What is Achievement Motivation?
Achievement motivation is a person’s orientation to strive for task success, persist in
the face of failure, and experience the pride in accomplishment (Gill, 2000).
Achievement motivation in sport is commonly called competitiveness.
Competitiveness is a disposition to strive for satisfaction when making comparisons
with some standard of excellence in the presence of evaluative others. These ideas are
of great importance because they give us an understanding of why certain individuals
seem so motivated and others just seem to go with the flow. There are four
achievement motivation theories; these theories explain what motivates people to act.
The theories are as follows: Need achievement theory, attribution theory, achievement
and goal theory, and competence motivation theory.
Need Achievement Theory
Need achievement theory (Atkinson, 1974; McClelland, 1961) is an interact ional
view that takes into consideration personal and situational factors as important
predictors of behaviour. This theory consists of five components, they are as follows:
Personality or motives, situational factors, resultant tendencies, emotional reactions,
Figure 1 Shows Need achievement theory.
Personality Situational Resultant Emotional Achievement
Factor Factors Tendency Reactions behavior
= Look for
• Personality factors, According to the need achievement view, each of us has
two underlining achievement motives: to achievement motives: to achieve
success and to avoid failure
The Motive to Achieve Success, People with a high motive to achieve success
show the following characteristics: They look for challenges and they are not
afraid of failure. Also they tend to be concerned about standard of excellence and
show high levels of performance. Feedback from others is of great importance to
them. People with a high motive to succeed attribute their performance to internal
factors: for example, success is due to effort, failure is due to poor concentration.
The Motive to Avoid Failure, People showing a strong motive to avoid
failure tend to, be preoccupied by failure, avoid challenging tasks: for example
they prefer to play against very easy opposition which usually guarantees them
success or on the other hand they may choose very difficult opposition which
usually guarantees failure which is not their fault. These individuals attribute their
performance to external factors, for example success is due to luck, and failure is
due to tough opposition.
To some extent well all have these two motives; Atkins proposes that it is
the difference between the two motives which provides the personality factor
called achievement motivation.
• Situational Factors takes into account 2 important factors and these are:
probability of success and incentive value of success. The probability of
success depends on who you compete against and the complexity of the task, it
would be more satisfying to beat a novice as apposed to a skilled opponent.
However, the value you place on success would be greater, as you would find
it more satisfying to beat a skilled opponent than it would be to beat a
• Resultant Tendencies, this theory was derived by taking into consideration an
individual’s achievement motive levels in relation to situational factors.
• Emotional Reactions, this theory takes into account how an individual reacts
emotionally, with an emphasis on how much pride he/she experiences.
Individuals who are high and low achievers naturally want to experience pride
and minimize shame. However high achievers focus more on pride, whereas
low achievers focus more on shame and worry. This is due to the fact that their
personality characteristics interrelate differently with the situation causing
them to focus more on pride or shame.
• Achievement Related Behaviour; this is the final need achievement theory
component. This theory indicates how the other four theories interrelate to
influence behaviour. High achievers tend to choose more taxing tasks with an
intermediate level of risk, and have an enhanced performance during
evaluative situations. Whilst low achievers steer clear of tasks with
intermediate levels of risk, and they tend to not perform to the best of their
ability during evaluative situation and almost definitely avoid challenging
tasks by selecting tasks that are unattainable, leading to failure or task which
are so easy that they are guaranteed success.
Attribution theory Heider (1958) and extended and popularized by Weiner *1985,
1986). This theory proposes that every individual tries to explain success or
failure of self and others by offering certain “attributions”. The most fundamental
attribution categories are stability (a factor to which one attributes success or
failure is either fairly permanent or unstable), Locus of casualty (a factor is either
external or internal to the individual), and locus of control (a factor is or is not
under control). The following chart shows the four attributions that result from a
combination of internal and external locus of control and whether or not control is
No Control Ability Luck
Control Effort Task Difficulty
Achievement Goal Theory
Achievement goal theory is of the belief that three factors interact to determine an
individual’s motivation, these are as follows: achievement goals, perceived ability and
• Achievement goals, outcome-orientated goals and task orientated goals.
• Perceived ability, High perceived ability or competence. Low perceived
ability or competence.
• Achievement behaviour, performance, effort, persistence, task choice,
realistic task or opponents and unrealistic task or opponents.
Competence Motivation Theory
According to white (1959), we are born with a competence motive, which is the need
to confirm our sense of personal competence This need motivates us to explore our
environment and learn how to deal effectively with it because it is intrinsically
rewarding and satisfying to feel that we are capable human beings, with the ability to
understand, predict and control our world.
Together these theories propose that high and low achievers can be distinguished by
their motives, the tasks they select to be evaluated on, the effort they exert during
competition, their persistence, and their performance.
Reflection of the Seminar
I find I always enjoy the seminar, because it has an element of interaction and group
work, which I usually find both interesting and educational. During the seminar, we
performed an exercise to establish locus of causality which establishes whether a
factor is either external or internal, and also locus of control, which establishes
whether a factor is or is not under our control. During the seminar we had to fill out a
questionnaire, which consisted of 18 questions. We had to score each question on a
scale of 1 to 5. The readings were as follows: 5 strongly agree, 4 agree, 3 undecided, 2
disagree and 1 strongly disagree. We had to total up our scores and the range of the
subscale was 6 to 30. We had to give our scores for the following categories:
internality, powerful other externality and chance externality.
My score for these categories are as follows: For powerful other externality I
scored 16, I was comfortable with this score, but if I were to change it in any way I
would want it to be lower. The reason for this is that if you attained a high score for
this category you are controlled by the wishes and directives of others. What I learned
about myself was that although I did not have a high score for this component, I do
actually have a small element of this trait. On reflection, when it comes to me
achieving my sports objectives and goals I tend to do it by myself, but at times I do
succumb to the wishes and derivates of others, which I tend to use as a positive to
enhance my knowledge and skills with regards to my own sporting goals and
objectives. For chance externality I scored 14, again I did not have a high score for
this category, and this score did not leave me with any concerns. Had I scored highly
for this category, this would have indicated a reliance on luck. I find that I rarely rely
on luck when it comes to attaining my sporting goals and objective or for any other
aspect of my life for that matter, which I personally find goes a long way and was
probably one of the reasons I got a the top score of 30 for internal personal force,
which means I tend to rely on ability and effort. I would have to say this is spot on for
me, and I estimated my locus of control very well. I would say the things that
contribute to me being more internal would be the fact I am a very independent
person who is self reliant and for the most part I take responsibility for my own
actions. I am also highly motivated individual who is not afraid to do things by
How I will use the information in my future career
As a sports rehabilitator, I would say it will be inevitable that I will have to deal with
patients whose locus of causality will be either external or internal. Thinking about
those clients who a have higher internal tendencies, I would have to say that they are
clearly going to be easier individuals to work with, because these individuals tend to
be higher achievers, whose success is derived from hard work and ability as opposed
to luck. If they were to transfer these attributes to rehabilitation of a specific injury
they may have, then. I think you can safely say that there rehabilitation process will
be both effective and successful. For those patients who have higher external
tendencies, I would have to say that a lot more thought is going to have to be given
with regards to there rehabilitation process, because those individuals who have
higher external tendencies, tend to be low achievers, who tend not to have a high
degree of control over the things that they do and the things that they can potentially
successfully achieve. If they were to transfer these attributes to there rehabilitation
process, this could lead to the patient relying on factors such as luck or chance to get
them through their rehabilitation, when in fact the only way to rehabilitate any injury,
whether physical or psychological, is through commitment, hard work and patience. If
injured athletes want to ensure full recovery, they have to do everything possible to
For these patients who have external tendencies, I feel that they would benefit from a
psychological rehabilitation program (PReP). It may also be advantageous to begin
the use of PReP rehabilitation sessions, then as my patient becomes more comfortable
with them; I would transfer them away from physical therapy sessions. If the PReP is
kept initially within the context of physical therapy sessions, injured athletes are more
likely to adhere to its use, gain immediate benefits, and see its value in long term use.
When it is shifted away from physical therapy, injured athletes will have the
familiarity, knowledge and experience to continue its use and gain the benefits
throughout rehabilitation and return to sport. The key areas of the Prep that I would
address are, confidence, motivation, anxiety, and focus, as these factors appear to
have a significant impact on many aspects of rehabilitation and return to sport.
It is thought that women are more afraid of failure than men, and that man have
a higher motive to achieve success than women. Having worked in various gyms for
many years, on the whole I would have to say that this statement is true. However, I
know a lot of women; myself included who do have a high motive to achieve success.
What I find at work is that a lot of women tend to have preconceived ideas about
going to the gym, and a lot of them seem to think that the only people who use gyms
have great bodies and are extremely fit, so they automatically feel that they will not be
able to live up to these standards, this can sometimes lead to them being preoccupied
by thoughts of failure before they’ve even begun. It never ceases to amaze me that
people are surprised that I have goals and objectives that I want to achieve from my
training, they just assume that because I am slim I don’t need to go to the gym, not
Overall locus of control and causality are very important factors that need to be
considered when implementing a sports rehabilitation programme.