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Learning from sport burnout and overtraining
Learning from sport burnout and overtraining

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2.1 Pendleton’s expectations: motivational climates in sport

Sport psychologists describe the structure of the social environment, in the way it influences an individual’s motivation, as the ‘motivational climate’ (e.g. Ntoumanis and Biddle, 1999).

A drawing of two speech bubbles. One is on top of the other, and they are blank.
Figure 3 Social aspects of training – dialogue influences expectations and the motivational climate

Two contrasting types of goal setting climates are often identified (Ames, 1992):

  • a task-involving climate – this has emphasis on, and reward for, effort and cooperation with a focus on learning. Thinking back to the analogy of a craftsperson (Session 3) some athletes are motivated by mastering the knowledge, techniques and skills of their sport. This climate is less associated with burnout.
  • an ego-involving climate – this encourages comparison, within-group competition and punishment of mistakes. A key element here is that ego-involving climates can be highly stressful (especially for people with low perceived competence) and this may exacerbate burnout. This climate is more associated with burnout (Reinboth and Duda, 2004).

From what you have read, you will have seen that Pendleton encountered more of an ego-involving climate in Switzerland. For example, notice how she described that ‘individual times would be logged in the book, and compared by the whole group the same day’. The coach–athlete relationship is a key part of the motivational climate and Pendleton’s relationship with her controlling coach Magne did not appear good. Notice how it is hard for an athlete to make changes to their motivational climate – but coaches and an organisation can.

The case of Pendleton begs the following questions: how can coaches and parents help create a healthy motivation for athletes that helps protect them from burnout? How might SDT contribute to this understanding?