Self-reaction among athletes: Exploring the case for an under-studied aspect of self-regulation


Self-reaction processes are important for self-regulation (Bandura, 1986; Zimmerman, 2000); however, no research has examined them in relation to sport expertise development. Sixty-eight athletes (31 m, 37 f, ages 13-18; involvement = 16.6 hrs/wk, SD = 9.3) completed 16 survey items representing five self-reaction variables (i.e., self-reward, self-punishment, task satisfaction, self-withholding, and natural rewards; Anderson & Prussia, 1997), questions on skill level (local to international), amounts of deliberate practice, and variables reflecting long-term striving. Exploratory factor analyses (direct obliminal) were performed on the 16 item pool, and after iterative deletion of problematic items (2 for natural rewards, 1 for self-punishment), a four-factor solution resulted (cumulative variance 63.3%): self-withholding (3 items; 32.9%; a = .85), self-reward (3 items; 9.7%; a = .88), self-punishment (3 items; 7.3%; a = .80), and a factor wherein natural rewards merged with task satisfaction (4 items; 13.5%; a = .75). We conducted initial tests of validity on scores for these factors. Skilled and less-skilled groups did not differ on any scale, ps > .07, and no scale showed an association with amounts of deliberate or physical practice, ps > .31. However, task satisfaction was associated with future sport self (r = .57, p < .001), suggesting that athletes focused on satisfying conditions related to practice also report a higher drive to reach the upper echelon of sport in the long-term. Task satisfaction (r = .37) and self-punishment (r = .31) correlated (ps < .01) with consideration of future consequences, with the latter relationship indicating that athletes who are harder on themselves following underachievement also report a greater focus on the long-term outcomes of their practice efforts.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded by a grant from the Research Development Program and the Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Ottawa.