Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Goal Orientations, Motivational Climate and Stress Perception in Elite Junior Football Players: A Comparison of Club Levels

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Goal Orientations, Motivational Climate and Stress Perception in Elite Junior Football Players: A Comparison of Club Levels

Article excerpt


Belonging to a professional club as a junior football player (aged 15-20 yrs) means that you are close to becoming a professional player. Compared with your age peers your everyday life is privileged, as being in this environment is associated with many advantages, i.e., high-level coaches, skilled teammates and excellent training facilities (Ashworth & Heyndels, 2007). These advantages may contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy, as they probably increase players' motivation to continue to train for a potential professional career (Fraser-Thomas, Côté, & Deakin, 2008).

Nevertheless players in these extremely competitive environments naturally have to deal with high expectations and demands. As talented football players they are expected to be highly motivated independently of whether they feel successful, to have the right attitude to their own development (Larkin & O'Connor, 2017; Sæ ther, 2014), to undertake frequent, and in some cases extreme, training (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993; Sæ ther & Aspvik, 2014), and to regulate their own development effectively (Toering, Elferink-Gemser, Jordet, & Visscher, 2009). These talented players are therefore dependent of developing skills which could increase their lightly hood of succeeding. Even so, the players are also expected to encounter a range of personal and interpersonal challenges that might affect their development (Richardson, Gilbourne, & Littlewood, 2004).

Coaches are a component of the environment of talented players and vital contributor to their development. Coaches often demand a high level of performance and expect the players to cope with this pressure. Several researchers have emphasised that the coach-athlete relationship plays an important role in reducing athletes' stress, improving their performance and enjoyment of competition (Kristiansen & Roberts, 2010), enhancing their mental toughness (Rodahl, Giske, Peters, & Høigaard, 2015) and increasing their ability to cope with stress (Nicholls, 2011). The players ability to cope with the pressure and expectations could potentially affect the players in two ways. Pressure may improve an athlete's mental toughness and help him to develop strategies for coping with pressure and stress; however it can also be damaging and impair an athlete's development, by causing a loss of self-confidence and self-belief. Both motivation and experience of stress are highly individual and dependent on the player's characteristics (goal orientations, ability to handle stress, expectations of oneself) and environment.

Motivational factors are thought to affect the development process. The purpose of this study, which is rooted in achievement goal theory and stress theory, was to describe Norwegian elite junior football players' motivation and stress levels and to examine how these factors were related to club level, comparing players from level-1 and level-2 clubs.

Motivational Climate and Goal Orientations

Achievement goal theory assumes that players are motivated through their goal involvement, described as ego or task involvement (Ommundsen, Roberts, Lemyre, & Miller, 2005). The assumption is that players are predisposed to be motivated by egotistical goals or by task goals, where these predispositions are called goal orientations. Task orientation is associated with adaptive behaviour and is characteristic of players who base their assessment of their own ability and the difficulty of a task on their own sense of mastery, understanding and knowledge. Task orientation involves a self-referenced definition of success as an improvement in ability or success at something that is personally challenging (Nicholls, Cobb, Wood, Yackel, & Patashnick, 1990). Ego orientation is characteristic of players who define success in relative terms, as being more able than others, and is associated with maladaptive behaviour (Nicholls et al., 1990). …

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