Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Ben John Goalkeeper

Without Phil's help I would never have become a professional footballer.

I've just been looking at your website, and i must say how good it is. Its really interesting and very informative and from just having a quick scan thro its got me buzzing just thinking about winning and all the different psychological and mental factors in which you helped me overcome and enable me to improve many aspects of my game and help me realise that setting goals and targets both on and off the feild have got me to where iv oftened only dream'nt about. thanks mate you really are an inspiration.hope to see you soon.
Ben John Goalkeeper

Western-Super-Mare (Conference South)

Motivational Type and Career Transitions in Football:

Motivational Type in Amateur Football

Its Role in Career Transitions

Phil Johnson C Psychol : Sport & Performance Psychology (Bristol)

& Emma Smith: University of Wales (Newport)


9 amateur footballers from three age groups were interviewed to understand the sources of motivation for them to take part in their sport. Motivational types: Extrinsic and Intrinsic (Deci & Ryan 1985) were used to discover which type best described how their choices had been influenced. Responses from participants aged between 16 and 30 indicated the importance of initial extrinsic (external) motivation, but that it shifts in form towards intrinsic motivation over time. Results confirmed the hypothesis that motivation would move between initial family, coach and friendship influences to a stronger internal, self satisfaction mode. The implications of the study highlight the importance of motivational type at various stages of player development. Thus, football coaches and parents could utilise these findings to affect primary motivation to achieve either maximum satisfaction or promote decisions to follow a professional career.


This investigation considered the psychological impact of motivational type on in-career choices by amateur football players in regard to the professional game and personal satisfaction. As players age it was considered that their motivation will change as their career transitions take place. Researchers expected players to become intrinsically motivated from a position mainly ascribed to extrinsic motivation, whereby they participate in the sport for their own pleasure

In understanding this process it allowed players to recognise the sources of their motivation and how it informed their choices. For coaches such information can benefit how they approach players in terms of their development and aspirations. For parents how their role follows critical paths during in-career transitions.


The approach was qualitative, utilising a biographical method through the form of questionnaire to structure interviews and give form and consistency to data collection. Nine football players, from three different age groups were selected (16-20, 21-25, and 26-30) to consider the impact of how motivation changed with age. The data gathered was integrated into a newly designed two-dimensional pie chart called Motivational Type: Circle of Influence. This facilitated an immediate recognition of the shifts in motivational type as well as the bias over time.


The interviews highlighted a number of similarities in the motivation types for participant footballers. 77.7% participants who were interviewed said they became interested in football through the influence of family and friends. The research results concur with Taylor, Baronowski and Sallis (1994), who stated that, ‘Parents influence their children’s initial participation in sporting activity.’ This indicates that the beginning of the football player’s career is extrinsically motivated. The average age of the subjects when they began football was 6 years. Children are encouraged by extrinsic rewards; children seek praise from their parents for doing something well, whilst their parents enjoy watching or playing themselves. All of the participants interviewed supported a football team; this was expected because as they play football, they would progress by watching other teams. Peers and family members can also influence choice of teams depending on which teams they support. The participants had a variety of favourite football teams and favourite players; this was also expected as individual’s each have there own reasons to supporting a team and liking a player, which may have been used for role-modelling. 89% of those interviewed highlighted a favourite player as role model. Bandura (1986) stated, ‘Most human behaviour is learned by observation through modelling


The results show that between the ages of 5-10 years 77.7% said that it was their family who influenced them and thus an extrinsic motivator. Between the ages of 10-15 years, 66.6% said that it was parents and coaches that influenced them, also an extrinsic motivator. Finally between the ages of 15 –20 years 55.5% said it was themselves that influenced their footballing career and as such an intrinsic motivator. These results clearly demonstrated as the players progressed in age their influences moved from extrinsic motivation to becoming more intrinsically motivated. Brent Walker, 2005 stated, ‘Athlete’s motivation can shift.’ The results have highlighted that younger players need extrinsic rewards to keep them motivated, but as players get older the rewards become less important and the players becomes intrinsically motivated and take part in the sport for self-satisfaction. The Motivational Type: Circle of influence dually illustrates for each participant their key motivators and age transitions

Brent Walker stated, “Sport psychologists agree that motivation is vital to sport success.” This has been confirmed throughout the study. It has been shown how motivation changes and also how it is needed for some subjects to participate. The Circle of influences illustrated for each subject and highlighted that 8 out of 9 subjects 88.8% greatest influence is an extrinsic motivation and is statistically significant. It also shows the 7 out of 9 subjects 77.7% began their footballing career due to an extrinsic influence .




©Johnson & Smith 2008



Evaluation & Conclusions

The project discovered that as a football player gets older their motivation changes from extrinsic to intrinsic, thus supporting the hypothesis. The information gained from the investigation can be utilised in a number of ways. Young football players are extrinsically motivated and therefore the coach of a team will be clearer that they should encourage and praise each footballer to keep them interested in the sport. This is one positive recommendation that emerges from the study. The coach will also be in a position to recognise that as the player gets older their motivation shifts and the coach can slowly zone out extrinsic motivation through constant praise and begin to encourage self responsibility. The coach may introduce a self-evaluation task, which allows the players to examine how they feel they are getting along in each session and whether they think they are improving. The coach can set boundaries on scores for example 10 out of 10 would be the same standard as David Beckham free-kick or other role-modelling, and then the players have a realistic target to self-evaluate by.


From the players perspective two important findings emerged. Players relied more on feedback about their actual performance rather than simple encouragement as they got older and this fits well with adapted training regimes placing more responsibility on players for their own growth and development. Secondly, and surprisingly to the players was how much they were influenced by their parents, something that parents can indeed take heart and encouragement from too!


Brent Walker’s (2005) study also showed how motivation changed as children aged and matured and how theirs and other’s motivation could inspire an athlete to be dedicated to their training and sport. Differing motivations influence decisions of athletes in their personal lives, for example if they have the appropriate motivation and dedication to their sport they will choose to avoid that which will hamper their performance such as smoking, drinking or drugs. The results found in this study it is viewed, can help players, coaches and families understand which type of motivation is needed, at which stage and how it changes, is then reflected through their chosen lifestyle and career decisions.


Bandura A. 1986 Social Foundations of Thought and Action. A social Cognition Theory. Englewood Cliffs NJ. Prentice-Hall

Deci EL & Ryan RM 1985 Intrinsic Motivation and Self Determination in Human Behaviour New York Plenum Press

Walker B 2005 in Taylor J & Wilson G (Ed) Applying Sport Psychology Four Perspectives Human Kinetics

Taylor WC, Baronowski T, Sallis JF 1994 Family Determinants of Childhood Physical Activity. A Social Cognitive Model in Dishman R K (Ed) Advances in Exercise Adherence 43-72) Human Kinetics