It is important for professionally certified coaches and trainers to understand why some people seem so highly motivated to achieve their goals and why others seem to go along for the ride. We start by discussing two related motives that influence performance and participation in sport achievement: achievement motivation and competitiveness.
What Is Achievement Motivation?
Achievement motivation refers to a person’s efforts to master a task, achieve excellence, overcome obstacles, perform better than others, and take pride in exercising talent. It is a person’s orientation to strive for task success, persist in the face of failure, and have pride in accomplishments.
Not surprisingly, coaches, exercise leaders, and teachers have an interest in achievement motivation because it includes the precise characteristics that allow athletes to achieve excellence, exercisers to gain high levels of fitness, and students to maximize learning.
Like the general views of motivation and personality, views of achievement motivation, in particular, have progressed from a trait-oriented view of a person’s need for achievement to an interactional view that emphasizes more changeable achievement goals and the ways in which these affect and are affected by the situation. Achievement motivation in sport is popularly called competitiveness.
What Is Competitiveness?
Competitiveness is defined as “a disposition to strive for satisfaction when making comparisons with some standard of excellence in the presence of evaluative others” (Martens, 1976, p. 3). Basically, Martens views competitiveness as achievement behavior in a competitive context, with social evaluation as a key component. It is important to look at a situation-specific achievement orientation: Some people who are highly oriented toward achievement in one setting (e.g., competitive sport) are not in other settings (e.g., math class).
Martens’ definition of competitiveness is limited to situations in which one is evaluated by, or has the potential to be evaluated by, knowledgeable others. Yet many people compete with themselves (e.g., trying to better their own running time from the previous day) even when no one else evaluates the performance. The level of achievement motivation would bring out this self-competition, whereas the level of competitiveness would influence behavior in socially evaluated situations. For this reason, we discuss achievement motivation and competitiveness together in this chapter.
Effects of Motivation Achievement
Achievement motivation and competitiveness deal not just with the final outcome or the pursuit of excellence but also with the psychological journey of getting there. If we understand why motivation differences occur in people, we can intervene positively. Thus, we are interested in how a person’s competitiveness and achievement motivation influence a wide variety of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, including the following:
- Choice of activity (e.g., seeking out opponents of equal ability to compete against or looking for players of greater or lesser ability to play with)
- Effort to pursue goals (e.g., how often you practice)
- Intensity of effort in the pursuit of goals (e.g., how consistently hard you try during a workout)
- Persistence in the face of failure and adversity (e.g., when the going gets tough, do you work harder or take it easier?)
In essence, individuals participate in sport and physical activity for different reasons and are motivated by different methods and situations.
Your Sports Psychology Career
Sports Psychology Coaches have endless opportunities to work with athletes ranging from beginning to professional and all points in between. Some coaches build businesses working with youth athletes. Others specialize in sports such as triathlon. Other coaches work with teams in the college and pro ranks. There are no limits to what is possible for your career.
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