Testing the Sport Commitment Model in the Context of Exercise and Fitness Participation

By Alexandris, Konstantinos; Zahariadis, Panagiotis et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Testing the Sport Commitment Model in the Context of Exercise and Fitness Participation


Alexandris, Konstantinos, Zahariadis, Panagiotis, Tsorbatzoudis, Charalambos, Grouios, George, Journal of Sport Behavior


Psychological commitment has been suggested as one of the constructs that describes the attitudinal component of loyalty (Park & Kim, 2000; Prirchard, Howard, & Havitz, 1992), and predicts behavioral loyalty (Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998; Park, 1996). Increasing participants' commitment is an important task for practitioners, since research has shown that about half of the individuals who start taking part in sports drop out within a short period of time (Dishman, 2001). Similar statistics have been reported in the fitness industry. Sawyer and Smith (1999) reported that the average fitness facility in America loses 40% of its entire customer base each year, while Kelly and Warnick (1999) reported even lower retention rates; the discontinuance rates for fitness program participants in America are as high as 75% to 80%. These statistics suggest that research on commitment related aspects is important for facility managers, sport providers, and fitness professionals, since it could be used as a guide for designing eff ective retention strategies (Gerson, 1999).

A variety of factors, such as social, psychological, cultural and situational, have been suggested in the sport and leisure literature as antecedents of commitment (Backman & Veldkamp, 1995; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998; Park & Kim, 2000; Prirchard et al., 1992). Scanlan, Carpenter, Schmidt, Simons and Keeler (1993) developed and empirically validated one of the few models that exist in the sport literature. This model was developed in the context of competitive sports, and further tested in young athletes (Carpenter, Scanlan, Simons, & Lobel, 1993; Scanlan, Simons, Carpenter, Schmidt, & Keeler, 1993). There have been no attempts to test the applicability of this model in exercise and fitness settings. Considering the practical and theoretical importance of research in the area of psychological commitment, the present study aimed to test Scanlan et al.'s (1993) model in the context of exercise and fitness participation in Greece.

The Sport Commitment Model

Scanlan et al. (1993) defined sport commitment as "a psychological construct representing the desire and resolve to continue sport participation" (p.7). Kelley (1983) emphasized that differentiating commitment from its antecedents and consequences is an important task in commitment research. Scanlan et al.'s (1993) model aimed to identify determinants of sport commitment. Based on the social psychology literature (e.g., Kelley, 1983), these authors proposed four components as antecedents of psychological commitment: sport enjoyment, personal investment, social constraints, and involvement opportunities.

Sport enjoyment was defined as "a positive affective response to the sport experience that reflects generalized feelings such as pleasure, liking and fun" (Scanlan et al., 1993, p.7). The literature on sport and exercise motivation clearly supports this construct. It has been widely reported that committed exercise participants are usually intrinsically motivated (Iso-Ahola, 1989; 1999; Iwasaki & Mannell, 1999; Weissinger & Bandalos, 1995). Pleasure, fin and excitement have been shown to be important motives for exercise participation (e.g., Frederick & Ryan, 1993; Markland & Hardy, 1993).

Personal investment was defined as "personal resources that are put into the activity which cannot be recovered if participation is discontinued" (Scanlan et al., 1993, p. 7). Time, effort, and money have been suggested as examples of personal investment. The importance of this construct depends on the nature of the activity. There are outdoor activities, such as skiing, sailing, and rafting, which require considerable investment in time, effort, and expenses for participants. On the other hand, there are activities, such jogging, tennis, basketball and football, which are less demanding in terms of financial expenses and probably time. …

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