||This thesis aimed to develop an understanding of the social and environmental influences on athlete motivation, and the way these change across the athlete career span. Study 1 set out to explore the social and environmental influences of coaches, parents and peers on the motivation of young athletes (under 12 years old), at the initiation/sampling stage of their careers. Forty participants (7-11 years of age) from a variety of sports were interviewed in focus groups, using a semi-structured format to investigate the roles played by coaches, parents, and peers in influencing athlete motivation. An inductive content analysis was conducted to determine which behaviours among these social
agents influenced key motivational outcomes. The young athletes described motivational influences which showed consistencies with existing models of motivation, but which also expanded upon these models in terms of both the specificity of behaviours identified, and also the comprehensive nature of the findings. The influences of coaches related most strongly to the manner in which they perform their roles of instruction and assessment, whereas parents’ influences were most salient in terms of the
way they support the child’s participation and learning. Both parents and coaches exerted influences through their leadership styles, affective responses and pre-performance behaviours. Peers influenced participants’ motivation through competitive behaviours, collaborative behaviours, evaluative communications and through their social relationships. This study provides an insight into the socio-environmental influences on motivation experienced by young athletes, as well as helping to delineate the different roles of social agents in influencing their motivation at this early stage of development.
Study 2 qualitatively examined the motivationally relevant behaviours of key social agents in athletes at the specialising career stage. Seventy-nine participants (9-18 years old) from 26 sports participated in semi-structured focus-groups investigating how coaches, parents, and peers
may influence motivation. Using a critical-realist perspective, an inductive content-analysis indicated that specialising athletes perceived a multitude of motivationally-relevant social cues. Coaches’ and parents’ influences were related to their specific roles: instruction/assessment for coaches, support-and-facilitation for parents. Peers influenced motivation through competitive
behaviours, collaborative behaviours, evaluative communications and through their social relationships. The results were consistent with Study 1 in terms of returning an analysis based around the different roles performed by social agents in relation to the ways that athlete
motivation can be influenced.
Study 3 examined the socio-environmental influences of coaches, parents and peers on the motivation of elite athletes. Twenty-nine elite sport participants (15-29 years old) took part in semi-structured focus groups or interviews investigating how coaches, parents, and peers influenced their motivation. An inductive content analysis was performed using a critical realist approach. Coaches and peers were reported to be focal influences, whilst the role of parents appeared to be decreased relative to other career-stages; being limited to emotional and moral
support. Themes of feedback/evaluation, and pre-performance motivating behaviours were common to all social agents, whilst the coach-athlete and peer-athlete relationships appeared to be important in mediating and directly influencing motivation. The influences of social agents
related to their specific roles: instruction/leadership for coaches; whilst peer-influences revolved around collaborative and competitive behaviours and emotional support.
The discussion chapter took the form of a meta-interpretive synthesis of research findings concerning social and environmental influences on athlete motivation across the career-span. From a total of 124 papers that qualified for initial consideration 45 contributed to the final analysis. This chapter presents models of motivational processes that are intended to contribute new ideas and stimulate thinking in the area. The final analysis proposes a horizontal structure relating to athletic career developments, and a vertical structure detailing general dimensions of the overall motivationally relevant social environment. From this, the relative influences of coaches, parents and peers were ideographically assessed, suggesting that the influence of peers grows over the athletic career, whilst the relative influence of parents decreases. Finally, a meteorological model is presented, with a view to facilitating the joint consideration of numerous motivationally relevant variables, reflecting the proposed complex interactivity and
interdependence identified throughout this thesis. In this chapter, the term “motivational atmosphere” is proposed in order to represent the extremely broad, complex and interactive nature of the socio-environmental influences on athlete motivation. The thesis concludes with the
consideration of the theoretical and applied implications of the studies conducted.