Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Predicting Changes in Athletes' Well Being from Changes in Need Satisfaction over the Course of a Competitive Season

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Predicting Changes in Athletes' Well Being from Changes in Need Satisfaction over the Course of a Competitive Season

Article excerpt

It is commonly believed that participation in structured sport programs leads to positive experiences and beneficial developmental outcomes for children and adolescents (see Coakley, 2007; Weiss, Amorose, & Allen, 2000). For instance, proponents of organized sport cite that participation can help build self-esteem, promote sportspersonship, encourage a valuing of physical activity, and provide a sense of enjoyment and well being. While there is some empirical support for the relationships between sport participation and these outcomes, research shows that children and youth can also experience a number of negative outcomes, such as high levels of stress, burnout, and low self-esteem as a result of their participation (see Brustad, Babkes, & Smith, 2001; Cahill & Pearl, 1993; Weiss et al., 2000). Thus, any positive effects of sport participation on psychosocial development and well being cannot be assumed to be an automatic consequence of participation--simply signing up to play will not guarantee positive results. Rather, the impact of sport on youth will ultimately depend on their experiences while participating. The goal of this study was to better understand how participation in sport leads to more or less positive outcomes for youth by exploring the link between athletes' psychological need satisfaction and their well being.

A beneficial framework for understanding youth sport experiences is self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000b, 2002), which posits there are three fundamental psychological needs essential for optimal functioning and well being: (a) competence, which reflects the need to perceive our behavior and interaction with the social environment as effective (White, 1959); (b) autonomy, which represents the need to perceive our behaviors and thoughts as freely chosen and that we are the origins of our own actions (deCharms, 1968); and (c) relatedness, which represents the need to perceive we are connected to those around us and experience a sense of belonging (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). According to SDT, the extent to which these needs are satisfied or thwarted in a particular social context, such as sport, will ultimately affect psychosocial development and well being. A recently formalized subtheory of SDT, labeled basic needs theory (BNT), details the link between need satisfaction and well being (see Ryan & Deci, 2002). Specifically, BNT predicts that people who feel their needs are fulfilled will experience positive well being and optimal functioning, whereas a deficiency in need satisfaction will lead to nonoptimal functioning and ill being (Ryan & Deci, 2000a).

A number of studies supported the predictions outlined in BNT (see Ryan & Deci, 2002), including a handful of studies in the context of sport (see Gagne & Blanchard, 2007; Weiss & Amorose, 2008). For instance, Gagne, Ryan, and Bargmann (2003) conducted a diary study, which, among other things, examined the relationships between indexes of positive and negative well being and the daily fluctuations young female gymnasts experienced in their need satisfaction. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses revealed that athletes who reported that their needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness were satisfied during practice experienced increases in positive well being in self-esteem, positive affect, and subjective vitality. Changes in negative affect did not relate to need satisfaction.

In addition, Reinboth and colleagues conducted studies using BNT as a framework. In a cross-sectional study of adolescent soccer and cricket players, Reinboth, Duda, and Ntoumanis (2004) examined the relationship between various dimensions of coaching behavior and players' need satisfaction and psychological and physical well being. Focusing on the key relationships identified in BNT--namely the link between need satisfaction and well being--they examined whether the degree to which athletes perceived their needs competence, autonomy, and relatedness had been satisfied could predict various dimensions of well being in the athletes' self-reported subjective vitality and intrinsic interest in sport and the negative physical symptoms (i. …

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