Below, I’ve provided some of the salient points from an article entitled “Exploring the Relationship Between Goal Achievement Orientation and Mindfulness in Collegiate Athletics” by Jessica McCarthy of Kean University. It was published in the Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology in 2011
Achievement Goal Theory states that there are two conceptions of ability and success.
1. The task-oriented athlete will evaluate their performance based on past performance or mastery of a particular skill. For example, a runner who has a faster time from one race to another or a soccer player who has improved since the past season.
2. The ego-oriented athlete evaluates their performance by comparing him/herself to others. For example, the tennis player who wins a match.
The research mentioned in this article says that athletes with high task-orientation is more likely to have higherintrinsic motivation, which leads to a greater work rate and ultimately greater self-esteem and confidence.
Whereas the athlete with high ego-orientation and low task orientation is likely to experience a decrease in effort and motivation and increase in anxiety and aggression when losing. All of these factors (decreased effort and motivation/increase in anxiety and aggression) generally lead to lower levels of confidence.
The research states that these two orientations act independently on each other, meaning that you can be high in one and low in the other or high or low in both. I believe that it is important for all athletes to identify how much these orientations play a role in their performance. Once you determine how they impact your play, you can begin to develop strategies to make both work in your favor. The research discovered that athletes that are high on the ego side and low on the task side are the most likely to experience motivation problems, while athletes that were high in both the ego and task sides typically experience the greatest satisfaction in their sport.
Speaking from personal experience as a former collegiate athlete, I wanted to win every game in which I played. I would get angry, frustrated, and depressed when my team lost. However, I could still take pride in personal successes on the field even when my team lost. This combination or ego and task-orientation kept me motivated while allowing me to almost always enjoy the experience or self-improvement. My perspective kept me from transferring from Millersville after my freshman season when we had 5 wins and 11 losses. I took pride in the fact that I started every game as a rookie. As a result, our team improved and we made it to the conference finals while breaking all of the scoring records my senior year.
Next, the article defines Self-Determination Theory as how people interpret internal or external input which plays a role in their psychological needs. This theory suggests that open awareness impacts personal choice and will ultimately have a positive influence on behavior. The article then provides numerous definitions for mindfulness. All of the definitions touch upon “purposefully paying attention in the present moment while being accepting and non-judgmental.” Research indicates that mindfulness can decrease negative thoughts and feelings and increase positive thoughts and feelings (especially feelings of autonomy.) I feel that athletes all engage in negative self-talk which results in a negative perception of their performance. Mindfulness can help athletes develop a more realistic perception of what happened during practice, a game, a match, or a meet.
The findings of the study in this article indicate that athletes with high levels of task orientation tend to have higher levels of mindfulness, present moment awareness, and use internal and external feedback to maximize performance. When an athlete has high ego orientation and low task orientation, they are only focusing on potential risks and not performing with that present moment focus/being in the zone/experiencing flow.
I hope that you found this information helpful.