Change in Structure of Motivational Sphere at Initial Phase of Adaptation to Post-Sports Activity


B.P. Yakovlev, professor, Dr.Psych.
N.R. Usaeva, postgraduate
Surgut State University, KhMAR-Yugra, Surgut

Key words: achievement motivation, post-sports activity, student-athletes, adaptation.

Introduction. The initial phase of adaptation to post-sports activity is related to the end of sports career and new search for personal, professional and social self-determination.

After finishing sports career an athlete loses an important social role and a meaningful place in society. The source of his social stimulation disappears. People have a certain way of life associated with regime, social status, state of readiness for big training and competitive loads, stable achievement motivation established for the years of sports activity. Termination of sports activity changes the ordinary way of life. It is also important that the structure of person's psychological time changes. In the personal chronotype the part of future time decreases, the past, being not pushed by the future starts dominating in the individual's life [2]. Only psychological future with its prospects and programs promotes personal development, enriches personality with new motivations, extends the living space and prevents past experience from seizing the emotional and the cognitive sphere of an individual.

The purpose of the study was to make a theoretical and empirical analysis of the peculiarities of changes in the achievement motivation at the initial phase of adaptation to post-sports activity.

Materials and methods. The study took place in the Institute of Humanitarian Education and Sport (IHES) of Surgut State University - KhMAR-Yugra.

98 4th- and 5th-year students of the IHES of sports and non-sports specializations were involved in the study.

The research methods were as follows: theoretical analysis and synthesis, comparison, and the "Need for achievement" test.

Results and discussion. As seen from the theoretical analysis of the problem, the most important psychological process at the initial phase of adaptation relates to the motivational sphere. Basing on the psychological study of the changes occurring in the need-motivational sphere, some significant alterations in the level of achievement motivation were determined, which indicates lowered claims of former athletes. The paradox is that the level of claims arises from two opposite tendencies: on the one hand, it is the maintenance of the highest level of self-esteem (the focus on success), on the other hand, it is the tendency to scale back own claims in order to avoid failure or damage to self-esteem. It can therefore be concluded that termination of professional sports activity necessitates the need for setting new meaningful goals by an individual, as well as his striving to achieve them. The lowering of the need for achievement in the athletes, who have just finished their sports career and are now willing to obtain higher education, suggests that the new personal goals related to their learning activity are not that meaningful for them, which results in the loss of interest in learning.

Upon the more detailed analysis of the occurring changes, it emerged that these were Candidate Masters of Sports who displayed the most diverse alterations in the level of the need for achievement (according to the Student's t-test - t=2.543; р<0.05), while the same indicator in lower skilled athletes changed insignificantly. It was noted that the need for achievement in first-class athletes decreased insignificantly after finishing their sports career. The increase in the need for achievement in second-class athletes can be explained by the fact that they have not achieved any considerable success in sports yet and their sports activity has not yet rendered any significant influence on their motivation structure. This proves that athletes tend to lower their claims due to their assimilation of the new, learning, activity. In other words, former athletes, especially elite ones, having realized their potential in the previous activity, no longer see any career prospects and thus do not strive for social success in future endeavours, particularly in their learning activity.

The level of the need for achievement in a former athlete can still be higher than that he would have if he had not been engaged in sports at all. Upon termination of professional sports activity, an individual with a high need for achievement tries to find the most efficient application of his own skills directly or obliquely, and realize own potential. If his career growth is impeded by any of his qualities, there is a chance of an intrapersonal conflict that may escalate with time, become more durable and as a result can be externalized.

That is why, after finishing their sports career during which they got used to the high social status, most athletes have to adapt when applying for job or entering a university.

Coaches often use different types of financial and social rewards to motivate athletes [3]. Such rewards serve as positive reinforcement of athletes' activity and are clear evidence of the value and recognition of their achievements. When an athlete finds oneself in the environment where such system is unproven or rewards lag behind, the achievement motivation lowers, which we can observe while analyzing the findings. The differences in the mean values of those athletes who train and those who have finished with sport equal 15.42 and 13.47 points accordingly (according to the Student's t-test – t=2.51; р<0.05; the difference is statistically significant).

Unlike the need, which decreases upon termination of professional sports activity, the motivation to avoid failure and to achieve success barely changes upon finishing sports career. It means that former athletes, as well as active ones, when setting to work, expect to succeed and to obtain a reward for their actions. However, the risk is that former athletes cope with new activity obviously insufficiently and, as a result, they neither feel satisfied with their work nor are praised by people around them. Probably, that is why the achievement motive is slightly higher by comparison in those students who have chosen a sports specialization to keep their career going, rather than others.

For the purpose of optimization of the process of adaptation to post-sports activity, it is necessary to carry out task-oriented psychodiagnostic, advisory, and training activities involving athletes, and it is to be organized in compliance with the level of their need for achievement [1]. An athlete with this motivation being poorly developed needs emotional support, a reward for his efforts, and it is necessary to explain to him that learning activity is a favorable situation for trying to succeed in the new activity by own efforts. We believe, when choosing the ways of influence on an athlete, after all it is more advisable to motivate him/her relying on the intellectual qualities rather than on the emotional ones.

Adaptation of highly motivated athletes is complicated by the fact that they tend to lower the need for establishing social relations with others, especially if the latter do not recognize athlete's accomplishments or do not take his/her claims seriously.

It is essential to support such athletes in an unknown situation, help them allay fears and relieve anxiety related to a presumable failure.

Conclusion. The situation of leaving sport and finding new ways for self-actualization require the tension of all mental powers of the athlete, and if he/she has not enough power, it can lead to the state close to depression. Energy lack leads to the situation when a former athlete refuses to fight for his existence, preferring to live, using the tactics of "least resistance". Determination of the motivational changes occurring in difficult adaptation periods of the human life cycle will enable us to understand which factors and conditions to use in order to activate the release mechanism of the motivation control, and which measures to apply in order to contribute to the realization both of personal potential and of collaboration potential to achieve success in a particular activity.


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  2. Lozhkin, G.V. Psychological age as an indicator of successful adaptation of former athletes / G.V. Lozhkin, E.B. Tereshina // The problems of time psychology. – Orel, 2003. – P. 98–105. (In Russian)
  3. Yakovlev, B.P. Management of the motivational process in sports activity / B.P. Yakovlev // Scientific and theoretical journal "Sportivny Psikholog". – Мoscow, 2011. – № 3(6). – P. 22–27. (In Russian)

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