Understanding and enhancing motivation is one of the most popular topics in sports psychology and coaching. Motivation is seen not only as a drive to engage in an activity, but more importantly as the driving force of human excellence. It is the level of motivation that will often differentiate those athletes who excel from those who do not. Motivation has also been defined as the ability to act. The term motivation is derived from a Latin word “movere” meaning “to move” (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002).
It is through motivation that individuals can exert effort to meet the demands of a task or an activity. Motivation prompts enthusiasm, purposefulness and committed behaviour. Maintaining motivation can be a challenging task for most individuals. There are a number of contributing factors that can alter an individual’s desire to persist with an activity.
Signs of motivated Individuals include:

  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Appropriately confident
  • Committed
  • Deliberate and purposeful in actions

Signs of amotivated Individuals include:

  • Disengaged
  • Distracted
  • Lack of interest
  • Half hearted
  • Uncommitted
  • Unprepared

In this article we explore the concept of motivational climate, and learn the importance of social support from parents and role models in the motivation-enhancing process for athletes.
Motivational Climate and Goal Orientation
There are social-psychological situations created by others that can have an impact on an individual’s level of motivation. Personal issues (e.g. aspirations, goals and expectations), environmental issues (e.g. selection, training, competitive environment, competition) and team issues (e.g. coach’s aspirations, and coaching styles) may all represent potential sources of stress in athletes (Duda & Balaguer, 2007). Thus, the environment created by the coach, the family and peers (i.e., the motivational climate) as perceived by the individual learner could affect them adversely, and provoke anxiety and possibly influence self-confidence and their level of motivation.
The importance of the perceived motivational climate (PMC), the situational structures seen by the athletes as emphasized in a particular setting, has been highlighted by Nicholls (1989) achievement theory. It is theorised that the PMC is composed of two goal structures. The mastery climate is a task-involving climate that emphasises the process of competition and skill development (Duda & Balaguer, 2007).
Performance climate is an ego-involving climate that focuses on the competitive outcome. The PMC may be fostered by the coach, parents, team or a combination of these factors. The motivational climate perceived by the individual has been related to the achievement goal orientations held by the athlete. For example, a perceived mastery climate has been related to task orientation, while a perceived performance climate has been related to an ego orientation (White, Kavussanu, Tank, & Wingate, 2004).
It has been reported that a task orientated climate adopted by the coach can result in positive cognitive and emotional responses in athletes. The relationship between climate and goal orientations has been found to affect aspects of performance. Nicholls (1984) thought that task orientation and the “compatible perceptions” of a mastery climate would be associated with:

  • Adaptive motivational responses such as increased effort, commitment and persistence in achievement settings;
  • Greater enjoyment, satisfaction and positive affect;
  • The belief that effort is an important cause of sport success;
  • Adaptive coping strategies, problem solving and reduced susceptibility to burnout;
  • Perceived competence.

On the other hand, ego orientation and performance climate perceptions would lead to maladaptive motivational responses such as:

  • Low effort;
  • Lack of commitment and persistence;
  • Higher anxiety and performance worry;
  • The belief that ability is an important determinant of sport achievement;
  • Dropping out in sport.

These maladaptive motivational responses were thought to occur due to the detrimental nature of ego orientations and performance climates which emphasized competitive outcome over skill development (Vosloo, Ostrow & Watson, 2009; Ntoumanis, Vazou & Duda, 2007). As such, in enhancing motivation, compatibility of goal orientation and motivational climate are essential as they may influence an individual’s cognitive, affective and behavioural responses in achievement setting (Duda & Balaguer, 2007).
Social support from Parents and Peers
The role that parents play in creating a motivational climate that is conducive to achievement goals is important. Generally supportive and involved parents create a climate that can lead to feelings of autonomy and competence. Such climate can result in feelings of joy, excitement and increased perception of ability. It has been said that children who are granted by their parents more opportunities to pursue their interests develop greater feelings of autonomy.
It is suggested that a supportive climate offered by the parents is likely to lead to greater motivation and participation in sport (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005). However, parents can also be inhibitors of motivation. Parents who emphasize winning and excellence can discourage children form physical activity participation. In addition to that, a relationship that has been established between the child and the parent can create a positive motivational climate.
In particular, secure parent-child relationship leads to an internally developed set of goals, acting as an intrinsic type of motivation for that child. Similarly, an insecure parent-child relationship promotes detachments and emotional distress and the use of external control of behaviour. As such, children in such a relationship are more likely to be extrinsically motivated to pursue their desired activities (White, 2007).
Individuals may not always be related to or be explained by the need or desire to demonstrate physical ability. Social concerns such as demonstrating social connections have also been implicated as motives especially in young people (Allen, 2003). Social bonds are necessary for optimal psychological functioning and the need to establish such connection serves as an energizer for the individual. Motivation occurs when the need to belong stimulates goal directed behaviour designed to satisfy that need.
According to self determination theory, an environment that promotes relatedness support and autonomy support increases cooperation and individual initiative (Ntoumanis, Vazou & Duda, 2007). Relatedness support is the encouragement and facilitation by peers of being part of a group as well as the degree to which the peers create a friendly atmosphere. Autonomy support on the other hand refers to the individual feeling that their teammates and peers value their input. Therefore it is suggested that social relationships act as motivation for sports participation as such individuals are oriented towards potential gains associated with involvement in certain activities.
Such gains as social status and social validation through approval from significant others such as peers are propelling factors to persist. As a result, social relationships are ego orientated goals functioning as an extrinsic motivation for the concerned individual (Allen, 2003).
Role Models
Role models, heroes and mentors are part of everyday life and are believed to have great significance on the beliefs and actions of an individual. Role models that an individual identify with can act as a source of motivation. It’s a long standing assumption that human behaviour is learned by observation through modeling. From a motivational perspective, modeling is considered to be one of the most powerful means of transmitting values, attitudes and patterns of behaviour and thoughts.
According to Bandura (cited in Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005), there are 4 processes which are essential for effective modeling to occur: attention, retention, production and motivation. The argument is that an individual must attend to the appropriate information gathered from the model, be capable of producing the desired movements demonstrated by the model and be motivated to carry out the behaviour (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005).
It is also suggested that the characteristics of the role model determine how that role model may influence individual‘s new behaviour. If the role model is similar to the individual rather than dissimilar and demonstrates high skilled activity, it is more likely that the learning individual will have increased motivation. It is easier for an individual to believe that they can accomplish skills or change behaviour if they see someone similar to them undertaking actions before they make the attempt themselves (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005).
Self Modeling
Unlike role modeling, self modeling is where by an individual watches a “video” of themselves and only views their successful behaviours. Self modeling is designed to increase the self efficacy of an individual as it provides clear information on how best to perform skills and it strengthens beliefs in one’s capability (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005).
Because past behaviour is believed to be the strongest predictor of current self efficacy judgements, by observing oneself executing successful moves, a learner is more motivated to continue progressing. Self modelling falls in line with the assumptions of Self Efficacy theory that there are three mediating factors that influence the individual’s response to modeling and these are:

  • Self-efficacy expectancy: This is concerned about the learners’ perceptions of how capable they feel they are to actually carry out the behaviour.
  • Outcome expectancy: If there is a high probability that the behaviour will result in the specific outcome, there is a greater chance that the learner will adopt the behaviour.
  • Outcome value: If the outcome of the behaviour is desirable then there is a greater likelihood of the behaviour being undertaken.

Feed forward
A specific mode of self modelling known as feed forward has also been said to have a potential of positively influencing motivation and performance. Feed forward modelling provides an individual with information about possible future behaviour rather than their past or current behaviour.
This strategy is similar to self modelling in that the individual views themselves performing successfully but it differs in that the performance shown to the individual is the skill or behaviour that the individual is yet to accomplish. It appears that through this technique, the learner’s perceptions are transformed so that what was previously viewed as beyond ones’ capabilities soon becomes part of one’s repertoire (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005).

  • Allen, J. (2003). Social motivation in youth sport. Journal of sport and Exercise Psychology, 25, 551-567.
  • Duda, J. & Balaguer, I. (2007). Coach- Created Motivational Climate. in Jowett, S., & Lavelle, e, (Eds.). Social Psychology in Sport (pp. 117-130). Champaign: Human Kinetics.
  • Eccles, J., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values and goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 109-132. 
  • Walker, B., Foster, S., Daubert, S. & Nathan, D. (2005). Motivation. In Taylor, J. & Wilson, G. (2005) (Eds.). Applying Sport Psychology: Four Perspectives, Champaign: Human Kinetics
  • White, S.A. Kavussanu, M., & Guest, S. M. (1998). Goal orientations and perceptions of the motivational climate created by significant others. European Journal of Physical Education, 3, 212-228.

Source: www.mentalhealthacademy.com.au