Objectives: The objectives of this research were a) to explore the applicability of 'motivational climate' research to early career athletes under the age of twelve, b) to re-examine the concept of 'motivational climate' in the light of recent scientific developments, and c) to concurrently study the influences of coaches, parents and peers on athletic motivation.
Design and Method: Using a qualitative design, 40 participants (7-11 years of age) from various 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.
Findings: The analysis indicated that young athletes experience a motivational climate which shows consistencies with existing models of motivation; suggesting this population is worthy of further study. 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.
Conclusions: This study provides an insight into the motivational climate experienced by young athletes and helps to delineate the different roles of social agents in influencing their motivation at this early stage of development.