Student-athlete’s perceptions of an extrinsic reward program: An exploration of self-determination theory in the context of college football

Tucker Readdy, University of Wyoming, USA
Johannes Raabe, University of Wyoming, USA

Theme: Motivation and self-perceptions

Poster Number: 55

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) provides a comprehensive understanding of motivated behavior in performance settings. In short, ideal outcomes can be achieved by fostering a person’s psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to develop intrinsic and self-determined extrinsic motivation. To optimize the performance of student-athletes in a Division I football program, a team implemented an extrinsic rewards program known as the Champions Club (CC). Players are provided with opportunities to earn or lose points for specific behaviors in the sport, academic, and community setting, which then make them eligible for various incentives. This study was designed to evaluate the CC by quantitatively assessing psychological need fulfillment and levels of motivation of student-athletes at the start and end of the program (January to July). Semi-structured focus groups provided complimentary qualitative data, including player perceptions and evaluations of the CC. Analyses of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated no significant change in psychological need fulfillment but significant decreases in amotivation and extrinsic regulation as well as significant increases in identified regulation and intrinsic motivation (all p’s < .001). Important qualitative themes included: (a) behaviors reinforced by the CC are not perceived as necessary for on-field success, (b) rewards are enjoyable but not inherently motivating, and (c) program effectiveness is heavily influenced by individual differences. These results reinforce the complex nature of utilizing rewards to enhance motivation in a team setting, especially with athletes who demonstrate high psychological need fulfillment. Thus, coaches should implement and evaluate the effectiveness of such programs with caution.

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