Task-goal Orientation and the Correlation to Athletic Success: A Review of Literature (Final Draft)

Melisa Abesa
Brian Sather
EXS 311

Task-goal Orientation and the Correlation to Athletic Success: A Review of Literature

A key component in sport and athletic success is motivation. Motivation, defined by Webster as “a motivating force, stimulus, or influence; an incentive, or drive,” is a driving factor behind any given action, especially in sports. One’s reason for action typically influences the outcome. In sport psychology, there are two types of motivations or goal orientations- task and outcome. Task-oriented individuals (mastery goal orientation) participate in activities in an attempt to self-improve. They base success and perceived ability on their own performances, and operate independently of the performances of others. Outcome-orientated individuals (competitive or ego goal orientation), however, compete with others instead of themselves.
I reviewed several articles concerning the effect of goal orientation on athletic performance, whether in a physical education class or on a sports team. I found, in support of my original beliefs, that a higher success rate in athletics will stem from task-oriented individuals. Because such athletes are self-aware and aiming to better themselves, they are typically more stable, more consistent, and harder working. They are also less apt to be brought down by failure and adversity.

Literature Review:
After reviewing several articles, I found that task-orientation promoted more athletic success. Multiple articles presented interesting variations in orientations amongst different sports and between males and females. The articles reviewed involved a wide range of test subjects, including physical education students, soccer players, martial artists, and tennis players.
One study showed that participants with task-orientation “used more self-regulatory and self-control strategies and fewer self-defeating thoughts than participants under the ego involvement induction” (Gano-Orway, 2008, p. 132). Another study showed that task orientation actually increased sports skills, according to the coaches, throughout the season (Van-Yperen, 1999).
In Gano-Orway’s study in 2008, two experiments were conducted with between 30 and 40 athletes that were divided into task and ego involved conditions. They participated in various motor tasks while receiving negative feedback. At the conclusion of these tasks they “completed manipulation check items, a strategy use measure, and items representing self-defeating thoughts” (Gano-Orway, p.132). Both tests showed greater self-regulation and self-control in athletes in the task-involvement group. One test also showed fewer negative thoughts in this group. This indicates that task-involvement may indeed promote athletic success by encouraging athletes to use more self-regulation.
Another study by King and Williams in 1997 measured the relationships between success and goal orientation in martial arts students. In the study, participants completed a martial arts specific variation of the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ). Using this survey, King and Williams (1997) found positive correlations between task orientation and both satisfaction and performance, as assessed by the instructors. The article went on to say that “task orientation predicted performance, controlling for exercise and experience” (King & Williams, p. 397). Similarly, a study conducted with elite soccer players (Van-Yperen & Duda, 1997), also showed a positive correlation between performance, according to the coaches, and task goal orientation. These athletes also used the TEOSQ to measure task and ego orientation.
Although most of the article showed a positive correlation between task-orientation and success as well as greater enjoyment of physical activity, some discrepancies existed. The articles support the idea that task goal orientation leads to greater athletic success, mainly because such athletes have greater mental regulation and control. They also possess a healthier, more controllable theory of the causes of success, believing that success is a result of positive thought, effort, teamwork, and support. However, the articles also showed discrepancy from females to males. One article indicated that elite male tennis athletes were more prone to having ego-goal beliefs (similar to outcome/competitive goal orientation), while females were split between ego and task orientation (Newton & Duda, 1993). The TEOSQ was used for this experiment as well. Another article showed that while task orientation had positive effects on females, leading to greater enjoyment in physical education, it caused a negative effect of boredom in males (Spray, 2008).
After reviewing numerous articles, it can be concluded that there is a positive connection between task orientation and athletic achievement. Athletes with high task-goal orientation tend to exhibit greater self control, a greater enjoyment of physical activity, more immunity to negative thoughts, and overall better performance in various sports. Although not all experiments support this idea 100%, every article showed some sort of positive correlation.


Gano-Overway, L. A. (2008). The effect of goal involvement on self-regulatory processes[Electronic version]. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6(2), 132.

Hom, Jr., H. L., Duda, J. L., & Miller, A. (1993). Correlates of goal orientations among young athletes [Electronic version]. Pediatric Exercise Science, 5(2), 168.

King, L. A., & Williams, T. A. (1997). Goal orientation and performance in martial
arts[Electronic version]. Journal of Sport Behavior, 20(4), 397-411.

Newton, M., & Duda, J. L. (1993). Elite adolescent athletes’ achievement goals and beliefs concerning success in tennis [Electronic version]. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 15(4), 437-448.

Petlichkoff, L. M. (1993). Relationship of player status and time of season
achievement goals and perceived ability in interscholastic athletes [Electronic version]. Pediatric Exercise Science, 5(3), 242.

Spray, C. M., Biddle, S. J. H., & Fox, K. R. (1999). Achievement goals, beliefs about causes of success and reported emotion in post-16 physical education [Electronic version]. Journal of Sports Sciences, 17(3), 213-219.

Van-Yperen, N. W., & Duda, J. L. (1999). Goal orientations, beliefs about success, and performance improvement among young elite Dutch soccer players [Electronic version]. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 9(6), 358.