MOTIVES FOR PARTICIPATING IN TRIATHLON – AN INVESTIGATION BETWEEN ELITE AND NON-ELITE COMPETITORS IN AN AUSTRALIAN SETTING

Steven J. Croft, Chris C. Gray & Jason F. Duncan; Australian Catholic University

This research was conducted during the taught unit ‘Exercise Psychology – HMSC236’ and was supervised by Dr. Stephen Burke.

ABSTRACT

The study looks at differing motivation levels between elite and non-elite triathletes. A survey of 34 triathletes varying in age, sex and ability was conducted to assess motivation for competing in triathlons. The instrument used was an altered version of The Motivation of Marathoners Scale (Masters, Ogles & Jolton, 1993) which found personal goal achievement, competition and health orientations to be the main motivators for competing. Less important variables proved to be weight concern, psychological coping and life meaning. Using strict criteria the study population was classified into the two groups of elite (n = 15) or non-elite (n = 19) competitors. Eight of the nine variables of motivation showed no significant difference between the selected groups. Life meaning proved to be the only variable that was significantly different (p < .05). In comparison of genders no significant difference was found throughout the nine variables.

Keywords: Motivation, Triathletes.

INTRODUCTION

Triathlon is relatively new sport, originating in the late 1970’s with the introduction of the Hawaiian Ironman. In the 1980’s events developed into set race distances known as sprint, Olympic, half ironman and ironman. Being a new sport, literature in the area of motivation for a triathlon competitor is very minute, but as triathlon is an endurance event its reasons or motivation to compete in the sport could be linked to research in other endurance events. In this study motivation will be referred to as the direction and intensity of ones effort (Weinberg & Gould 1995, p.60). A particular endurance event, which has been researched sufficiently, is long distance running or marathon running. A link can be distinguished between these two separate events because the involvement in these two sports has to do with centrality of the event in their lives. Running a marathon for example does not simply consist of arriving at the starting line at the designated time and then having to endure several hours of labour and physical exertion before arriving at the finishing line. Rather, the running of a marathon is the result of months, if not years of training and daily preparation. Apart from the obvious physical training and psychological effort that running a marathon requires, the participants may have to also alter their lives. In the form of work, family engagements, time spent away from family, eating schedules and so on (Masters, Ogles and Jolton, 1993). The very same principle applies to participants of triathlons, who also take their sport very seriously.

METHOD

Subjects

Members of the Cronulla Triathlon Club were asked to complete a package of questionnaires, and return them via mail or drop off. An estimated 80 triathletes received the package, of which their were proportional numbers of both elite and non elite individuals. The overall response rate was 42.5% (34 of 80). Subjects ratio was 25 males to 9 females.

Instruments

The package distributed to the subjects included the Motivation of Marathoners Scales (MOMS) developed by Masters, Ogles, & Jolton 1993 and a form for gathering demographic and training information. The MOMS instrument is a 56-item instrument divided into nine variables under four broad categories: psychological motives (self-esteem, psychological coping, life meaning), physical motives (health orientation, weight concern), social motives (affiliation, social recognition), and achievement motives (competition, personal goal achievement. Scales are rated from a score of 1 (not a reason) to 7 (a very important reason). The score for each of the scales is calculated by averaging the ratings for each item included on the scale. The demographic and training questionnaire answered by the participants included questions regarding several variables of interest, age, sex, year’s competing, preferred distance, and the best time over that distance.

 

Procedure

Elite and non-elite triathletes were identified using a time specific technique, which is used by Triathlon Australia as criteria to gain a professional license. This involves the winning times at Australian Championship being taken as the base time, and athletes within an 8% variance of this mark being granted a license. Triathletes inside this time were therefore labeled as elite, and those who fell outside this mark as non-elite. For males the base time was 1 hour 50 minutes and varied up to 1 hour 58 minutes. For females the base time 1 hour 58 minutes and varied up to 2 hours 8 minutes.

RESULTS

Demographic Questionnaire

The age of those who were surveyed ranged from 18 to 53, with an average age of 29. The number of years competing in triathlons ranged from 2 years to 16 years, with an average of 5.3 years competing and the skill levels varied with 15 elite triathletes 44% and 19 non-elite triathletes 56%.

MOMS Survey

Table 1 indicates the descriptive summary of the results showing the range of scores, the mean scores and the standard deviation of the various nine variables. To find if there was a significant difference between the two groups of elite and non-elite triathletes a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted. The only variable to show any significant difference was life meaning, F= 4.395, p < .05. An analysis of variance was also conducted between genders and the MOMS scores. The result was no significant differences.

Table 1 – Descriptive Summary

 

N

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

Std. Deviation

HEALTH

34

2.5

6.3

4.49

.85

WEIGHT

34

1.0

6.3

2.99

1.40

PERSONAL

34

3.0

7.0

5.49

1.04

COMPETITION

34

2.1

6.5

4.60

1.39

RECOGNITION

34

1.0

5.8

3.10

1.40

AFFILIATION

34

1.0

6.5

3.61

1.35

PSYCHOLOGICAL

34

1.0

5.1

2.94

1.14

LIFE MEANING

34

1.0

5.1

2.84

1.27

SELF

34

2.1

6.5

4.26

1.01

 

DISCUSSION

The means of the nine variables from the descriptive summary (Table 1) indicate personal goal achievement and competition to be the two highest motivations for triathletes. Followed by health orientation, self-esteem, and affiliation in respective order. Recognition, weight, psychological coping and life meaning were found to be of a lesser importance to triathlete’s motivation. These results indicate that the broad category of achievement motives, which include personal goal achievement and competition had the most bearing on motivation. Whereas the variables, psychological coping and life meaning from the psychological motives category, had the least influence on motivation.

In a study of triathletes by Bell & Howe (1988), results produced were somewhat consistent with the above. The desire to improve within ones self, and fitness benefits gained, were high motivating factors for participation and competition. These results although not in the same context can be related directly to the similar, highly ranked variables of competition and health orientation found in the present study. Social interaction and the need for peer reinforcement were identified as low motivational factors by Bell & Howe, whereas these factors classed under affiliation and recognition on the nine point scale ranked in the mid-range in the current study.

The present study distinguishes between elite and non-elite triathtletes using a cut off time put down by Triathlon Australia to qualify for a professional license. In our hypothesis we stated that elite triathletes would be motivated by the variables of personal goal achievement, recognition and competition, and the non-elite triathletes by health and weight concerns. This was proved not to be the case as none these variables showed any significant difference. Life meaning however, was found to be the only significantly different variable. Therefore the research hypothesis is not supported.

REFERENCE LIST

Bell, G.J. & Howe, B.L. (1988). Mood state profiles and motivations of triathletes. Journal of Sport Behaviour. 2 (11) pp. 66-77.

Clough, P., Shepard, J. & Maughan, R. (1989). Motives for participation in recreational running. Journal of Leisure Research. 4 (21) pp 297-309.

Johnsgard, K. (1985). The motivation of the long distance runner: I. Journal of Sports Medicine. (25) pp 135-139.

Johnsgard, K. (1985). The motivation of the long distance runner: II. Journal of Sports Medicine. (25) pp 140-143.

Masters, K.S., & Ogles, B.M. (1995). An investigation of the different motivations of marathon runners with varying degrees of experience. Journal of Sport Behaviour. 1 (18) pp 69-79.

Masters, K.S., & Ogles, B.M., Jolton, J.A. (1993). The development of an instrument to measure motivation for marathon running: The motivation of marathoners scales (MOMS). Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2 (64) pp 134-143.

Ogles, B.M., Masters, K.S. & Richardson, S.A. (1995). Obligatory running and gender: An analysis of participative motives and training habits. International Journal of Sports Psychology. (26) pp 233-248.

Summers, J.J., Machin, V.J. & Sargent, G.I. (1983). Psychosocial factors related to marathon running. Journal of Sports Psychology. (5) pp 314-331.

Weinburg, R.S., & Gould, D. (1995). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Email correspondence: [email protected]

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