Sport Psychology: Types of Motivation

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Table of Contents

  • The Two Types of Motivation
  • Need Achievement Theory
    Personality Factors
    Situational Factors
  • Resultant & Behavioural Tendencies
  • Emotional Reactions to Achievement

Consider a football player who may have a 'short fuse' which often leads to rash actions. The same player will not show that behaviour all the time and only does so when made to react to psychological behaviour triggers. The player becomes aggressive and snaps in a violent manner, for example, Eric Cantona leaping in to the crowd at Crystal Palace after being provoked by a fan.

Motivation is derived from the word 'motive' which means needs, desires, wants or drives and is the reason or reasons for an individual acting or behaving in a particular way that makes a person move towards a goal. Motivation, like intelligence, cannot be directly observed. One definition of motivation was given by G. Sage in 1974 who said motivation is ‘the internal mechanisms and external stimuli which arouse and direct behaviour’.Cox also said in 1998 that “motive is the desire to fulfil a need”.

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The Two Types of Motivation

Motivation in sport can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is knowing one has done well. It’s also playing for the enjoyment and no extra motivation is needed. Extrinsic motivation is being rewarded or receiving rewards from playing, for example, receiving a cup or getting money for playing; this will extrinsically motivate somebody into playing. At the start of a sport a person will begin to play for the fun of the sport and playing with his friends; this is being intrinsically motivated. As they begin to play more and more and start to get better, they could get scouted and begin to get paid for their services. This can quickly change a person to play for money which is being extrinsically motivated.

Some people, however, could learn to play a sport hoping to become famous and earn a lot of money. This is extrinsically motivated. As they begin to play more they could possibly realise that they enjoy playing for the fun of it. This can change to being intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation can easily be more affected by extrinsic rewards, especially money. It would be harder for someone who is already extrinsically motivated to be persuaded to become intrinsically motivated as it is more common to go from intrinsically motivated to be extrinsically motivated.

Need Achievement Theory

The term Need Achievement Theory, or Nach, was first used by Henry Murray in 1938 and was associated with a range of actions. The concept of Nach was subsequently made popular by the psychologist David McClelland. There are four factors in Nach: personality, situational, resultant and behaviour tendencies and emotional reactions in achievement.

Personality Factors

There are two underlying motives in Nach:

  1. Achieving success
  2. Avoiding failure

Achieving success is the ability to take pride or satisfaction from our achievements. In avoiding failure the opposite is true; we are looking not to submit ourselves to feelings of shame or failure. High achievers have a high motivation to achieve success; low achievers have a tendency to concentrate on avoiding failure and that there is a balance between the two distinct behaviours.

Situational Factors

Situational Factors are influences that do not come from within the individual but from elsewhere such as the environment and others around. High achievers will get the most out of situations where the chance of success is relatively low and success becomes a real challenge to them to achieve. However, a low achiever may see losing where the chance of success is low, as one that will make them feel ashamed.

Resultant & Behavioural Tendencies

A person’s resultant and behaviour tendencies arise from considering an individual’s motive levels in relation to situational factors. High achievers seek challenges at this level which are within their abilities on a competitive level around a 50/50 probability.These tendencies for a low achiever will lead to them adopting easier tasks which do not force them to challenge themselves in a sporting context or extremely hard tasks where failure is almost a certainty. It’s not a fear of failure here but more the fear of the negative appearance of failure in a sporting context.

Emotional Reactions to Achievement

The fourth factor in Nach is an individual’s emotional reactions shown in accomplishment or failure. Our personalities react differently to situations to either focus on pride of success or shame of failure.

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