Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Contextual Influences and Goal Perspectives among Female Youth Sport Participants

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Contextual Influences and Goal Perspectives among Female Youth Sport Participants

Article excerpt

Participation in sport is pervasive in the United States. A number of studies have investigated sport participants' motives and shown that one reason children participate in sport is to demonstrate physical competence (Gill, Gross, & Huddleston, 1983; Gould, Feltz, & Weiss, 1985; Klint & Weiss, 1986; Petlichkoff, 1992; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989). A review of the literature on sport participation motivation reveals that children with low perceptions of competence drop out of or do not engage in sport, whereas those who hold a more positive view of their physical abilities continue their participation (Weiss, 1993; Weiss & Chaumeton, 1992). The literature reveals that one way to keep children involved in sport and feeling good about their participation is to create environments in which they can feel competent or able. To do this, however, we must understand what competence or ability means to participants.

Social cognitive theorists contend that individuals construe ability via two goal perspectives (Ames, 1984; Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1989). One involves the establishment of goals relative to one's own past performances, whereas the other involves goals based on the performance of others. Nicholls' (1989) has labeled these two goal perspectives task and ego, respectively. A task goal perspective stems from a self-referenced conception of ability. Individuals who are task oriented are prone to the conception that ability is demonstrated when they exert effort and experience improvement. In contrast, an ego goal perspective involves a normative view of ability. Individuals who tend to conceive ability as outperforming others with equal or less effort are considered ego-oriented individuals.

Many researchers interested in motivation in physical activity have adopted Nicholls' (1989) goal perspective approach and generated substantial empirical evidence supporting the existence of dispositional goal orientations and their relationship to behaviors and self-perceptions (Ames, 1984; Burton, 1989; Duda, 1992; Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1989; Roberts, 1992). Collectively, these studies indicate that positive perceptions and behaviors are associated with task orientation, whereas more negative associations are affiliated with ego goal orientations. As a result, theorists and researchers often recommend creating environments that promote a task goal orientation (Ames & Archer, 1988). Interestingly this recommendation is made with little empirical evidence that dispositional goal orientations can be changed. Research on the development of goal orientations in sport via contextual influence is virtually nonexistent.

Motivational climate provides avenues for examining change in goal orientations. Motivational climate refers to an individual's appraisal of the objective reward structure operating in a given situation or context. Students' perceptions are related to their interpretation of the reward structure and based on group goals, the underlying reward system, interaction among group members, and individuals' interpretations of the specific social structure (Ames, 1992). Mastery climates are characterized by effort-based goals, and individuals are rewarded for the demonstration of effort, learning, and improvement. In contrast, performance climates are characterized by the importance placed on interpersonal competition and social comparison-based goals. Over time, mastery climates foster a task goal orientation, whereas performance climates promote an ego goal orientation (Ames, 1992). However, this has not been investigated in the sport setting.

Correlational studies have been conducted which examined the relationship between goal orientations and motivational climate in physical activity settings (Ebbeck & Becker, 1994; Seifriz, Duda, & Chi, 1992; Walling, Duda, & Chi, 1993). Overall, the results of these studies support a positive relationship between task goal orientation and mastery climates and between ego orientation and performance climates both in the classroom and sport. …

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