Theory & Research

A Theory-Grounded and Empirically-Based Approach

The PAPA project will develop, deliver and evaluate a coach education program grounded in two contemporary theories of motivation.

Achievement Goal Theory

Achievement goal theory1, 2 explains that an important prerequisite for motivated behaviour is a desire to feel competent. The quality of an athlete's sporting experience will be shaped by the way in which he/she defines success and judges his/her capabilities. AGT recognises at least two approaches young athletes may adopt to judge their ability when playing sports:

  • Task-involvement: A focus on one’s own effort and improvement (self-referenced)
  • Ego-involvement: A focus on comparing oneself to others (normatively referenced)

A well-built case has been made for the advantage of being task-involved when participating in sport and other achievement-related activities3. A range of positive health, social and performance-related outcomes is linked to being task-involved whereas research has indicated that a strong emphasis on ego-involved goals may lead to negative outcomes such as the tendency to drop out of sport.

Whether a young athlete is more task- or ego-involved in football depends partly on the motivational climate created by coaches.

  • Task-involving climate: The coach emphasises cooperation, rewards players' effort, and ensure that everyone feels that they have clear and important role to play on the team. When mistakes are made, the coach responds with information on how to correct the error.
  • Ego-involving climate: The coach emphasises rivalry between players, has a low tolerance for mistakes and has favourites amongst the players.

Research strongly points to the positive consequences of being in a task-involving climate, with children experiencing greater enjoyment and self-esteem, and reporting less anxiety than in ego-involving climates. Adolescents also report greater intrinsic motivation to play their sport when their coaches promote task involvement4,5.

Self-Determination Theory

Self determination theory6 focuses on the degree to which human behaviours are more or less automous or controlled by someone or something else (e.g., feelings of guilt). Satisfaction of three psychological needs (namely, feelings of autonomy, competence and relatedness) is considered essential for more intrinsically motivated and healthful engagement in sport.

The three needs:

  1. Autonomy: A desire to feel that one's actions are self-initiated and self-directed
  2. Competence: A desire to feel capable
  3. Relatedness: A desire to feel connected to others

Coaches can support need satisfaction by being autonomy supportive to their players. In essence, when coaches provide athletes with a rationale for their requests, provide choice, and try to adopt the athletes' perspective, athletes will feel more autonomous, competent, and related in their sport participation. Research indicates that when coaches are more autonomy supportive, athletes are more likely to report higher subjective well-being and physical health7.

PAPA: Toward healthy sport experiences for healthier kids

Drawing from these theories, the PAPA project aims to help coaches foster young athletes' basic need satisfaction via more autonomy supportive and task-involving approaches to coaching. Such approaches should lead to a more empowering climate in youth sport settings and result in a number of positive outcomes for young people. These include children's adoption of positive lifestyle habits (i.e., greater leisure-time physical activity, healthy eating, avoidance of substance use such as tobacco), improvement of well-being (e.g., enjoyment of the sport, self esteem), promotion of more intrinsic motivation toward sport participation, and encouragement of children to continue with their sport for a longer time.

Given the popularity of this sport with respect to grassroots participation among young people throughout Europe, the project will focus on football (soccer). It will involve over 80 teams (and their coaches) and more than 1000 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years from the UK, Norway, Spain, France and Greece. The project has the support of the national football associations in all five countries (The Football Association, The Professional Footballers Association, The Football Association of Norway, Real Federación Española de Fútbol, Fédération Française de Football, and Hellenic Football Federation).

1Ames, C. (1992). Achievement goals and the classroom motivational climate. In J. Meece & D. Schunk (Eds.), Students' perceptions in the classroom: Causes and consequences (pp. 327-348). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
2Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. London: Harvard University Press.
3Duda, J. L. (2001). Achievement goal research in sport: Pushing the boundaries and clarifying some misunderstandings. In G. C. Roberts (Ed.), Advances in motivation in sport and exercise (pp. 129-182). Leeds: Human Kinetics.
4Duda, J. L., & Balaguer, I. (2007). The coach-created motivational climate. In S. Jowett & D. Lavalee (Eds.), Social psychology of sport Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
5Ntoumanis, N., & Biddle, S. J. H. (1999). A review of motivational climate in physical activity. Journal of Sports Sciences, 17(8), 643-665.
6Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The "what" and "why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.
7Amorose, A. J. (2007). Coaching effectiveness. In M. S. Hagger & N. L. D. Chatzisarantis (Eds.), Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in exercise and sport (pp. 209-227). Leeds: Human Kinetics.

Papa News
PAPA Featured on Horizon 2020

An article about the PAPA Project has been featured on the Horizon 2020 website. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years.

End of Project Dissemination Conference

To mark the formal conclusion of the PAPA project, store at the end of September 2013 members of the PAPA Project came together to present their findings at a special one-day event.