Motivational processes in the coach-athlete relationship: A multi-cultural self-determination approach

Sophia Jowett, James W. Adie, Kimberley J. Bartholomew, Sophie X. Yang, Henrik Gustafsson, Alicia Lopez-Jiménez

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Objective: Grounded in self-determination theory, the present study examined the cultural invariance of a model that hypothesized sport performers’ well-being will be predicted by both their perceptions of motivation and the quality of the relationship held with their coach.

Method: Participants (N = 756), originating from five countries (British, Chinese, Greek, Spanish, and Swedish), completed a questionnaire that measured perceived coach-athlete relationship quality, basic psychological need satisfaction, self-determined motivation, and well-being. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was employed to analyze the data.

Results: Analysis revealed that athletes who perceived a high quality relationship experienced heightened levels of basic need satisfaction. Need satisfaction positively predicted self-determined motivation, which, in turn, linked to enhanced well-being. Moreover, mediation analyses supported the explanatory roles of need satisfaction and self-determined motivation within the model. Lastly, multi-sample SEM invariance testing revealed the model to be largely invariant across cultures.

Conclusions: The results support the universal application of self-determination theory and the central role interpersonal relationships play in promoting well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-152
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date17 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • Coach-athlete relationships
  • Self-determination
  • Basic psychological needs
  • Motivation
  • Optimal functioning

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