Untitled Document


The Effect of Coaching Styles and Athletes’ Goal
Orientation on Level of Enjoyment in Sport

Tia Bennett, Ph.D
Department of Health and Kinesiology
Northeastern State University

Megan Nelson, MS, ATC, FMS
Clovis West High School
Fresno, CA


The achievement goal theory was the focus of this study. The achievement goal theory states that a person’s motivation is established through the collaboration of three factors: achievement goals, perceived ability, and achievement behavior (Weinberg & Gould, 2007). The theory also proposes that the goal orientations of athletes are affected through the social settings the athletes are subject to, such as the environment created by coaches (Waldron & Krane, 2005). Barić and Bućik (2009) hypothesized that there are at least two types of coaches (autocratic and democratic) and they are each defined by a certain orientation. The purpose of this study was to determine if any relationship exists between a democratic and autocratic coach and if either is more likely to have task or ego oriented athletes who enjoy sport more than another type of athlete.  The study will make coaches more aware of what types of athletes enjoy their sport more and what types are more successful.  


This study examined the validity of the achievement goal theory by seeing if an athlete’s goal orientation is dependent on a certain coaching style. The study also investigated whether an athlete’s goal orientation had an effect on the level of enjoyment in sport. This study will not only add to the field of sports psychology, but it will also make coaches more aware of what kind of environment they are creating, the goal orientation of their athletes, and what types of athletes enjoy their sport more.

The achievement goal theory was the focus of this study. This theory originated in the early 20th century, but became an important theoretical framework in academic motivation after 1985. While it’s predominantly used in the field of education, it has also been used in sports, social, and health psychology (Yough & Anderman).    

The achievement goal theory states that a person’s motivation is established through the collaboration of three factors: achievement goals, perceived ability, and achievement behavior (Weinberg & Gould, 2007). The theory also proposes that the goal orientations of athletes are affected through the social settings the athletes are subject to, such as the environment created by parents and coaches (Waldron & Krane, 2005). Thus, if an athlete is in an ego climate created by the coach, that athlete is more likely to develop a greater ego-orientation over time, just as an athlete in a task climate will become more task-oriented. Weinberg and Gould (2007) state that the best way to understand one’s motivation is to examine a person’s achievement goals and how they interact with that individual’s perceptions of competence, self-worth, or perceived ability. Sometimes athletes can be both ego and task oriented, but achievement goal orientation researchers say that an athlete will tend to be higher in one over the other. When personal improvement is the focus of goal structures, then a task oriented climate is established. But when social comparison and interpersonal competition is the focus, an ego-oriented climate is created (Waldron & Krane, 2005; Newton & Duda, 1995). Task-oriented athletes display “productive behaviors (e.g., exerting effort)” and “base competence on self-referenced standards,” whereas ego-oriented athletes “tend to exhibit counter-productive behaviors (e.g., avoiding practice) and “base judgments of competence on normative standards or social comparison” (Waldron & Krane, 2005). Depending on the type of coach and/or peer motivational climate an athlete is subjected to has an influence on the athletes’ satisfaction and enjoyment (Baric & Bucik, 2009; Vazou, 2010). Task climates are associated with “positive motivational outcomes, including enjoyment, interest, and performance satisfaction” while ego climates cause anxiety in athletes (Vazou, 2010; Newton & Duda, 1995). 

Examining a coach of a team, two types can be distinguished: autocratic and democratic. Autocratic coaches are “more oriented towards task accomplishment and outcome than towards people; they are highly oriented towards results and winning. They are less supportive, less instructive and less rewarding…less flexible, less innovative, and less ready to try new training or teaching methods” (Baric & Bucik, 2009). Democratic coaches are athlete centered and “are more supportive, more instructive and more ready to reinforce, encourage, and give positive feedback information…thus increasing their athletes’ sense of competence, independence, satisfaction, and self-esteem” (Baric & Bucik, 2009).

A study was done on Croatian athletes to examine how coaches affect the motivational climate. Barić and Bućik (2009) hypothesized that there are at least two types of coaches (autocratic and democratic) and they are each defined by a certain orientation. Barić and Bućik (2009) used the Croatian version of the TEOSQ, the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI), Perceived Motivational Climate in Sports Questionnaire (PMSCQ), and the Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS). Their results conceded that a task-focused environment was dependent on a task-oriented coach and positively predicted the athletes’ intrinsic motivation. The study also claimed that autocratic coaches are more likely to have ego-oriented athletes.

Van de Pol and Kavussanu (2011) focused their study on how achievement motivation varied from training and competition. They argue that while athletes are task or ego oriented, the characteristics that make the athletes stronger in one over the other may be due to the athletes’ motivation in training and competition. This study had a total of 345 athletes, including both genders and athletes from individual and team sports. Van de Pol and Kavussanu (2011) used multiple surveys to collect their data, and had the athletes answer questions in two sections. One in regard to training and one in regard to competition. Goal orientation was measured using the task and ego goal orientations subscales of the Perception of Success Questionnaire (POSQ), level of enjoyment using the enjoyment/interest subscale of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI), and trait anxiety using the cognitive and somatic trait anxiety scales of the modified “Sport Anxiety Scale-2” (SAS-2). Interestingly, the results showed that task-oriented athletes had greater enjoyment during training, whereas ego-oriented athletes had greater enjoyment during competition.

Kavussanu, Boardley, Jutkiewicz, Vincent, and Ring (2008) investigated coaches’ effectiveness and ability. The study utilized 26 head coaches and 291 athletes from 26 different sports teams from a university in Britain. The coaches were given the Coaching Efficacy Scale (CES) “to measure different dimensions of coaching efficacy: motivation, game strategy, technique, and character building” (Kavussanu et al., 2008). In order to measure the athletes’ perceptions of their coach’s effectiveness, they were given an adapted CES. Kavussanu and associates did this study with three different purposes. Regarding the first purpose of examining “predictors of coaching efficacy,” the study revealed that male coaches reported greater beliefs in their ability to coach than female coaches and the coaches with more experience had higher levels of technique efficacy.  Concerning the second purpose of “predictors of athletes’ perceptions of their coach’s effectiveness,” additionally it was found that an athletes’ “sport experience negatively predicted perceptions of all dimensions of coaching effectiveness” and that athletes perceived coaches of the opposite sex as less effective in motivation and character building. The third purpose of the study included how the coaches’ reports compared to the athletes’ reports resulted in coaches, on average, differing from their athletes on the four coaching efficacy domains – the coaches gave themselves higher ratings on motivation, game strategy, and character building.

In review, an athlete’s motivation is established through the collaboration of various factors and the goal orientation of athletes are affected by the environment created mainly by coaches.  Athletes are motivated in different ways.  It is important for a coach to find a good balance and to prevent athletes from having his/her sports performance suffer, becoming burned out in their sport, and/or having his/her self-esteem decrease. 



The participants used in this study were comprised of 115 college student athletes (Mage= 19.9, SD=1.42, age range=18-23, 49 male, 66 female). All participants were drawn from the school’s Division II baseball, softball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s soccer teams. Education levels of the athletes were freshman (n=36), sophomore (n=15), junior (n=35), senior (n=28), and unknown (n=1). 


The coaches’ styles and the athletes’ orientation and sport enjoyment were measured by the utilization of three surveys. The Leadership Scale for Sports (LSS) (Chelladurai & Saleh, 1980) was used to determine if the athlete perceived his/her coach as democratic or autocratic. The survey consisted of 40 questions with five dimensions: training and instruction, democratic behavior, autocratic behavior, social support, and positive feedback. The athletes were asked to indicate their level of agreement with each of the statements regarding their coach using a five-point Likert scale where 1 = never and 5 = always. Only the 14 questions of the democratic and autocratic behavior dimensions were utilized for this study (questions 14-27).

The Task and Ego Orientation in Sports Questionnaire (TEOSQ) (Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Nicholls, 1989) was used to determine if the athlete was task or ego oriented (Appendix B). The survey consisted of 13 questions and the athletes were, again, asked to indicate their level of agreement with each statement using a five-point Likert scale where 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree.

The Task Evaluation Questionnaire from the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI) (Ryan, 1982) was used to determine the athlete’s level of enjoyment in sport. The survey consisted of 22 questions and four subscales: interest/enjoyment, perceived choice, perceived competence, and pressure/tension. The athletes were asked to indicate how true each statement was for them using a seven-point Likert scale where 1 = not at all true and 7 = very true. The seven questions in the interest/enjoyment subscale are the only ones that were included in the data for the study (questions 1, 5, 8, 10, 14, 17, 20).


The data collected from the three surveys was statistically analyzed using four-way contingency tables of chi-square for independence at α = .05. Table 1 is a 2x2 contingency table of the results from the Leadership Scale for Sports (LSSS) and Task and Ego Orientation Sports Questionnaire (TEOSQ). Table 1 shows that there is a total of 111 athletes, rather than 115. This is due to four of the surveyed athletes having equal numbers in both categories, thus not being able to be placed in one category over another. The numbers in bold represent the athletes that followed the achievement goal theory. Further examination of the shows that a total of 93% of the athletes perceived themselves to be task-oriented, while 7%, ego-oriented.

Chi-square for independence test was conducted, but because the numbers for ego orientation were so small, fisher’s exact test had to be used. With degrees of freedom of one, the exact significance (2-tailed) came out to .708. When .708 is compared to α = 0.05, the null hypothesis is rejected due to a lack of significance.

Table 1.





Task Oriented

Ego Oriented



40 (36%)

2 (2%)



63 (57%)

6 (5%)



103 (93%)

8 (7%)


Table 2 displays the results of the TEOSQ and IMI surveys in another 2x2 contingency table. Again, the total n comes to 111 due to inability to categorize four athletes and the bolded numbers are those who support the second hypothesis (task athletes have higher levels of enjoyment in sport than ego oriented athletes). The bottom row shows that 95% of the total athletes have high enjoyment, whereas 5% have low enjoyment.

Chi-square for independence test was conducted, but because the numbers for low enjoyment and ego orientation were so small, fisher’s exact test had to be used. With degrees of freedom of one, the exact significance (2-tailed) came out to .369. When .369 is compared to α = .05, the null hypothesis is rejected due to a lack of significance.  

 Table 2.





High Enjoyment

Low Enjoyment



98 (88%)

5 (5%)



7 (6%)

1 (1%)



105 (95%)

6 (5%)



Discussion and Recommendations

Regarding Table 1, the gap in percentages (Table 1) between athletes who perceived themselves to be task or ego oriented may be attributed either to athletes having misconceptions concerning themselves, or not wanting to admit they have ego tendencies. Table 2 has a similar gap in the percentages. While it is impressive that 95% of the athletes have high enjoyment in sport, the data doesn’t support the second hypothesis. This large gap between those athletes that have high enjoyment and those with low enjoyment may be due to the fact that they play on a smaller, Division II university athletics team that doesn’t place as many demands on them as a larger school would. It is likely that the gap between the two categories would decrease if athletes from a large, Division I university were surveyed. 

The participant sample can be increased in size by surveying more athletes and teams, or even better yet, branching out to other universities or NCAA divisions. Freshmen and seniors can be compared to see if there is a change in their perception of their coaches and themselves as well as their level of enjoyment. Concerning level of enjoyment, levels of different teams can be compared, such as the levels of a winning team versus that of a losing team.

The surveys can be administered pre and post season. Nicholls (1984, 1989) argued that an athlete’s goal orientation may change over the course of a season, and choosing this route of research would further examine this (Waldron & Krane, 2005). 

Research has shown that female coaches promote task climates among teammates and use task-based motivation more than male coaches (Vazou, 2010). Utilizing teams with male and female coaches in future studies will contribute to this area of research. Since all five teams of this study had male coaches, the data is likely skewed.

Future studies could administer surveys that gain insight into the coaches’ perceptions of themselves and their athletes, and athletes’ perceptions of their teammates. Interesting information can be yielded from comparing these different perspectives. While a team may perceive their coach to be autocratic, the coach may perceive himself as democratic; while an athlete may perceive himself to be task oriented, his teammates and coach may perceive him to be ego oriented; and vice versa in both situations. 

List of authors and their bios


Barić, R. and Bućik, V. (2009). Motivational differences in athletes trained by coaches of different motivational and leadership profiles. Kinesiology, 41, 2,181-194.

Challedurai, P. and Saleh, S. D. (1980). Dimensions of leader behavior in sports: Development of a leadership scale. Journal of Sport Psychology, 2, 34-45.

Duda, J.L. (1989). Relationship between task and ego orientation and the perceived purpose of sport among high school athletes. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11, 318-335

Duda, J.L. and Nicholls, J.G. (1992). Dimensions of achievement motivation in schoolwork and sport. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 290-299.

Kavussanu, M., Boardley, I.D., Jutkiewicz, N., Vincent, S., Ring, C. (2008). Coaching efficacy and coaching effectiveness: Examining their predictors and comparing coaches’ and athletes’ reports. The Sport Psychologist, 22, 383-404.

Newton, M. and Duda, J. (1995). Relations of goal orientations and expectations on multidimensional state anxiety. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 81(3 Pt 2), 1107-1112.

Nicholls, J.G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ryan, R.M. (1982). Control and information in the intrapersonal sphere: An extension of cognitive evaluation theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 736-750.

Van de Pol, P.K.C., and Kavusannu, M. (2001). Achievement motivation across training and competition in individual and team sports. American Psychological Association, 1-15. doi: 10.1037/a0025967

Vazou, S. (2010). Variations in the perceptions of peer and coach motivational climate. American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 81(2), 199-211.

Waldron, J.J., and Krane, V. (2005). Motivational climate and goal orientation in adolescent female softball players. Journal of Sport Behavior, 28(4), 378-391.

Weinberg, R.S. and Gould, D. (2007). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. (4th ed., pp. 64-68). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Yough, M. and Anderman, E. (n.d.). Goal orientation theory. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/goal-orientation-theory/   36-39.


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