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Motivational Differences for Participation Among Championship and Non-Championship Caliber NCAA Division III Football Teams

Blegen, Mark D.; Stenson, Matthew R.; Micek, Dani M.; Matthews, Tracey D.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: November 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 11 - p 2924–2928
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182719123
Original Research
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Blegen, MD, Stenson, MR, Micek, DM, and Matthews, TD. Motivational differences for participation among championship and non-championship caliber NCAA division III football teams. J Strength Cond Res 26(11): 2924–2928. 2012—Reasons for participation in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III athletics vary greatly. The purpose of this study was to investigate if differences in motivational climate existed between championship and non–championship-level NCAA Division III football teams, and differences in player status (starter vs. nonstarter). Players (N = 224) from 3 NCAA Division III football programs (1 championship level and 2 non-championship level) were recruited as participants. All players completed the Sport Motivation Scale, and the results were analyzed using a 2 × 2 multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to examine differences among the motivation variables for starter vs. nonstarter and championship vs. non-championship teams. A 1-way MANOVA was used to examine differences across year in school. Dependent variables included internal motivation to experience stimulation, internal motivation for accomplishment, internal motivation for knowledge, external motivation for identification regulation, external motivation for introjection regulation, external motivation for external regulation, and amotivation. The interaction between starter status and team was not significant (Λ = 0.996, p > 0.40). Additionally, there were no significant differences in the mean vector scores for starter vs. nonstarter (Λ = 0.965, p = 0.378). For team type, however, differences did exist across dependent variables (Λ = 0.898, p = 0.002). For all variables except amotivation, the championship-level team had significantly higher scores than the non–championship-level teams. Members of NCAA Division III championship-level football teams have higher motivation to participate in their sport compared with members of non-championship teams. These results could have an impact on player morale, coaching strategies, and future success in athletic-related activities.

1Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota

2College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota

3Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies, Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts

Address correspondence to Mark Blegen, mblegen@stkate.edu.

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Introduction

Motivation is a critical component of why athletes choose to participate in collegiate athletics and may play a large role in determining successful performances (1). In the absence of motivation, even the most physically capable and gifted athletes may be unable to optimize their talents. As stated by Clark, motivation influences behavior by converting intention into action, by allowing engagement in new behaviors, and by creating persistence toward specific goals, despite distraction and competing priorities. Each of these mentioned factors is important in the success of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III athlete. If an athlete lacks motivation (i.e., amotivation [AM]), he can no longer identify reasons to continue participation and often quits participating all together (7).

Various types of motivation have been measured in athletes, including AM, EM, and IM (7). These varying types of motivation exist along a continuum as described in the self-determination theory (SDT) by Deci and Ryan. This continuum suggests that AM lies on one end of the spectrum and IM on the other. Extrinsic motivation lies in between AM and IM. As self-determination increases (i.e., the belief that an individual is free to choose one's own acts), movement is made toward greater IM. Higher IM has been correlated to improved performance (8).

Intrinsic motivation refers to participating in an activity for the pleasure and satisfaction gained from doing the activity (1). Participating in a team conditioning program solely for the satisfaction derived from the experience would be an example of IM. Extrinsic motivation can be expressed as a wide variety of behaviors that are engaged as a means to an end and not participating in activities for their own sake (2,7). An example of EM would be participating in a strength and conditioning program because of previous championships won and wanting to experience that success. Vallerand (9) has suggested that these various types of motivation lie on a continuum from high to low self-determination and that along with greater IM comes increasingly positive outcomes.

Keegan et al. (4) suggested that athletic participation is partially dependant on the motivational climate created by the coach or coaches, especially at a young age. Parents, peers, and coaches play a role in this motivational climate, influencing EM and IM. Athletes are motivated to participate in collegiate athletics for a variety of reasons. As suggested by Zaff et al. (12) these could include, but are not limited to, development of movement skills, social skills, self-esteem, and the maintenance of health through physical activity. Other reasons for athletic participation include task mastery, enhancing perceived competence, personal effect, peer pressure, and passion (6,7,10). The reasons for collegiate athletic participation may vary by institution, by sport, by NCAA division classification, those who start a game, those who do not, and by student-athlete. Although a coach has the ability to provide EM by, for example, providing tangible rewards for outstanding play, performance and success would be enhanced if the individual athlete cultivated or possessed higher levels of IM (9).

Identifying differences in athlete motivation is critical in which it helps to answer the question of why competitive athletes perform the way they do in different programs. By determining motivational differences, appropriate strategies can be tailored and targeted for further enhancement of performance. A successful athlete, and by extension a successful team, may be evaluated by performance (e.g., quality of play) or outcome measures (e.g., winning), persistence, and effort. Each of these variables can be impacted by motivation. Individual motivation has been described as the basis from which the success of a team stems (1). When varying and different skills exist among members of a team, individuals must view everyone as being capable of contributing to the team's stated goals. Thus, if individuals are motivated to action, change if necessary, and persist when needed, team confidence will rise and enhanced performance and success may follow.

As participation in NCAA Division III athletics in general (39.4% increase from 1988 to 2007) and in NCAA Division III football specifically (31.9% increase from 1988 to 2007) (3) continue to rise, more emphasis needs to be placed on why athletes compete. Sport coaches, strength and conditioning professionals, and sport psychology consultants need to understand what drives the behavior of athletes because they are in positions to positively influence athletes to achieve greater levels of success. Through this understanding of why athletes act, change, and persist, greater impacts on performance will be obtained (1). By identifying motivational climate of successful and unsuccessful NCAA Division III football programs, strategies may be developed that all coaches would find to be instructive. It was hypothesized that members of a NCAA Division III championship caliber football team would have higher rates of both EM and IM compared with players on a non-championship caliber football team and that these differences may be one aspect of their success.

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Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

This study attempted to identify motivational differences among student-athletes who were members of either a championship or non-championship caliber NCAA Division III football program by using the Sport Motivation Scale (SMS) of Pelletier et al. (7). The SMS has been validated previously (5). Furthermore, the study also attempted to identify motivational differences throughout the collegiate athletic experience (i.e., differences among first years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) and by starter/nonstarter status. Limited research has been completed as to why student-athletes choose to participate in collegiate athletics, especially at the NCAA Division III level. By investigating the motivational patterns of championship and non-championship teams and starters vs. nonstarters, differences in the dependent variables of motivation and its subsets may be identified. The motivational approach explained by Deci and Ryan has valuable psychological consequences such as learning and performance [Pelletier et al. (7)]. The results of this study are relevant to head coaches, assistant coaches, and strength coaches in the fact that they may identify determinants of varying types of motivation. By identifying these motivational differences, more effective coaching techniques can be employed across the spectrum of those participating in intercollegiate athletics.

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Subjects

This study included 224 athletes (in-season football players) as experimental volunteers. This sample included a representative sample from each academic year in school, all positions, and included both starters and nonstarters from championship caliber and non-championship caliber programs (Table 1). The methods used in this study were approved a priori by the Institutional Review Boards of each school involved. Experimental volunteers were informed of the methodology and gave their written consent to participate.

Table 1

Table 1

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Research Instruments

A 28-item survey (SMS) (Table 2 for sample questions) and a 22-item survey derived from previous motivation studies (11) were administered to the experimental volunteers during the competitive football seasons of 2007 and 2008. The SMS included 7 embedded subscales: IM-Stimulation, IM-Accomplishment, IM–to Know, EM-Identification, EM-Introjection, EM-External Regulation, and Amotivation (Table 3 for operational definitions of these terms).

Table 2

Table 2

Table 3

Table 3

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Statistical Analyses

A 2 × 2 multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to examine differences among the motivation variables for starter/nonstarters and teams (championship/non-championship). The dependent variables included the subscale scores for the SMS: IM-Stimulation, IM-Accomplishment, IM–to Know, Identified Regulation, Introjected Regulation, External Regulation, and Amotivation, with the independent variable being caliber of team membership. Also, a 1-way MANOVA was used to examine differences across year in school, whereas a Kruskall-Wallis test was performed on the additional questions for year in school. Finally, Mann-Whitney U statistics were used to examine differences for team status and starter/nonstarter for the additional questions. Significance level was set a priori at p ≤ 0.05.

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Results

The interaction between starter status and team was not significant (Λ = 0.966, p > 0.40). Additionally, there were no significant differences in the mean vector of scores for starter/nonstarter (Λ = 0.965, p = 0.378). For team type, however, differences did exist across dependent variable scores (Λ = 0.898, p = 0.002). For all variables except AM, championship teams had significantly higher scores than non-championship teams (Figure 1). Players on championship teams had significantly higher levels of IM (IM-Stimulation, IM-Accomplishment, IM–to Know) and EM (Identification, Introjection, Regulation). No significant differences were found for the dependent variables across year in school (Λ = 0.938, p > 0.886). Also, no significant differences were found among year in school or for team status or starter/nonstarter.

Figure 1

Figure 1

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Discussion

Different motivational climates existed between championship and non-championship caliber NCAA Division III football teams in this study. Although motivation differences did not exist by academic year or by playing status, this suggests that the same motivational climate is present throughout the researched programs. Keegan et al. (4) have suggested that athletic participation is at least partially dependant on the motivational climate created by the coach or coaches. Football coaches and strength and conditioning professionals play a key role in creating this climate. Among NCAA Division III athletic programs where athletes are not given athletic scholarships for their participation, high degrees of both IM and EM may lead to greater success in competition. For example, a championship caliber program may have a motivational climate that extrinsically motivates athletes (the goal being a championship), whereas simultaneously developing IM through exceptional coaching, regardless of starter status or academic year. An athlete who has higher levels of IM may be further propelled to achieve greater performance.

This study reveals that the members of a championship caliber football program have significantly greater levels of both IM and EM. Likewise, they also have lower levels of AM. This suggests that they have progressed further along the motivation continuum as outlined by Deci and Vallerand (2,9). Rather than viewing IM and EM as dichotomous, SDT by Deci and Ryan and the Hierarchical model by Vallerand both describe motivation as being multidimensional and existing on a continuum with AM on one end of the scale, IM on the other, and EM in the middle. In SDT, AM, EM, and IM correspond to the various manifestations of the way people go about satisfying their psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in their environment. As individuals move along the motivation continuum, they display different behavioral tendencies to distinguish, master, and assimilate themselves in a given setting. For example, intrinsically motivated individuals have high levels of self-determination and possibly more drive to succeed. This may be reflected in how an athlete practices, participates in strength and conditioning programs, and ultimately in their capacity to improve. Again, an athlete's ability to move through the continuum of motivation may depend upon coaching, team culture, and innate tendencies. The focus of coaches, whether sport or performance specific, should be to create a motivational climate that allows the athlete to progress toward greater levels of IM. By creating this atmosphere, the culture of a team may be influenced and may lead to greater performance and outcome success.

As stated previously, differences existed across all subsets of motivation. Taken individually, these differences demonstrate that the motivational climate differs by level of program success. A successful program more readily develops IM by creating stimulating experiences (i.e., attendance at games), the opportunity to accomplish something new (i.e., the strong possibility of a national championship), and the ability to discover new training techniques (i.e., more specialized strength and conditioning programs). This atmosphere is directly related to constructs of IM (IM-Stimulation, IM-Accomplishment, and IM–to Know, respectively). In relation to EM, successful programs also create atmospheres that allow for further development. Consider material rewards (i.e., championship rings), feeling pressure to be in their best form (i.e., physical shape), and performing activities out of choice (i.e., participation in an off-season strength and conditioning program). Each of these constructs exist in championship-level caliber teams to a greater extent than in non-championship teams and relate to EM-regulation, EM-Introjection, and EM-Identification, respectively, thus paving the way for greater success. Finally, AM is less among players on championship caliber programs. That is to say they experience fewer feelings of helplessness and incompetence. These athletes have more confidence in their abilities and could further their success.

To state that motivational climate is both the sole determinant of performance and team culture is short sighted. However, the expectation of success that a program's coaches create can facilitate an individual's motivational development from EM to greater levels of IM (4). Coaches and strength and conditioning professionals should be cognizant of this because identification of where a program, and more specifically individual athletes, falls on the continuum can inform coaching practices.

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Practical Applications

Sport coaches and strength and conditioning professionals have the capacity to increase performance by influencing the motivational climate of their respective programs. As athletes progress from AM to greater levels of EM and IM, greater success may be achieved. By identifying the current motivational status of a given team, appropriate strategies can be employed that further develop individual athletes. Non-championship caliber teams may need to be coached differently than championship caliber teams to increase levels of both EM and IM. Coaches in developing programs should focus especially on the enhancement of IM through organized team functions, academics, and active participation in professionally designed strength and conditioning programs.

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References

1. Clark RE. Fostering the work motivation of individuals and teams. Perform Improv 42(3): 21–29, 2003.
2. Deci EL. Intrinsic Motivation. New York, NY: Plenum Press, 1975.
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8. Vallerand RJ. La motivation intrinsque et extrinseque en milieu naturel: Implications pour les secteurs de l’education, du travail, des relations interperonnelles et des loisrs [Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in real life domain: Implications for education, work, and interpersonal relationships, and leisure]. In: Introduction a la psychologie de la motivation. Vallerand RJ, Thill E, eds. Montreal, Canada: Etudes Vivantes, 1993. p. 3–40.
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12. Zaff JF, Moore KA, Papillo AR, Williams S. Implications of extracurricular activity participation during adolescence on positive outcomes. J Adolesc Res 18: 599–630, 2003.
Keywords:

intrinsic motivation; extrinsic motivation; amotivation

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