what motivates people and how to use that motivation to enhance the mental and physical performance of athletes. This will enable coaches to design and improve programmes for their athletes in the future.
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