Setting the stage : social-environmental and motivational predictors of optimal training engagement

Eleanor Quested, Joan Duda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)
258 Downloads (Pure)


From the stadium to the stage, time investment is a recognized prerequisite for proficient performance. According to Ericsson, expert performers typically accumulate 10,000 hours of practice to become exceptional in their performance arenas (Ericsson et al. 1993). However quantity represents only one facet of training that might encourage maximal performance gains. ‘Going through the motions’ for 10,000 hours may not be sufficient to guarantee expertise. The quality of engagement in training also holds significance for the development of proficiency, as well as for the longevity of the performer’s career. Performers can only train at their best when they are ‘firing on all cylinders’ and feeling well. Thus, to get the most from one’s training, the experience should also contribute towards the performer’s physical and psychological welfare. These often-overlooked requisites to optimal engagement in training may be primary determinants of whether performers realize and sustain their full potential. Theories of motivation have frequently been employed as frameworks within which to explore antecedents of sustained, healthful and optimal engagement in physical and scholarly pursuits. ‘Motivation’ is one of the most widely examined psychological constructs in achievement domains. Yet in performance contexts, the term remains vague and often inadequately understood (Roberts 1992). Early theories construed motivation as a quantitative entity synonymous with the degree of energy and effort directed towards the targeted behaviour. This conceptualization does not take into account why the behaviour was initiated or how it was regulated (Roberts 1992). From a qualitative perspective, ‘motivation’ refers to the meaning and value of the behaviour for the individual as well as the cognitive processes that underscore interpretation of the reason to act (Ames and Ames 1984).

According to this latter conceptualization, the type of motivation driving the behaviour is considered to be the primary determinant of performance and training quality and also relevant to the degree to which the performer experiences well- and ill-being. Research undertaken in academic and sport contexts indicates that features of training environments (i.e., teacher/coach behaviours) play a fundamental role in promoting adaptive motivational processes. In turn, these have been associated with desirable consequences, in and beyond the training forum. Much of this work has been grounded in the self-determination theory (SDT) framework (Deci and Ryan 1985, Deci and Ryan 2000).

In this paper, we will firstly explore the central tenets of SDT. Research that has examined the social-environmental and motivation-related correlates of optimal training, performance and health-related engagement through the theoretical lens of SDT will be reviewed. Drawing from SDT-driven work undertaken in educational, sport and dance settings, we will draw conclusions and suggest future directions from a research and applied perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number2
Early online date3 Nov 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • intrinsic motivaiton
  • self-determination
  • scholarship status
  • need
  • satisfaction
  • autonomy support
  • behavior
  • perceptions
  • performance
  • education
  • climate


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