Purpose: Youth engage in sport for a variety of reasons; however, there are achievement-related benefits accrued by those who participate for more intrinsic reasons (see Weiss & Amorose, 2008). Given these benefits, researchers and practitioners alike are interested in identifying factors related to the facilitation of intrinsic motivation (IM). According to self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2002), IM will occur if an identified activity is capable of fulfilling the needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Consequently, anything that occurs within the activity that impacts these psychological needs can ultimately influence IM. Researchers have explored the effects of a number of social-contextual factors, such as behaviors exhibited by coaches and teachers (see Chatzisarantis & Hagger, 2007), on needs satisfaction and IM; yet little research has explored the influence of the team or group dynamics. Cohesion, which reflects the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of the group's goals and objectives, is a critical aspect of group dynamics and has been linked to various motivational outcomes (Carron & Brawley, 2008). Nevertheless, no research has examined whether team cohesion is related to athletes' IM and whether that relationship is mediated by the needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness as predicted by SDT. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to test this pattern of relationships using structural equation modeling.
Methods: Female club volleyball players (N = 140, M age = 15.72±1.16 years) completed valid and reliable questionnaires assessing perceived competence, autonomy, relatedness, IM, and the four key dimensions of team cohesion: attraction to group–task (ATG-T), attraction to group–social (ATG-S), group integration–task (GI-T), and group integration–social (GI-S).
Analysis/Results: Results showed that the hypothesized mediational model fit the data quite well (df = 4, ChiSq=1.31, p=.86, RMSEA=.00). All three needs were significant positive predictors of the youths' IM. Interestingly, however, only 3 dimensions of cohesion (i.e., ATG-S, GI-S, GI-T) were significant predictors of the needs, and this was only the case for relatedness. Furthermore, only social dimensions of cohesion had a significant indirect effect on IM. Altogether, team cohesion and the needs accounted for 37% of the variance in IM, and the cohesion dimensions accounted for 10% of the variance in competence, 61% in relatedness, and 11% in autonomy.
Conclusions: Results are discussed in light of the literature on SDT and group dynamics, and practical implications for enhancing motivation through team-building strategies are provided.