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Motivation in sport

What motivate today’s athletes? A variety of definitions and approaches to the study motivation will be discussed. One of the forms of motivation being discussed will be intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivations are very important for promoting satisfaction and long term participation in sport. There are three academic approaches to the study of intrinsic motivation: behavioral, cognitive, and motivational. Researchers have found that the intrinsic motivation of athletes seems very important for continuing participation, and elite performance in sport. Extrinsic motivation refers to motivation that an individual has that comes from outside sources. The motivating forces are external or exterior rewards such as money or awards. These rewards supply fulfillment and satisfaction that the mission itself may not supply. Another form of motivation has to do with gender. Researches have determined that there are motivational differences among male and female sports. It’s also been determined that male and female athletes possess different strengths and weaknesses within the motivational climate. Some detailed differences stated were that men had higher levels of motivation in competition, social acknowledgment, strength and endurance, where women had stronger motivation to control weight.

Introduction to your Research Topic

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are both adaptable and adjust in reaction to specific situations. While not easy to define, intrinsic motivation can be explained as an internal drive to perform an activity. While extrinsic motivation is known as an external motivating source that drives action. It is said that people attribute their behavior either to an internal or external source. Intrinsic motivation correlates positively when people attribute their motivation to internal sources, while extrinsic motivation is correlated to belief in an external source for their behavior (Wiersma, U. J., 1992). Extrinsic motivation, by definition, is changeable since it is an external motivator – one can change the reward or external. Meta-analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational research by Deci, Koestner and Ryan (1999) found that intrinsic motivation is negatively affected when tangible extrinsic motivation is attached to the behavior. This undermining of intrinsic motivation is the result of a perceived decrease in autonomy and competency by the individual receiving the extrinsic reward. Self-determination Theory states that humans have three innate needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Of these, autonomy and competence are the key drivers of intrinsic motivation (Franken, 2002). As a result we see that intrinsic motivation can be changed by adding an extrinsic motivating component.

Background of the Research Topic

When you start discussing the nature of motivation of sport through gender, you have to ask yourself a question. Has the perceptions of sports progressed in ways that reflect participation in sport? Additional contribution in media exposure of high action sports has increased considerably since the previous studies had examined attitudes in gender-appropriate sports. Motivation in sports and exercise has been studied over the last century but only in recent decades has motivation by gender been analyzed. Studies in the area of motivation by gender in these sports and exercise fields: individual and team sports and exercise, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, track and field, and general sports participation and exercise (Kilpatrick, Hebert, Bartholomew, 2005). These results were the most consistent throughout the reports with other similarities and differences noted with each study.

Deci, et al. (1999) stated that intrinsic motivation can also be improved by increasing an individual’s perceptions of autonomy and ability. Deci, et al. (1999) also showed that research supported the notion that extrinsic motivations impact on intrinsic motivation was influenced by the controlling nature of those extrinsic rewards. For example, positive feedback that is not measured as controlling would likely add to a person’s perceived ability to have a positive effect on their intrinsic motivation. Vallerand (2000) looks at motivation in a multidimensional approach that changes more than the differences in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. He states that motivation for both is on a scale that ranges from a high to low level of willpower and that operates on three distinctive levels: global which is an individual’s overall general motivation in a specific domain or field such as education or sports. Situational or “the here and now. For each of these levels individuals can have diverse motivation levels both intrinsic and extrinsic way. For instance, a person can be greatly intrinsically motivated to participate in sports, but less intrinsically motivated concerning education. However, if a person is feeling sick or tired, they may not have the equal intrinsic motivation to participate in sports activities that day. Extrinsic rewards can be useful to both and impact situational motivation in both the short and long term. For example, that individual might be highly motivated to do well on a test and receive a good grade (extrinsic motivation) so that they can be eligible to play on their sports team (intrinsic motivation). Vallerand (2000) postulates that repeated levels of low levels of situational intrinsic motivation will likely have a diminishing effect on the larger contextual intrinsic motivation. He highlights research done on motivation to play basketball where intrinsic motivational levels were affected by situational motivational levels during tournament games. This research has many implications for organizations and educational situations. While understanding that extrinsic motivation is one of the main drivers of the business world, compensation and other incentive packages need to address their impact on intrinsic motivation and be developed in ways that will reduce the adverse affects or possibly even add to the intrinsic motivational levels. More research on real life situations would be beneficial.

Impact on sports


Even though the experiences of many girls and women in the United States point to the opposite, research demonstrates that media always present sports as the a male dominated field (Duncan & Sayaovong, 1990; Hardin, Lynn, Walsdoff, & Hardin, 2002; Pedersen, 2002). Several studies have established that female athletes have been greatly underrepresented in the media (Bernstein, 2002; Pedersen, 2002). The rationale for this may possibly be that the mainly accepted sports in the country are those looked upon to be masculine sports (Messner, 2002). However, since Title IX, the progress of women into a variety of sports that are not considered “non-masculine” has been extraordinary. Women participate in practically all types of sport, including those used to display the ultimate masculinity. Even though gender-role differences are natural in accepted perception, research has extensively demonstrated that, as an alternative, most are publicly created (Bandura, 1986; Messner, 2002). Gender stereotyping is everywhere, unseen regulators of relationships and opportunities. Bandura’s social cognitive theory plays a huge role in understanding the factors in socialization. This theory argues that behavior, environmental actions, and cognitive factors work to form attitudes and action. Individuals consider action and its result, projecting cost and adjusting accordingly. Therefore, “action is not a result of “imprinted histories” as much as it is a result of “cognized futures” (Bandura, 1986, p. 19). Bandura states the responsibility of the media in social culture so much that, he argues; television “has “dethroned” the dominance of interpersonal experience”. As a result, life reflects the media (Bandura, 1986, p. 20).

Findings of previous research


Motivation is a critical factor within the sport and exercise field. Understanding how and what motivation works is just as important. Based on these reviews sex also plays a role within the motivational climate. Studies have discovered variations in motivational factors within each gender. In Chie-der, Chen, Hung-yu, and Li-Kang’s journal 87 male and 87 female basketball players from the HBL were chosen for the research. Four questionnaires were used to calculate four different factors: participants’ goal orientation, the motivational climate they perceived, perceived personal athletic ability, perceived personal sport-related confidence (Chie-der, Chen, Hung-yu, Li-Kang,2003). Using a t test gender differences were found. Males tend to record higher scores than females for sports related confidence factors. Males scored higher in ego orientation, perceived ability, and in physical performance. Females scored higher in task orientation, perceived task climate, and leadership styles (Chie-der, Chen, Hung-yu, Li-Kang,2003).  In Kilpatrick, Hebert, Bartholomew’s study 233 students were studied (132 women, 101 men). The reason behind this study was to evaluate sports participation and exercise motivation through a highly differentiated scale of activity. The second purpose was to investigate the impact of gender on motivation. This study confirmed that men were more highly motivated then women when it comes down to endurance and strength, social recognition, challenge, and most notably competition, where women were more motivated by weight management (Kilpatrick, Hebert, Bartholomew, 2005). It was additionally recommended in this analysis that motivations to participate in sports is different from motivators to participate in exercise. Also stated that more of the health related motives were associated to exercise versus sports participation; as a result signifying that sports participation is closely linked to intrinsic motives. It was recommended that based on these conclusions that men leaned more closely to intrinsic motivation then women. The study also implied that men viewed exercise and fitness opportunities as ways to accomplish ego related goals that support their sports involvement where women seemed to enjoy exercising and sports involvement equally (Kilpatrick, Hebert, Bartholomew, 2005).

Intrinsic Motivation

Many people feel that intrinsic motivation is not as prevalent in sports as extrinsic motivation. The perception is that athletes need something to play for, rather than being motivated by intrinsic motivation such as the challenge of the game. In this article; “Intrinsic Motivation: Relationships with Collegiate Athletes’ Gender, Scholarship Status, and Perceptions of Their Coaches’ Behavior” (Amorose and Horn, 2000). A study was designed to find out if college athlete’s motivation level was the same as far as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was concerned. Based on Amorose and Horn’s research; “Athletes receiving an athletic scholarship had no difference in intrinsic motivation than athletes who were not on scholarship”(Amorose and Horn, 2000). Amorose and Horn study male and female athletes but also from a variety of sports. When these studies were done all the athletes were selected from the same schools. Athletes participate with the same level of motivation whether they are on athletic scholarships or not. Therefore athletes do not let the condition of having a scholarships effect the way they play or perform.

Conclusion Section

In conclusion, there is no cut and dry answer to the question of what factors motivates today’s athletes, rather there are multifaceted combinations of some or all of the motives we have discussed in this paper depending on the person. There are many answers to this question, each probably as unique as the individuals themselves. From money, championships and attention; or maybe just for the challenge. There are many different explanations as to why athletes compete. Many factors contribute to the reasons why they play their respective sports, and as to what drives them to do so. Gender also plays a role in the drive and perception of what motivates athletes in their particular sport. More research is needed to fully understand why and what perceived factors play a role in athletic motivation.


Self-determination- determination by oneself or itself, without outside influence

Goal orientations- A motivational construct referring to personal definitions of success

Motivational climate- definition of success and failure emphasized in a social environment

Perceived competence- an individual’s judgment about his or her ability in a particular area

Cognitive- human behavior is influenced by the way people think about themselves and their environment.

References page

JAM Murcia,(2008) Relationships among Goal Orientations, Motivational Climate and Flow in Adolescent Athletes: Difference by Gender,The Spanish Journal of Psychology, volume 11, number 1, 181-191.

Kilpatrick, Hebert, and Bartholomew, (2005) College Students Motivation for Physical Activity: Differentiating Men’s and Women’s Motives for Sport Participation and Exercise, Journal of American College Health, volume 54, number2

Gareth W. Jones, Ken S. Mackay, and Derek M. Peters, (2006) Participation Motivation in Martial Artists in the West Midlands Region of England, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine CSSI, 28-34

Dongfang Chie-der, Steve Chen, Chou Hung-yu, and Chi Li-Kang, (2003), Gender Differential in the Goal Setting, Motivation, Perceived Ability, and Confidence Sources of Basketball Players, The Sport Journal ISSN 1543-9518

Gillison, Standage, Skevington, (2006), Relationships among adolescents’ weight perceptions, exercise goals, exercise motivation, quality of life and leisure-time exercise behavior: a self-determination theory approach, Oxford Journals, Vol. 21, no. 6

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., and Ryan, R. M., (1999). Meta-analytic review of

experiments examining the effects of extrinsic reward and intrinsic motivation.

Psychological Bulletin (125). Retrieved on November 13, 2010 from EBSCOhost.

Franken, R. E., (2002). Human Motivation. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.

Vallerand, R. J., (2000). Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory: A view

from the Hierarchical Model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Wiersma, U. J., (1992). The effects of extrinsic rewards in intrinsic motivation: A

meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (65).

Retrieved on November 13, 2010 from EBSCOhost.

Amorose,Anthony J. and Horn, Thelma S.”Intrinsic Motivation:Relationships with Collegiate Athletes’ Gender, Scholarship Status, and Perceptions of Their Coaches’ Behavior”Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, Mar2000 Vol.22 Issue 1 Pg. 63-84

Ryan, E. .”Intrinsic Motivation:Relationships with Collegiate Athletes’ Gender, Scholarship Status, and Perceptions of Their Coaches’ Behavior”Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, Mar2000 Vol.22 Issue 1 Pg. 63-84

Amorose, Anthony J.; Horn, Thelma S.. “A Season-Long Examination of Intrinsic Motivation in First Year College Athletes: Relationships with Coaching Behavior and Scholarship Status.” Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology Jun95 Supplement, Vol. 17 Issue 2, pS20-S20, 1/2p

Jambor, E., Zhang, J. (1997). Investigating leaderhip, gender, and coaching level using the

Revised Leadership for Sport Scale. Journal of Sport Behavior, (9) 313-321.

Koivula, N. (September 1999). Sport participation: differences in motivation and actual

participation due to gender typing. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22(3), 360-365

Barber, H., Sukhi, H. & White, S. A. (June 1999). The influence of parent-coaches on participant motivation and competitive anxiety in youth sport participants. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22(2), 162-174

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