Achievement goal theory: ‘An athlete’s motivation should always be to aim to be the best’

Topics: Motivation, Educational psychology, Regulatory Focus Theory Pages: 10 (3215 words) Published: October 13, 2013
“Success and failure are not concrete events. They are psychological states consequent on the perception of reaching or not reaching goals” (Maehr & Nicholls, 1980. p. 228). The quality of an athlete's sporting experience is shaped by the way in which success is defined, and by how capabilities are judged (Duda, 1993). Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) (Nicholls, 1984; 1989) outlines that people are motivated by the desire to fell competent. People can define competence and success in different ways, the main ones being ego and task orientations. Research is consistent in showing the motivational benefits of a task-orientation, either singly or in combination with an ego-orientation. In order to keep athletes involved in sport, success must mean being the best as well as task mastery and personal improvement (Duda, 1993).

Drawing from past research, I will construct an essay to support the statement: ‘An athlete’s motivation should always be to aim to be the best’. I will firstly outline important tenants of AGT, in particular ego and task orientations, approach and avoidance goals, motivational climates, and TARGET guidelines. Secondly, I will use this information to provide a brief analysis of the motivational style that a coach of the Varsity rugby league team; Brent, performs, and the effects this style has on a particular 18-year-old athlete; Justin. Finally, I will describe specific theoretically based strategies that can be used by Brent, to adapt a more correct motivational atmosphere for Justin and his team. Coaches play an important role in determining the types of motivational orientations athletes perceive (Ames, 1992). Part 1: Theoretical Understanding.

According to AGT (Nicholls, 1984, 1989), in achievement situations the goal of participants is to demonstrate competence or avoid demonstrating incompetence. AGT recognises at least two approaches athletes may adopt to judge their ability within a sporting context. A focus on comparing oneself to others (ego-orientated) or a focus on one’s own effort and improvement (task-orientated) Athletes, who are ego-orientated, perceive ability as limiting the effects of effort on performance (Nicholls, 1989). Here athletes show their high capacity of ability often at the expense of effort. Nicholls (1989) states that ego-orientated individuals judge their ability relative to others, and try to demonstrate superior ability or outperform others to be satisfied. Those who are highly task-orientated use cues such as levels of effort and task completion to assess their competence, in a self-reflective manner. Here the athlete is satisfied if they perform to a level that reflects how they have mastered a task or made personal improvements (Ames, 1992).

Much research points to the advantage of being task-involved when participating in sport and other achievement-related activities (Ames, 1992; Duda, 1993, 2001). Positive outcomes include health, well-being, and social and performance-related factors. When athletes report being task-oriented, they persist longer at sporting tasks, they are more engaged with their trainings, and they use more effective cognitive processing strategies (tennis). In comparison, ego-oriented goals may lead to negative outcomes, such as the tendency to drop out of sport (Duda & Balaguer, 2007). Adaptive cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns are characteristics of task-orientated athletes as well as for those who are ego-oriented but who have high perceived competence or ability. Maladaptive patters are predicted for ego-oriented individuals who have low perceived ability (Nicholls, 1989). Athletes become predisposed to task and ego orientations because of social factors in their sport (i.e. the coach), and these orientations will subsequently influence what goal preference an athlete will adopt in a specific situation (Duda & Balaguer, 2007).

Elliot (1999) & Pintrich (2000) state that task and ego goals are each divided into approach...

References: Ames, C. (1992). Achievement goals and the classroom motivational climate. In J. L. Meece & D. H. Schunck (Eds.). Student perceptions in the classroom (pp. 327-348). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Duda, J. L. (1993) Goals: A social cognitive approach to the study of achievement motivation in sport. In R. N. Singer,M.Murphey and L. K. Tennant (eds.), Handbook of Research on Sport Psychology, pp. 421–436, New York: Macmillan.
Duda, J. L. (2001). Achievement goal research in sport: Pushing the boundaries and clarifying some misunderstandings. In G. C. Roberts (Ed.), Advances in motivation in sport and exercise (pp. 129-182). Leeds: Human Kinetics.
Duda, J. L., & Balaguer, I. (2007). The coach-created motivational climate. In S. Jowett & D. Lavalee (Eds.), Social psychology of sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
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Maehr, M. L. and Nicholls, J. G. (1980) ‘Culture and achievement motivation: A second look’. In N.Warren (ed.), Studies in Cross-cultural Psychology, Vol. II, pp. 221–267, New York: Academic Press.
Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. London: Harvard University Press.
Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 97, 328-346.
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Pintrich, P
Spray, C.M. (2000). Predicting participation in non-compulsory physical education: Do goal perspectives matter? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 90: 1207-1215.
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