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.
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Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge, M.A., Harvard Uiiversity Press.
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