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Goal Setting: Task vs Ego

Posted on: November 01, 2014

By: Sport Information Resource Centre

Goal setting is great way to help an athlete be able to achieve their ideal performance. Having a set of goals keeps athletes motivated to be consistent with training and get results during competition as the goals should be realistic, offer feedback, and provide a sense of accomplishment. There are two types of goals orientation presented in athletic achievement goal theory: task orientation goals and ego orientation goals.

Task oriented goals suggests the athlete is interested in mastering a skill or task. By mastering certain skills of a sport, the athlete feels competent with his/her ability to perform on the playing field. This indicates that they are also intrinsically motivated and evaluate success by effort and improvement.

Task-oriented goals are about:

  • High efforts
  • Doing your best
  • Collaborating with teammates
  • Enjoying sport

Ego oriented goals are set by the athlete who compare themselves with similarly skilled athletes and base their success on doing better than their opponents. They measure success by not being the least skilled individual and put more emphasis on winning as opposed to developing skill. Ego oriented athletes are extrinsically motivated.

Ego-oriented goals are about:

  • Being better than others
  • Having the right equipment
  • Luck
  • Innate ability

In terms of the LTAD model, having athletes develop task-oriented goals in the first 4 to 5 stages of the framework would be ideal. Ego oriented goals should be introduced around train to compete stage and fully implemented in the train to win stage. Both types of goals should be encouraged in both stages 5 and 6 in order to develop the complete athlete. Most people who are high on task-oriented goals or high on both goals are more likely to be active for life.

Understanding athlete oriented goals and motivation can help a coach understand an athlete better. Setting goals keeps the athlete and the coach accountable and can be used as a vehicle to evaluate progress and development. The ideal athlete needs to have both high task and ego orientation goals. Having the ability to master a skill builds confidence to perform. While the desire to out perform your opponents creates the determination to win. This combination is what made athletes such a Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan some of the best athletes in the world.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Bakirtzoglou P, Ioannou P. GOAL ORIENTATIONS, MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE AND DISPOSITIONAL FLOW IN GREEK SECONDARY EDUCATION STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION LESSON: DIFFERENCES BASED ON GENDER. / CILJEVI, MOTIVACIJA I STAV PREMA NASTAVI FIZIČKOG OBRAZOVANJA SREDNJOŠKOLACA U GRČKOJ: RAZLIKE BAZIRANE NA POLU. Facta Universitatis: Series Physical Education & Sport. December 2011;9(3):295-306.

2. Davis W, Carson C, Ammeter A, Treadway D. The Interactive Effects of Goal Orientation and Feedback Specificity on Task Performance. Human Performance. October 2005;18(4):409-426.

3. Davis W, Mero N, Goodman J. The Interactive Effects of Goal Orientation and Accountability on Task Performance. Human Performance [serial online]. January 2007;20(1):1-21.

4. Gilson T, Chow G, Ewing M. Defining Success in Strength Training Using Achievement Goal Orientations. Journal Of Sport Behavior. September 2008;31(3):220-236.

5. McCarthy J. Exploring the Relationship Between Goal Achievement Orientation and Mindfulness in Collegiate Athletics. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. March 2011;5(1):44-57.

6. McBride R, Bruene A, Yuanlong L. Achievement Goal Orientation Patterns and Fifth Graders’ Motivation in Physical Education Running Programs. Pediatric Exercise Science. May 2007;19(2):179-191.

If you would like to read more on the topic of goal setting, check out an SNYB Original: Set SMART Goals here: http://stevenashyb.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/snyb-original-set-smart-goals/.

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