Winning for Our Sake:

Relational Motivation in Athletic Performance


  • Alexandra Szarabajko Columbia College
  • Jonathan S. Gore Eastern Kentucky University
  • Zipporah Foster Winston-Salem State University
  • Josef Katzman Eastern Kentucky University
  • Christian Pope Eastern Kentucky University


relational motivation, student-athletes, effort, progress, athletic performance


Two cross-sectional studies (ns = 66, and 156) of university athletes and three multilevel prospective studies of the basketball and volleyball teams at the university investigated the role of relationally-autonomous reasons (RARs) in athletic outcomes. We hypothesized that RARs would be positively associated with athletic outcomes (effort, progress and performance), but the association would be stronger for female athletes. In all five studies, participants reported their relational, personal and controlled reasons for playing their sport. Athletic outcome assessments included amount of self-reported effort and progress, manager and researcher coded effort during practice, and game statistics. The results across all five studies provided consistent support for the hypotheses. Implications for motivation theories and gender differences in sports are discussed.


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