Exploring the Differences Between Staff and Girls’ Perceptions of Girls’ Motivation, Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness at an Afterschool Program

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • 2 Arizona State University
  • 3 University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • 4 Gramercy Research Group
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Girls are less active than boys and in need of physical activity (PA) interventions. The time directly following school may be a prime opportunity to increase PA, specifically in girls. Afterschool programs and the staff who serve as role models play a critical role in promoting girls’ PA. However, staff do not always provide the support necessary to encourage girls to be active. Studies are needed to explore afterschool program staff’s perceptions of girls’ motivation, as well as their provision of support for autonomy, competence, and relationships with girls (relatedness) to understand how to best promote PA. The purpose of this study was to explore staff and girls’ perceptions of girls’ motivation for PA. The secondary purpose was to explore staff and girls’ perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness support for PA. Interviews with staff (n = 45) and focus groups with girls (n = 88) occurred in 10 afterschool program sites. Half of staff compared with a majority of girls thought girls’ motivation was intrinsic and self-determined (e.g., participated for enjoyment). Three-fourths of staff reported attempting to gain girls’ input and a majority of girls felt they had autonomy to choose or input on the PA provided. Half of staff compared with a quarter of girls thought girls’ competence was negatively impacted by other children. Finally, staff and girls reported spending time together in sedentary pursuits. Efforts are needed to ensure staff: understand girls’ PA motivation, create an autonomy supportive environment, and engage girls in active pursuits.

Dinkel is with the School of Health and Kinesiology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE. Huberty is with the College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ. Tibbits is with the College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE. Whitt-Glover is with the Gramercy Research Group, Winston-Salem, NC.

Address author correspondence to Danae Dinkel at dmdinkel@unomaha.edu.