How to achieve in elite training centers without burning out? An achievement goal theory perspective

Sandrine Isoard-Gautheur, Emma Guillet-Descas, Joan Duda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
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In training centers, the demonstration of high competence is essential and there is considerable emphasis placed on sporting achievement. Athlete burnout can be a consequence of such pressures and expectations. More information is needed regarding the social, environmental and individual differences in achievement-related characteristics which are relevant to the occurrence of burnout in this context. Objectives To examine the relationships among the coach-created climate, perceived competence, achievement goals and burnout in elite adolescent-age athletes. Design Prospective six-month-follow-up. Methods Data were collected from a sample of 309 young French handball players participating in elite training centers. Cluster analysis and structural equation modeling procedures were employed to evaluate the hypotheses. Results Comprised of differential scores on the dimensions of burnout, four distinct clusters were identified. Athletes in these cluster groups varied in perceptions of the motivational climate, goal orientations, and perceived competence. The structural model regarding the hypothesized relationships between perceived coach climate, perceived competence, achievement goals and athlete burnout, offered good fit to the data. Conclusions Findings indicated that young talented athletes perceiving an ego-involving climate and emphasizing mastery avoidance goals at the beginning of the season had a higher risk of experiencing burnout symptoms at the season's end. In contrast, players perceiving a high task-involving climate and emphasizing mastery approach goals at the beginning of the season had lower burnout scores when the season concluded. Moreover, players with high feelings of competence, who also report higher scores on performance approach and avoidance goals, higher scores on mastery approach goals and lower scores on mastery avoidance goals, are less likely to experience burnout.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-83
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Achievement goal theory
  • Adolescent
  • Burnout
  • Elite athlete


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