A review of controlling motivational strategies from a self-determination theory perspective: Implications for sports coaches

Kimberley J. Bartholomew, Nikos Ntoumanis, Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this paper is to present a preliminary taxonomy of six controlling strategies, primarily based on the parental and educational literatures, which we believe are employed by coaches in sport contexts. Research in the sport and physical education literature has primarily focused on coaches' autonomysupportive behaviours. Surprisingly, there has been very little research on the use of controlling strategies. A brief overview of the research which delineates each proposed strategy is presented, as are examples of the potential manifestation of the behaviours associated with each strategy in the context of sports coaching. In line with self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2002), we propose that coach behaviours employed to pressure or control athletes have the potential to thwart athletes' feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which, in turn, undermine athletes' self-determined motivation and contribute to the development of controlled motives. When athletes feel pressured to behave in a certain way, a variety of negative consequences are expected to ensue which are to the detriment of the athletes' well-being. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and interest in the darker side of sport participation and to offer suggestions for future research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-233
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009


  • Coach behaviours
  • Controlling interpersonal style
  • Extrinsic motivation
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Well-being

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