Within sporting contexts, goal setting is a commonly used technique that can lead to enhanced performance. Recommendations for goal setting have been widely embraced in sport and performance settings by researchers, practitioners, athletes, and coaches. However, it could be argued that these recommendations are overly simplistic, and that a lack of critical commentary in the sporting literature fails to acknowledge the complexity of goal setting in practice. For example, there has been limited acknowledgement within the applied recommendations of important factors such as personal differences with those individuals setting goals, contextual and environmental factors, and the characteristics of goals being pursed. Equally, the focus of goal setting research and practice has predominantly been on goal progress or goal attainment, thus overlooking the wider benefits of effective goal pursuit on additional aspects such as well-being. Similarly, the interactions between these factors has gained little attention with the academic literature or applied recommendations. This may result in diminished effectiveness of goal setting for athletes, and ultimately lead to sub-optimal performance and well-being. Critical and comprehensive reviews of the literature are timely and necessary, in order to develop a deeper understanding of goal setting in sport and performance. Combining research from both within sport and from theorists examining goals within other contexts can enhance our understanding of how to promote and support adaptive goal pursuit within sport and performance. Overall, this may lead to more appropriate and useful recommendations for researchers, athletes, coaches, and applied practitioners, ensuring that goal setting can be an effective technique for a range of individuals within sport and performance contexts.
Laura Healy, Alison Tincknell-Smith, and Nikos Ntoumanis
Mark Eys and Jeemin Kim
Over the past 30 years, researchers studying group dynamics in sport have provided insight regarding the importance of considering a team’s environment, structure, and processes for its effective functioning. An emergent property resulting from activities within the group is cohesion. Cohesion is a dynamic property reflecting members’ perceptions of the unity and personal attractions to task and social objectives of the group. Generally speaking, cohesion remains a highly valued group property, and a strong body of evidence exists to support positive links to important individual and group outcomes such as adherence and team performance. Given the importance attached to cohesion and other group variables for sport teams, coaches and athletes often attempt to engage in activities that facilitate group functioning. Team building is a specific approach designed to facilitate team effectiveness and individual members’ perceptions of their group. Cohesion has been the primary target of team-building interventions in sport, although recent work on team-building outcomes suggested that the effects of these interventions on cohesion may be limited. The most effective team-building approaches include a goal setting protocol, last at least two weeks in duration, and target a variety of outcomes in addition to cohesion, including individual cognitions and team performance. There is a clear need to identify a team’s requirements prior to intervening (i.e., a targeted approach), consider a variety of approaches to team building, and investigate the effects of team building via more stringent research methods.
Mary Fry and Candace M. Hogue
There is a large literature base within the field of sport psychology that provides tremendous direction to coaches and parents on how to structure youth sport so that young athletes develop sport skills and concurrently reap psychological benefits from their sport participation. Much of this research has employed Nicholls’ Achievement Goal Perspective Theory and a Caring Framework to (a) identity the processes children undergo as their cognitive development matures across the elementary years, allowing them to accurately judge their ability by adolescence, (b) formulate their personal definitions of success in sport (develop their goal orientations), and (c) note features of the team and overall sport climate created by coaches and parents. Of particular importance is athletes’ perceptions of the motivational climate prevailing on their teams. Athletes can perceive a caring and task-involving climate where coaches reward effort, improvement, and cooperation among teammates, make everyone feel they play an important role on the team, and treat mistakes as part of the learning process. In contrast, athletes can also perceive an ego-involving climate where the coach rewards ability and performance outcome, fosters rivalry among teammates, punishes mistakes, and gives most of the recognition to a few “stars.” When athletes perceive a caring and task-involving climate on their teams, they are more likely to have fun, exert high effort, experience intrinsic motivation, have better interpersonal relationships with coaches and athletes, display better sportsperson-like values and behaviors, have better psychological well-being, and even perform better. In contrast, when athletes perceive an ego-involving climate on their teams they experience fewer adaptive and positive motivational outcomes and greater problematic outcomes (e.g., increased cortisol; greater endorsement of unsportsperson-like behaviors). Research has clearly identified the benefits of coaches and parents creating a caring and task-involving climate for young athletes, yet there are still many ego-involving climates in the youth sport world. A number of organizations are committed to helping coaches and parents transform youth sport culture into a positive arena where young people can develop their athletic skills and have a rewarding sport experience.
Ronald E. Smith and Frank L. Smoll
Coaches occupy a central role in sport, fulfilling instructional, organizational, strategic, and social relationship functions, and their relationships with athletes influence both skill development and psychosocial outcomes of sport participation. This review presents the major theoretical models and empirical results derived from coaching research, focusing on the measurement and correlates of coaching behaviors and on intervention programs designed to enhance coaching effectiveness. A strong empirical literature on motor skill development has addressed the development of technical sport skills, guided in part by a model that divides the skill acquisition process into cognitive, associative, and autonomous phases, each requiring specific coaching knowledge and instructional techniques. Social-cognitive theory’s mediational model, the multidimensional model of sport leadership, achievement goal theory, and self-determination theory have been highly influential in research on the psychosocial aspects of the sport environment. These conceptual models have inspired basic research on the antecedents and consequences of defined coaching behaviors as well as applied research on coach training programs designed to enhance athletes’ sport outcomes. Of the few programs that have been systematically evaluated, outcomes such as enjoyment, liking for coach and teammates, team cohesion, self-esteem, performance anxiety, athletes’ motivational orientation, and sport attrition can be influenced in a salutary fashion by a brief intervention with specific empirically derived behavioral guidelines that focus on creating a mastery motivational climate and positive coach-athlete interactions. However, other existing programs have yet to demonstrate efficacy in controlled outcome research.
Glyn C. Roberts, Christina G. L. Nerstad, and P. Nicolas Lemyre
Motivation is the largest single topic in psychology, with at least 32 theories that attempt to explain why people are or are not motivated to achieve. Within sport psychology research, there are a plethora of techniques of how to increase and sustain motivation (strategies to enhance agency beliefs, self-regulation, goal setting, and others). However, when explaining the conceptual undergirding of motivation in sport, the why of motivation, two theories predominate: Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) and Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Both theories predict the same outcomes, such as increased achievement striving, sustained behavior change, and perceptions of well-being, but they differ in why those outcomes occur. AGT assumes that individuals cognitively evaluate the competence demands and meaningfulness of the activity, and that those perceptions govern behavior. SDT assumes that individuals are driven by three basic needs, competence, autonomy, and relatedness, and the satisfaction of those needs govern behavior. The following discusses both theories and concludes that each has their strengths and weaknesses.