In sport setting motivation is defined in terms of goals-related efficacy. Early theories described motivation in terms of quantitative entity as a function of the energy and effort directed towards the specific behavior. However, this conceptualization does not account for the mechanisms of behavioral initiation and persistence. From a qualitative perspective, motivation refers to the meaning and value of the behavior for the individual. In sport settings two conceptions of motivation that have been studied extensively are self-determination and achievement motivation.
Self-determination theory (SDT) differentiates between the sources for motivational regulations (Deci & Ryan 1985; Ryan & Deci 2000). Originally, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations were differentiated. Later, a continuum with varying degrees of individual autonomy was proposed (Deci and Ryan 2000). According to this theory, people experience one of two forms of motivation: autonomous/intrinsic or controlled/extrinsic. When athletes experience intrinsic motivation, they feel a profound sense of choice. In contrast, when they experience extrinsic motivation, they feel obliged and driven by external forces, such as coaches, parents, or society in general. Importantly, when individuals tend to feel autonomous, their effort, persistence , enjoyment and wellbeing improve.
Achievement goal orientations represent the ways that people construe success. Two major goal perspectives are proposed: task-oriented goals (also known as learning goals or mastery goals) and ego-oriented goals (performance goals) (Dweck 1986; Dweck & Leggett 1988; Nicholls 1984, 1989). When task-oriented, athlete’s perceptions of her ability are self-referenced and dependent upon personal improvement and task-mastery. Task-oriented individuals participate in sport in an attempt to self-improve. They attribute success and perceived ability to their own effort, and operate independently of the performances of others. When ego-oriented, perceptions of ability are normatively-referenced and based upon comparisons with the performance of others. Egi-orientated individuals, compete with others instead of themselves.
Research has constantly shown that a higher success rate in athletics will stem from task-oriented individuals. This can be explained by the notion that such athletes are self-aware and aiming to improve themselves, they are typically more stable and harder working than purely ego-oriented people. Task-oriented individuals are also less apt to be brought down by failure and adversity. However, those goals are not mutually exclusive and the best option for an athlete would be having both high task and ego orientation.
Deci, E. L. and R. M. Ryan (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, Plenum Press.
Deci, E. L. and R. M. Ryan (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.
Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41, 1040-1048.
Dweck, C. S. and E. L. Leggett (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273
Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 91, 328-346.
Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge, M.A., Harvard Uiiversity Press.
Ryan, R. M. and E. L. Deci (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.