Understanding the negative outcomes of sport participation – a motivational model


Sport psychology research, using the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) framework, has extensively examined athletes and the factors that lead to their success and continued participation in sport. In reality, athletes can also experience a number of negative outcomes such as burnout that undermine the positive outcomes. The relationship between the environment, psychological needs, goal content, motivation, and negative outcomes in sport is somewhat ambiguous. The purpose of the present review is to examine existing research that has looked at SDT and negative affective, behavioural, and cognitive outcomes in sport and to organize this literature into a coherent model for understanding negative outcomes. The proposed model suggests that a non-supportive environment will directly influence need-dissatisfaction, low quality motivation, and negative outcomes for athletes. When it comes to need dissatisfaction specifically, athletes can either engage in compensatory behaviours to satisfy their needs, or they can become chronically dissatisfied which also leads to extrinsic goals, lower quality motivation and negative outcomes. Negative affective, behavioural, and cognitive outcomes serve as ends in and of themselves; however, cognitive outcomes also serve as a mediator between psychological needs and motivation with affective and behavioural outcomes. In these instances, the athletes' cognitive experience serves to either enable or prevent other negative outcomes. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Acknowledgments: This research was conducted while the first author was supported by a doctoral scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).