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SPORT PSYCHOLOGY Chapter 4. Motivation. Lavallee et al. (2004) Sport Psychology: Contemporary Themes (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke). Introduction, History and Development. There has been a longstanding concern with motivation in both psychology and sport

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Lavallee et al. (2004) Sport Psychology: Contemporary Themes (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke)


Introduction, History and Development

  • There has been a longstanding concern with motivation in both psychology and sport
  • Theory and practice still don’t always coincide
  • Motivation is commonly defined as ‘Psychological processes that energise the individual and thereby influence behaviour.’
  • ‘Despite being an important topic it is a regrettable fact that motivation is a poorly understood phenomenon in the trenches.... nowhere is the concept of motivation more misunderstood than in sport.’ Roberts(1992, p.4)

Introduction, History and Development

  • Drive theory
    • Hull (1951); Spence (1956)
  • Need Achievement Theory
    • NAch = (Ms – MAF)(Ps x Is) + Mext
    • McClelland (1961) and Atkinson (1964)
  • Sport Orientation Questionnaire
    • Gill, 1993

Introduction, History and Development

Weiner’s Attribution Theory (1985, 1986)

  • We explain success & failure with reference to ability, effort, task and luck


Attribution Categories








In One’s Control

Out of One’s Control


Introduction, History and Development

Two key questions

  • Why do we participate in sport?
  • Why do we withdraw from sport?

Introduction, History and Development

1. Motivators of Participation

  • Fun: enjoyment, pleasure, psychological benefits
  • Affiliation: social experience, friendship, significant others
  • Competence: personal challenge, skill acquisition/ improvement
  • Fitness: health, weight loss, strength, improve appearance
  • Success: competition or personal accomplishment

Motivators can often change over time


Introduction, History and Development

2. Demotivators of Participation

  • Other interests: conflict of alternative activities
  • Lack of improvement in skill: lack of progress
  • Lack of fun: boredom, playing time
  • Time pressure: increased time taken up by practice and competition
  • Excessive pressure: from coach, parents and peers

Can be temporary or permanent

Can be at a particular level or total rejection


Introduction, History and Development

  • There have been great many descriptive studies into demotivation (who, what, where and how)
    • e.g. drop out and attrition rates in adolescence
    • Adherence to exercise programmes
  • There have been fewer theoretical investigations (why)
    • e.g. how both psychological and structural variables interact to determine both participation and drop out

Theories and Models 1

Self-determination Theory or Cognitive Evaluation Theory

(Deci,1971; Fredrick & Ryan, 1995)

  • Individuals have the need to demonstrate competence and self-determination in life domains, including sport 
  • Central concepts: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, amotivation
  • Intrinsic motivation influenced by degree of autonomy or self-determination
  • Self-determination operationalized as Locus of Causality (LoC)
    • Internal LoC - higher perceived control, enhanced intrinsic motivation
    • External LoC - low perceived control, decreased intrinsic motivation

Theories and Models 1

  • Vallerand & Losier (1999) have represented self-determination theory in a hierarchical model
  • Social Factors (success, failure, competition, co-operation, coach behaviour and parental influence)exert their influence through perceptions of autonomy, competence and relatedness
  • The consequences of motivation can be:
    • Affective (I feel)
    • Behavioural (I do)
    • Cognitive (I think)

Theories and Models 1

Continuum of Self-determination

Ext LoC Int LoC

Amotivation Extrinsic Mot Intrinsic Mot

(Deci & Ryan, 1985)


Theories and Models 2

Perceived Competence Theory(Harter, 1978)

  • Motivation influenced by perceptions of competence and control
    • We are motivated to participate to display competence or mastery
  • An activity can be too easy/difficult or a challenge.
    • Easy and difficult tasks provide little information on one’s mastery or skill and add little to perceptions of competence
    • The optimal challenge is difficult and demanding but attainable

Theories and Models 2

  • Mastery attempts are used to receive feedback on competence. This information then influences:
    • Perceived competence
    • Perceived control
    • Affective responses
    • Future exertion/effort
    • Probability of continued participation

Greater effort

Less effort

High Competence


Low Competence










Theories and Models 2


Mastery Attempts


Theories and Models 2

  • Perceived success:
    • can be defined either internally or externally
    • results in intrinsic pleasure and raises competence
    • increases achievement striving behaviour
  • Perceived failure:
    • can be defined either internally or externally
    • results in dissatisfaction and perceived incompetence
    • encourages fewer mastery attempts

Theories and Models 2

  • Coaches, teachers, parents and peers can influence perceived competence
    • Females rely more on feedback from significant others
    • Athletes who receive corrective information see it as reflecting lower ability
    • Athletes who receive praise see it as a reflection of high ability

Theories and Models 3

Achievement Goal Orientation (GO) Theory

(Nicholls, 1984)

  • Currently the most popular approach in motivation literature within sport psychology
  • Proposes that motivational affect, behaviour and cognition can be understood in terms of two goal perspectives – ego and task
  • Goal Orientations are thought to be influenced by both situational and dispositional factors
  • Both goal orientations are independent – e.g.
    • High Task, Low Ego - Low Task, High Ego
    • High Task, High Ego - Low Task, Low Ego

Theories and Models 3

Task Orientation

  • Self-referenced reasons for participation
    • skill development, skill mastery, affiliation, fitness
  • Typical behaviours
    • persistence, optimal effort
    • work hard
    • choose challenging activities
    • seek feedback

Theories and Models 3

Ego Orientation

  • Normative referenced reasons for participation
    • Recognition, competition, social status
  • Typical behaviours
    • perception of high ability
    • careful selection of activities – avoid failure
    • little effort during practice

NB Both orientations find competition meaningful… it is the meaning attached to competition that distinguishes them


Theories and Models 3

Differences in Achievement GO(Nicholls, 1978; Roberts & Treasure, 1995; White & Duda), 1994)

  • Children tend to be more task oriented
  • Children of 10 years could be ego oriented
  • Adolescents tend to be more ego oriented
  • Boys and men are more ego oriented than girls and women In the more competitive levels of sport, participants have a higher ego orientation
  • Task orientation does not vary with level of participation

Theories and Models 3

Significant Others and Achievement GO

(White et al., 98)

  • Parents emphasise different aspects of participation to their children depending on own orientation (team playing/ winning)
  • Children with a dominant orientation tend to view their parents in the same light
  • Both parents and children are poor at judging the other’s actual orientation
  • The perceived orientation of the parent will influence the child’s attitude to participation
  • Similarly a coach or teacher can exert influence over the child’s enjoyment and beliefs about sport

Theories and Models 3

Is a Task GO favourable?(Fox et al., 1994; Hardy et al., 1996)

  • The literature tends to favour task orientation
  • This is limited as a person can have a certain degree of both orientations simultaneously
  • People with a high ego and task orientation are highly motivated in sport
  • A win attitude is needed in sport - an ego orientation can be used to sustain long-term motivation

Theories and Models 4

Self-Efficacy & Social Cognitive Theory

(Bandura, 1977)

  • Self-efficacy refers to person's judgement of:
    • capability to perform (efficacy expectations)
    • outcome of performance (outcome expectations)
  • Bandura suggested 4 sources of information influence self-efficacy:
    • Accomplishments
    • Vicarious experience
    • Physiological state
    • Verbal persuasion
  • Maddux (1995) later added:
    • Emotional states
    • Imaginal experiences

Theories and Models

  • Self-efficacy has been shown to influence:
    • Activity choice
    • Level of effort
    • Degree of persistence
    • Achievement
  • Measured along 3 dimensions:
    • Level (expected attainments)
    • Strength (certainty of attainments)
    • Generality (number of domains)
  • As a psychological construct, self-efficacy plays a significant role in many theories of exercise behaviour

Theories and Models

Social Exchange Theory - Thibaut & Kelley (1959)

  • Underpins many approaches including:
    • Cognitive Affective Model (Smith 1986)
    • Motivational Model of Sport Withdrawal (Gould, 1987)
    • Integrated Model of Sport Participation and Withdrawal (Gould & Petlichkoff, 1988)
    • Sport Commitment Model (Schmidt & Stein, 1991)
  • Core constructs:
    • Outcomes (rewards and costs)
    • Comparison Levels (CL)
    • Comparison Level of Alternatives (CL Alt)

Theories and Models


  • Model of Sport Confidence
    • Vealey (1986)
  • Health Belief Model
    • Becker et al. (1977)
  • Theory of Reasoned Action
    • Ajzen & Fishbein (1970)
  • Theory of Planned Behaviour
    • Ajzen & Madden (1986)
  • Transtheoretical Model of Behavioural Change
    • Prochaska & Di Clemente (1983)

Methods and Measures

Key Participation Constructs

  • Psychological:
    • Perceived competence
      • Perceived Self-Competence Scales (Harter)
      • Physical Self-perception Profile (Fox & Corbin)
      • Physical Description Questionnaire (Marsh)
    • Self-efficacy
    • Goal orientation
      • Perception of Sport Questionnaire (Roberts et al)
      • Task and Ego Orientation Sports Questionnaire (Duda)
    • Competitive orientation
      • Sport Orientation Questionnaire (Gill)
    • Affect / Mood state
      • Positive Affect negative Affect Schedule (Watson et al)
    • Enjoyment

Methods and Measures

Key Participation Constructs

  • Contextual:
    • Significant others
      • Parents, peers, coaches/teachers, family, friends, work colleagues, health professionals
    • Health & fitness
    • Activity choice
      • Boys more likely to choose competitive, team sports
    • Structural barriers
      • Personal (psychological)
      • External (resources, opportunities, other interests)

Practical Issues and Interventions

  • Many intervention programmes do not have strong theoretical support
  • Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour (Cardinal, 1997)
  • TARGET Strategy (Harwood & Biddle, 2002)
  • Goal Setting (Locke & Latham, 1994)
    • SCAMP or SMART
  • Worlds of work and sport are miles apart, hence goal setting may not always translate

Practical Issues and Interventions

  • Several integrated models have emerged to bring together disparate research findings.
    • Integrated Model of Sport Participation and Withdrawal (Gould and Petlichkoff, 1988)
    • Sport Commitment Model (Schmidt and Stein, 1991)
    • Sport Commitment Model (Scanlan et al., 1993)
    • Integrated Model of Sport Participation (Weiss and Chaumeton, 1992)
    • Youth Physical Activity Promotion Model (Welk, 1999)
    • Integrated Theory of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Sport (Vallerand & Losier, 1999)
    • Cognitive-Behavioural Process Model of Participation Motivation (Kremer & Busby, 1998; Lowry, 2002)


Intrinsic Rewards



Contextual Variables




significant others

Equity of



Temporary /Permanent

Alternative Activities

Goal Orientation

Evaluation of Rewards


positive affect,




Perceived Barriers

sig. life events

injury, other interests

lack of facilities, time


to Participate

Decision to





Personal Variables

Psychological –

affect, self-confidence,


Physical –

age, gender, fitness


Extrinsic Rewards

social approval/status

material rewards


Sport Specific



Original Process Model(Kremer and Busby, 1998)



  • Personal Variables
  • Psychological
  • Physical Worth
  • Positive Affect
  • Body Image
  • Goal Orientation
  • Physical
  • Skill / Fitness
  • General
  • Personal Variables
  • Psychological
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-esteem
  • Extroversion
  • Physical
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Contextual Variables
  • Significant others
  • SES
  • Awareness
  • Opportunity
  • Type of Activity

Equity of Reward

R3 & R4

Self-efficacy /

Perceived Competence

  • Evaluation of Rewards
  • Intrinsic/extrinsic
  • Health/fitness
  • Affiliation

Perceived Barriers


Perceived Rewards

Intention to Participate

Decision to Participate



  • Non-participant
  • Temporary
  • Permanent




Alternative Activities


Activity Specific



Domain General


Revised Model

(Lowry & Kremer, 2002)


Case Study

From an early age it was obvious that Paul was likely to excel in sport. At primary school he was on an automatic choice on every team, he played soccer for a local youth side, and ran in the county cross country championships which he won easily. His sport came easily to him and he enjoyed trying out new activities and meeting friends. Both his parents were very supportive. His mother had been a county hockey player and his father had played rugby and was president of the local rugby club. At his secondary school Paul was encouraged to play soccer, and scouts from several professional clubs came to watch him play. One offered him the opportunity of an apprenticeship but his parents were keen for him to continue his education and go on to university if possible. The school principal was an ardent soccer fan and coached the First XI himself. His father was involved with mini rugby at his club and Paul would play rugby in the morning before playing soccer in the afternoon. On occasions where there was a school soccer game then he had to miss mini-rugby which his father accepted but he never went to watch him play. His PE teacher was a keen athletics coach and Paul would still compete although he did not have time for specific training. His natural talent and fitness ensured that he continued to show great promise. At the age of 15 Paul began to find that his enthusiasm for his sport was waning. He began to miss matches because of injury and on one occasion was late for the bus and was left behind. His father could not persuade him to go to rugby and showed his obvious displeasure. Paul began to spend more time playing on his Play station.


Case Study

  • With reference to the Theories and Models section in the chapter, how would you interpret what is happening in this case study?
  • With reference to Methods and Measures, what techniques would you employ to help understand and quantify the issues?
  • With reference to Practical Issues and Interventions, how would you deal with this situation?

Study Questions

1. Compare and contract cognitive evaluation theory, perceived competence theory and achievement goal theory.

2. Review the evidence suggesting that self-efficacy can predict participation in physical activity.

3. Consider the contextual variables that have been shown to influence the initiation, continuation and discontinuation of sport and exercise, with particular reference to the measures commonly associated with these variables.

4. What are some of the limitations of goal setting as a psychological intervention?

5. Outline and evaluate some of the integrative models that have been developed in relation to participation in sport and exercise.


Further Reading

Duda, J.L. & Hall, H. (2001) Achievement goal theory in sport: Recent extensions and future directions’, in R.N. Singer, H.A. Hausenblas and C. Janelle (eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology (pp. 417-443). New York: Wiley.

Harwood, C. and Biddle, S. (2002) ‘The Application of Achievement Goal Theory in Youth Sport’, in I. Cockerill (ed.) Solutions in sport psychology (pp. 58-73). London: Thomson.

Marcus, B. and Forsyth, L.H. (2003) Motivating People to be Physically Active. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Roberts, G. C. (2001) (ed) Advances in Motivation in Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Vallerand, R.J. and Fortier, M.S. (1998) ‘Measures of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Sport and Physical Activity: A Review and Critique’, J.L. Duda (ed.), Advances in Sport and Exercise Psychology Measurement (pp. 81-101). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.