sport psychology  GOAL ORIENTATION

Goal orientation is similar to achievement motivation; it is the motivation to achieve a goal in sport. There are two types of goal orientations namely; task orientation and ego orientation. In the case of task orientation, the goal is mastery of a particular skill. A task oriented batsman perceives himself of high ability if he can score more runs than what he scored in the last match. The task oriented athlete continues to work for mastery of the skill he is working on, and enjoys feeling of self-efficacy and confidence in so doing. In case of ego-orientation, the goal is to outperform another individual or other individuals. It is no longer enough simply to gain mastery over a skill and make personal improvements. So in ego-orientation, social comparison becomes the driving force. An ego-oriented bowler will try to outperform other bowlers, either by throwing the fastest ball or by taking more wickets than other bowlers. Individual’s perceived ability is measured as a function of outperforming others as opposed to self-improvement.

Developmental Nature of Goal Orientation

A child two to six years’ old views perceived ability in terms of how well she performed the task the last time. If she notices an improvement in performance, she naturally assumes that her ability has increased and that she is competent at performing the task. At this age she is more tasks oriented than ego-oriented. At the age of six or seven, the child begins to view perceived ability in terms of how other children perform. She becomes ego-oriented. Perceived ability is now a function of one’s own capacity as it is relative to that of others, as opposed to being a function of absolute ability. High ability and competence is only perceived as such if it better than the performance of others. From a developmental perspective, children mature as to how well they are able to differentiate between the concepts efforts ability and outcome. Children pass through four levels to fully understand these three concepts.

Level 1:

At this early stage, the child views efforts, ability, and outcome as the same thing. At this level of development, the child is said to have undifferentiated goal perspective. To the child at this age level, effort, or trying hard, is the same as ability or having a successful outcome. The Child has no concept of how luck differs from ability and how one task can be more difficult than another.

Level 2:

At level two, the child is beginning to recognize that there is a difference effort and ability, but the child believes that effort is the major determinant of achieving success. If u try hard and expend lots of effort, you will find success.

Level 3:

This is a transitional period, in the sense that the child is beginning to differentiate ability and effort. Sometimes the child will recognize that effort is not the same as ability, but at other times he will revert back to an undifferentiated conceptualization of the two.

Level 4:

In level 4 the individual is said to have a differentiated goal perspective. At around age twelve, the child can clearly distinguish among the concepts of ability, effort, and outcome. She also clearly understands the ramifications of task difficulty and recognizes that some tasks will be more difficult than others. Research by Fry (2000) and Fry and Duda (1997) shows support for this developmental theory of achievement motivation.

Measuring Goal Orientation

To find out whether individuals exhibit task and/or ego goal orientations a number of inventories have been developed. These are the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ), Perceptions of Success Questionnaire (POSQ) and the Sport Oriented Questionnaire (SOQ). The TEOSQ (Duda, 1989; White & Duda, 1994) is composed of 15 items that measure task and ego orientation. the POSQ (Roberts, 1993; Roberts & Treasure, 1995) is composed of 12 items that measure competitiveness (ego orientation) and mastery (task orientation).the SOQ (Gill , 1993; Gill & Deeter, 1988) is composed of 25 items and purpose to measure competitiveness , win orientation , and goal orientation. It is unclear, however, exactly how each of these factors compares with basic task and ego orientations (Marsh, 1994).

Goal Involvement

There are two types of goal perspective. One is referred to as goal orientation and the other is goal involvement. Both are related to success, goal orientation related to success in general, whereas goal involvement is related to situation specific success. As described earlier, goal orientation is the motivation to achieve a goal in sport. However goal involvement is a situation-specific state measure of how an individual relates to an achievement situation at a specific point in time. Goal involvement can be further divided into two categories; task or mastery involvement, and ego or competitive involvement. Situations that heighten awareness of social evaluation induce a state of ego involvement, accompanied by feelings if increase anxiety. Conversely situations that do not heighten an awareness of social evaluation evoke a state of task involvement, accompanied by feelings of low anxiety. To be ego involved is to display characteristics of an ego-oriented person in a specific situation. To be task involved is to display characteristics of a task-oriented person in a specific situation.

Motivational Climate

Perhaps of greater import than whether an individual is task-or ego-oriented is the motivational climate that the individual is placed in. Just as individuals can be task or ego oriented, learning environment can also be task or ego oriented. The environment could be ego-oriented, with its emphasis upon social comparison. A mastery climate is one in which athletes receives positive reinforcement from the coach when they

(a) work hard

(b) demonstrate improvement

(c) help other learn through cooperation, and

(d) Believe that each player’s contribution is important.

A competitive Climate is one in which athletes perceive that

(a) poor performance and mistakes will be punished

(b) high-ability athletes will receive the most attention and recognition, and

(c) competition between team members is encouraged by coach.

Characteristics of different types of Goal Orientation, Goal Involvement, and motivational Climate

Goal Orientation (Personality trait)

1. Task or Mastery Orientation

I. Effort important

II. Mastery Important

2. Ego or Competitive Orientation

I. Social comparisons important

II. Wining important

Goal Involvement (Psychological State)

1. Task or Mastery Involvement

I. Athlete works hard

II. Athlete strives for master

2. Ego or Competitive Involvement

I. Athlete defines ability as winning

II. Athlete strives to win

Motivational Climate (Environment)

1. Mastery Climate

I. Effort rewarded

II. Cooperation emphasized

2. Competitive climate

I. Mistakes punished

II. Competition encouraged Epstein (1989)and Treasure and Roberts (1995) have proposed that a mastery-oriented climate can be created by the coach or the teacher that will be instrumental in developing and fostering selfconfidence and intrinsic motivation in youth sport participants. Coaches need to address each of the following conditions to create a mastery environment:

  1. Tasks: Tasks involving variety and diversity facilitates an interest in learning and task involvement
  2. Authority: Students should be given opportunities to participate actively in learning process by being involved in decision making and monitoring their own personal progress.
  3. Reward: Rewards for participation should focus upon individual gains and improvements and away from social comparisons.
  4. Grouping: Students should be placed in groups so that they can work on individual skill in a competitive learning climate.
  5. Evaluation should involve numerous self-test that focus upon effort and personal improvement.
  6. Timing; Timing is critical to the interaction of all of these conditions.

Research and Goal Perspective Theory

A number of researches have been conducted on various aspects of the theory. Some important findings are mentioned below.

Characteristics of Task and Ego Goal Orientations

Mastery-oriented individuals feel most successful when they experience personal improvement that they believe is due to their hard work and effort. They gain a sense of accomplishment through learning and mastering a difficult task. Task-oriented individuals, regardless of their perception of personal ability, tend to exhibit adaptive motivational patterns. This means that they tend to participate in challenging tasks that allow them to demonstrate persistence and sustained effort. An ego or competitive goal orientation is associated with the belief that success is a function of how well a person performs relative to other people. In this case ability is independent of effort. If a person performs well against other competitors, yet does not expend much effort, this is evidence of greater ability. Thus for ego-oriented athletes, success is outperforming an opponent using superior ability as opposed to high effort or personal improvement. An ego-oriented individual who has high perception of ability should exhibit adaptive motivational patterns (engage willingly in challenging tasks). However, an ego-oriented who has low perception of ability should exhibit a maladaptive motivation pattern. Because his motivation is to win and he does not believe he can win, he will not likely take part in a challenging activity. The obvious disadvantage of an ego orientation is that it discourages participation simply for the fun of it unless one is certain of experiencing success. In summary, a mastery-oriented will be looking at challenging situations, but an ego-oriented individual will focusing on defeating others with minimum effort. Research on goal orientation has revealed that individuals who are high in task orientation can also be high in ego orientation.

Interaction between Goal Oriented and motivational Climate

Best combination of goal orientation and motivational climate is to be task and ego oriented in conjunction with a mastery climate. This combination should yield the highest levels of actual performance, personal satisfaction, and enjoyment

Self-Handicapping and Goal Orientation

The concept of self-handicapping is that individuals proactively reduce the amount of effort. For example a tennis player misses his training sessions due to fearing losing a match to a stronger competitor. Such an act makes it possible for the athlete to argue that he lost due to lack of practice and not because of lower ability. It is observed that athletes who do so are low on self-confidence.


Cox, H. Richard. (2002). Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications. (Fifth Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Lavallec. D., Kremer, J., Moran, A., & Williams. M. (2004) Sports Psychology: Contemporary Themes. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers

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