The Relationships between Motivational Climate, Goal Orientations, Anxiety, and Self-Confidence among Swimmers

By Vosloo, Justine; Ostrow, Andrew et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, September 2009 | Go to article overview

The Relationships between Motivational Climate, Goal Orientations, Anxiety, and Self-Confidence among Swimmers


Vosloo, Justine, Ostrow, Andrew, Watson, Jack, C., Journal of Sport Behavior


Many factors come into play when examining anxiety and self-confidence in sport. The antecedents of anxiety in sport have been studied extensively and evidence suggests that 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 (Watson, 1984; Woodman & Hardy, 2001). Thus, the environment created by the coach (i.e., the motivational climate) as perceived by the athlete could affect the athlete adversely, and provoke anxiety and possibly influence self-confidence.

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). It is theorized that the PMC is composed of two goal structures. The mastery climate is a task-involving climate that emphasizes the process of competition and skill development. 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 athlete has been related to the achievement goal orientations (AGO) 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).

Achievement goal theory provides a basic framework for examining the motivational processes in sport (Ames, 1984; Nicholls, 1984, 1989). This theory states that an individual's achievement goals and his/her perceived ability interact to influence achievement-related behaviors. Particularly, the individual's goal perspective will affect self-evaluations of established ability, effort, and attributions for success and failure, and these self-evaluations may affect state anxiety (Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Nicholls, 1984).

Recently, more attention has been paid to the role of achievement goals on cognitive and somatic anxiety. High task goal orientations predicted reduced reports of cognitive trait anxiety (Ommundsen & Pedersen, 1999), and predicted self-confidence (Hall, Kerr & Matthews, 1998). High ego goal orientations predicted cognitive state anxiety (Hall et al., 1998), less effective coping strategies (Pensgaard & Roberts, 2003), and are important antecedents of achievement anxiety (Hall & Kerr, 1998). These are important findings, but achievement goal orientations may not be the only component that influence anxiety and self-confidence, and may in fact be impacted by perceived motivational climate when reports of anxiety are examined.

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, whereas ego orientation and performance climate perceptions would lead to maladaptive motivational responses such as low effort, lack of commitment and persistence. 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. From this it could be speculated that this maladaptive motivational response may also lead to increased state anxiety and lowered self-confidence.

Compatibility of goal orientations and perceived motivational climate is essential to Nicholls's theory. The classroom motivational climate was examined in physical education classes (n = 2,786) and individual goal orientations on individual student's outcomes (motivation, self-concept) was examined (Papaioannou, Marsh & Theodorakis, 2004). …

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