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Kim Poag and Edward McAuley

Whereas the success of goal setting is well documented in the industrial-organizational literature (Locke & Latham, 1990), the empirical efforts to determine its effectiveness in sport settings have met with minimal success, and no studies exist that document the role played by goals in successful adherence to exercise regimens. We examined the relationships among goals, efficacy, and exercise behavior in the context of community conditioning classes. Female participants' goal efficacy was predictive of perceived goal achievement at the end of the program, and exercise self-efficacy was significantly related to subsequent intensity but not frequency of exercise participation. Moreover, a proposed interaction between exercise importance and self-efficacy failed to account for further variation in physical activity participation. The results are discussed in terms of the physical activity history of the sample and the roles played by goals and efficacy at diverse stages of the exercise process.

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Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham

Studies of goal setting both in organizations and the laboratory have found that (a) specific, difficult goals lead to better performance than vague or easy goals; (b) short-term goals can facilitate the achievement of long-term goals; (c) goals affect performance by affecting effort, persistence, and direction of attention, and by motivating strategy development; (d) feedback regarding progress is necessary for goal setting to work; and (e) goals must be accepted if they are to affect performance. The implications of these findings for athletics are discussed. Ten hypotheses, based on previous research, are offered regarding the effects of goal setting in sports. In addition, suggestions are made regarding the following: setting goals for both practice and game situations; setting goals for different elements of athletic skill as well as for strength and stamina; using goals to increase self-confidence; using short-term goals to help attain long-term performance goals; improving performance by increasing task difficulty independently of goal difficulty; and obtaining goal acceptance and commitment in sports.

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Howard K. Hall and Anthony T.J. Byrne

Recent empirical evidence (Weinberg, Bruya, & Jackson, 1985) has brought into question whether the positive beneficial effects of goal setting found in organizational settings are directly generalizable to the domain of sport. This investigation attempted to determine whether increased control over powerful extraneous variables influencing motivation would enable goal-setting effects to be observed in sport settings, and second, it examined the utility of either flexible subject-set subgoals or rigid experimenter subgoals as adjuncts to long-term goals. Forty-three males and 11 females were randomly assigned by class to one of four experimental conditions. Following baseline trial under do best instructions, subjects performed three trials on an endurance task under their assigned experimental conditions. A 4 × 3 (Goal Group × Trials) ANCOVA with repeated measures on the last factor and baseline performance as the covariate indicated that groups holding subgoals performed significantly better than those with do best instructions, whereas performance for those with only long-term goals approached significance. These findings clearly demonstrate a need to further understand the process of goal setting if it is to be successfully applied as an intervention technique to enhance motivation and sport performance.

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Catarina Sousa, Ronald E. Smith and Jaume Cruz

Coach Effectiveness Training (CET) has been shown to have positive effects on a range of outcome variables, especially in young athletes (Smith & Smoll, 2005). Based on CET principles, and coupled with behavioral feedback, an individualized goal-setting intervention was developed and assessed using a replicated case study approach. Outcome variables included observed, athlete-perceived, and coach-perceived behaviors measured before the intervention and late in the season, as well as coaches’ evaluations of the intervention. Four soccer coaches selected three target behaviors that they wished to improve after viewing videotaped behavioral feedback. Behavioral assessment revealed that two of the coaches achieved positive changes on all three of their targeted behaviors. A third coach improved on two of the three targeted behaviors. The fourth coach did not achieve any of the established goals. We conclude that this approach is sufficiently promising to warrant additional research, and we discuss strengths and limitations of the study.

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Matthew Smith and Christina Lee

This study examined the facilitatory effect of goal setting in physical performance. Three potential mechanisms that may mediate this effect are described: increases in time spent practicing, promotion of effective training strategies, and increases in commitment resulting from public goal setting. Students (N=51) performed a novel task under one of three conditions: public goal setting, private goal setting, and no goal setting. Goals selected, time spent practicing, strategies used during practice, and actual performance were assessed. Subjects in the two goal-setting groups showed better performance than those in the control-group; those in the public goal-setting group spent the most time in practice, but this was not reflected in better performance. Test performance was predicted by baseline performance and by the goal set; practice time, training strategy, and public goal setting did not account for further variance in performance. Although this study failed to find a mediating effect for these three mechanisms, the results must be interpreted with caution.

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Dennis G. Fairall and Wendy M. Rodgers

Previous literature on goal setting indicates that athlete participation in the goal-setting process can improve performance (cf. Kyllo & Landers, 1995). Much of the past research, however, has been criticized for using contrived environments where the motivation and involvement of the participants is questionable. This field experiment examined the effect of three methods of goal-setting (participative, assigned, and self-set) on various goal attributes. Track and field athletes (N = 67) were randomly assigned to one of the three experimental conditions. Results of between-groups ANOVAs showed a significant difference in the perception of the amount of participation athletes perceived in each of the three conditions, indicating the success of the manipulation. Further analyses, however, revealed no advantage to the participative and self-set conditions compared to the assigned condition in terms of goal attributes. The influence of goal-setting method on other goal attributes may be spurious or due to other contextual variables.

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L. Blaine Kyllo and Daniel M. Landers

Although the motivational technique of goal setting has consistently and reliably improved performance in industrial psychology research, this beneficial effect has not been clearly demonstrated in the sport domain. The many proposed explanations for this discrepancy have resulted in a controversy in the literature. However, scientists have overlooked the importance of statistical power. A meta-analytic review of the literature investigating the effects of goal setting on performance in sport and exercise could help to clarify the state of knowledge. The meta-analytic procedures described by Hedges and Olkin (1985) were used to statistically combine 36 studies identified as meeting inclusion criteria. Results indicate that, overall, setting goals improves sport by 0.34 of a standard deviation. Moderate, absolute, and combined short- and long-term goals were associated with the greatest effects. Additional moderator variables were identified, and the extent to which they alter the goal setting–performance relationship is discussed.

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Julie Senécal, Todd M. Loughead and Gordon A. Bloom

The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the implementation of a season-long team-building intervention program using team goal setting increased perceptions of cohesion. The participants were 86 female high school basketball players from 8 teams. The teams were randomly assigned to either an experimental team goal–setting or control condition. Each participant completed the Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ; Carron, Brawley, & Widmeyer, 2002; Carron, Widmeyer, & Brawley, 1985), which assessed cohesion at both the beginning and end of the season. Overall, the results revealed a significant multivariate effect, Pillai’s trace F(12, 438) = 2.68, p = .002. Post hoc analyses showed that at the beginning of the season, athletes from both conditions did not differ in their perceptions of cohesion. However, at the end of the season, athletes in the team goal–setting condition held higher perceptions of cohesion than athletes in the control condition. Overall, the results indicated that team goal setting was an effective team-building tool for influencing cohesiveness in sport teams.

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Paul J. McCarthy, Marc V. Jones, Chris G. Harwood and Laura Davenport

Positive affect is linked to enhanced motivation, commitment, and performance among youth sport performers; yet, few psychological interventions have specifically attempted to enhance positive affect among these athletes. To address this circumstance, we implemented a single-subject multiple-baseline design to examine the effects of a goal-setting intervention on the positive and negative affective responses of three competitive youth athletes. Statistical analysis coupled with visual inspection criteria revealed a significant overall increase in positive affect for participants 1 and 2. A statistically significant increase in positive affect also emerged for participant 3, yet it was not possible to detect a significant experimental effect using visual inspection criteria. No statistically significant decreases in negative effect emerged for any of the three participants. These results show some support for the hypothesis that goal setting may enhance positive affect among junior multievent athletes.

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Joachim Stoeber, Mark A. Uphill and Sarah Hotham

The question of how perfectionism affects performance is highly debated. Because empirical studies examining perfectionism and competitive sport performance are missing, the present research investigated how perfectionism affected race performance and what role athletes’ goals played in this relationship in two prospective studies with competitive triathletes (Study 1: N = 112; Study 2: N = 321). Regression analyses showed that perfectionistic personal standards, high performance-approach goals, low performance-avoidance goals, and high personal goals predicted race performance beyond athletes’ performance level. Moreover, the contrast between performance-avoidance and performance-approach goals mediated the relationship between perfectionistic personal standards and performance, whereas personal goal setting mediated the relationship between performance-approach goals and performance. The findings indicate that perfectionistic personal standards do not undermine competitive performance, but are associated with goals that help athletes achieve their best possible performance.