Exercise Science Review 1-4, Motive to Achieve Success & Avoid Failure

Posted by on Jan 17, 2013 in Exercise Science, Review Topics | 0 comments

The Psychology of Sports performance is a topic that every coach and every player is familiar with.  Regardless of physical conditioning, muscle mass, and skill development…everything can break down if the athlete has a mental breakdown.

Achievement Motivation

Mental breakdowns aside, another useful way to think about this is motivation.  Between two otherwise equal athletes, the athlete with the highest achievement motivation will achieve success because he or she will have a greater appetite for competition.

Some old dudes theorized that all people have two personality traits that compete within them:

  • Motive to Achieve Success (MAS)
  • Motive to Avoid Failure (MAF)

MAS is pretty self-explanatory, whereas MAF describes an individual who is motivated by protecting their own ego and self-esteem.  The theory basically goes like this:

  • Athletes with a high sense of MAS are motivated by even-chance encounters (50:50) as an opportunity to display their skills.
  • Athletes with a high sense of MAF are motivated by competitions with either a high chance of success or an extremely low chance of success (so as to not be expected to win)

Say two athletes set the same goal, to squat 300lbs and put on muscle.  As they near the goal date and are squatting heavy multiple times a week and consuming uncomfortable quantities of food, the MAF dominated athlete may intentionally stop trying as hard out of fear of failure and claim the goal was too difficult, whereas the MAS dominated athlete might double their efforts.

In a coaching situation where either of these athletes are in a high-stress challenging position, the MAS dominated athlete will likely not need further instruction and will rise to the challenge.  Howeverthe MAF dominated athlete  will be more likely to focus on the difficulty of the task at hand and let the fear of failure creep in.  It’s at this time, that the coach must instruct the MAF dominated athlete to focus on a particular task (footwork, defending his area, his forehand swing, etc) so as to not get distracted by potential outcomes.

This post only covers a small aspect of Sports Psychology, and I imagine I will be covering this more in future posts.  However this was the only Sports Psychology question that I encountered on my first practice CSCS Exam.

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