Sports Psychology: Extrinsic & Intrinsic motivation

Author :Giannis Psarelis

Sport psychologists split the motivation sources in extrinsic and intrinsic. As ecxtrinsic motivation we refer to reinforcements – positive or negative- coming from our environment, usually coming from other people. But motivation may come also from ourselves and tjhis procedure is called intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation

To give a definition we could mention that extrinsic motivation “ is a form of motivation that stresses valued outcomes or benefits provided by others. Extrinsic motivation in sports might be the applause of spectators, the encouragement of our coach, the trophy at a specific competition, the money offered to winners’ e.t.c. Some coaches could say that the role of the coach could be described mainly by the following actions to motivate the athlete and to supervise his sports development.

Weinberg & Gould (2015) mention that Intrinsic Motivation could be split to the following different categories :

Knowledge: “The individual engages in a activity for the pleasure and satisfaction she has while learning, exploring or try to understand something new”

Accomplishment: “The person  engages in a activity for the pleasure and satisfaction he feels when creating something or mastering difficult skills”.

Stimulation: “The person engages in a activity to experience pleasant sensations such as fun, excitement and aesthetic pleasure”

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is “a form of motivation that stresses valued outcomes or benefits that come from within the individual, such as feelings of satisfaction, competence, self-esteem and accomplishment.

Intrinsic motivation might be the satisfaction we get by being able to become better athletes, by the satisfaction we get when we are able to complete a hard session, the satisfaction we get when we battle our fears and doubts e.t.c. It’s important to mention that we coaches should emphasize on intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivations without the intrinsic is one of the main reasons why young people drop out of sports. Intrinsic motivation is also what makes athletes, especially young athletes, improve their personal skills that are useful for their social life. Through their participation in sports young athletes increase their self-esteem, increase their self-confidence, understand that their lives is at their hands and it’s about destiny.

Weiberg and Gould (2015) mention that there are the following categories :

Integrated regulation: Activity is personally important  because of a valued outcome rather interest in the activity solely for itself. Someone who  trains in order to accomplish a difficult task like an Ironman and have a tattoo with the M at his calves

Identified regulation: The behavior is highy valued, accepted, and judjed by the individual and thus is performed willingly, even if the activity is not pleasant itself. A person that participates in sport as he believes that he becomes a mentally tougher person and more organised

Introjected regulation.e.g. a person who exercises because he wants to attract women through a nice shaped body

External regulation. This is the case with rewards and constraints


Huczynski A. & Buchanan D. Organisational Behavior. An introductory text.2001. Prentice Hall. Fourth Edition

Weinberg R.S. & Gould D. Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2015. Human Kinetcis. Sixth Edition