EXERCISE AND QUALITY OF LIFE
Volume 4, No. 2, 2012, 49-56
YOUTH MOTIVES FOR PRACTICING SPORTS
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Serbia
The aim of this study is to determine the motivational structure of youths for practicing
sports. The research included 60 participants, of both sexes, all aged between 13 and 16. The
survey method was applied. The research results showed the following facts: that intrinsic
motivation is the main instigator for practicing sports and 58.33% of the participants personally
made the decision to start doing sports. As for the structure of motives, health is in the first place
of importance, followed by love for sports, then success, friendship, popularity and good looks.
Money as primary motive is penultimate instigator, while fun is the last main motive for doing
sports. The hierarchy of motives for initial involvement in sports activities does not differ on the
basis of gender. Children are most intensively involved in sports between 6 and 10 years of age.
The main conclusion of the research is that coaches should improve the consciousness of
practicing sports for the purposes of fun and friendship.
motivation, sports, physical activity, the youth.
Movement is one of the very basic manís needs. We are today witnesses and victims of a
lifestyle which includes long hours spent in front of the computer, TV monitor or behind a
working desk, with an improper sitting posture, and excessive use of means of transportation
(cars, buses, elevators), even for short-distance commuting. Children use buses on their way to
school, even if it is only one bus stop away, or they have their parents take them by car. The
mass phenomena of bad posture and flat feet have been detected in children attending junior
elementary schools, along with many other consequences of hypokinesis. Taking into
consideration all above mentioned facts, it is necessary that children and youth practice physical
activity, that is, exercises, for the purpose of proper growth and development (psychophysical,
social, as well as spiritual) and health in its most general sense. The greatest value of sports lies
in nurturing sportsmanship spirit, which is characterized by ethics, fair play, team work, health,
outstanding achievements, character and education, joy and fun, observance of rules and
regulations, respect for oneself and other participants, courage, solidarity etc.
Correspondingauthor. Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Dr Zorana -inði„a 2, 21000 Novi Sad,
Research of the motivational aspects of the youth sport experience is a problem that has
so far not been intensively dealt with by psychologists and educational experts. Bearing in mind
that through sports a child develops communicational skills and improves interaction with other
people, becomes better prepared to undertake responsibility and obligations, develops working
habits, the sense of fair play and sportsmanship, learns about organizational skills and learns how
to accept both victory and defeat, forms personal responsibility for taking risks and achieves
many other useful purposes, it is needless to discuss the importance of doing sports and choosing
a sports discipline that would suit the child best. Involving the youth in any organized sports
activity, among its many other benefits, reduces the risk of sociopathologicalbehavior, such as
delinquency and criminal conduct, alcohol consumption, drug abuse or prostitution. Age is not
an obstacle for a child to start doing sports more intensively, even if he/she is very young, if
training is led by highly qualified sports experts. In that sense, sport becomes a means for
building up young people and develops certain traits of character which are basic for any other
activity. The main aim of our research is to determine the motivational structure of the youth for
doing sports and practicing sporting activities. Such formulation of the objective implies that
basic reasons for which young people startpracticing sports should be determined, as well as the
influences that made them opt for sport. Research results and data analysis are expected to lead
to yet another anticipated objective of the research, namely, to improve the educational work in
the field of sports and enable a higher-quality scientific design of sports activities. We expect our
research to contribute to the clarification of the origins of sports activities for children. What is it
that induces children to do sports and is there any difference between boys and girls in this
Despite the fact that sport has a high potential for developing educational effect, only a
few researchers have explored the issue of motivational aspects of the youth for practicing
sports. During the 1970s and 1980s, research was carried out in the USA and it showed that most
of the American children did sports for fun, because they liked doing something they were good
at, in order to improve their sports skills, for the sake of challenge, competition, keeping in good
shape, spending time with friends and making new friends (Gill, 1983; Gould and Petlichkoff,
1988). Until 1990, studies in motivation that were carried out in our country were mostly
directed towards examining the degree to which achievement motives were expressed in adult
sportspeople of various success rates, and towards the links between achievement motives and
other personality dispositions (Havelka and Lazarevi„, 1981; Lazarevi„ and BaËanac, 1985). In
the early 1990s, BaËanac et al (BaËanac, Lazarevi„ and Arunovi„, 1994) established the main
reasons for which children and youth in Serbia usually opted for practicing sports, using the
sample of 417 young sportspeople. They found that young people in our country start practicing
sports primarily because they want to achieve success (advance towards a higher level), because
of the attraction that a sports competition holds, because of their need to get in good shape, to do
something they are good at, and to spend time with their friends. The latest research related to
this issue was carried out in the USA in 1993. Its authors were Weiss and Ferrer-Caja. They
reached firm conclusions on the three leading motives of children for doing sports. Firstly,
children practice sports because they want to improve their physical fitness (athletic skills,
physical abilities and physical appearance). The second motive for doing sports could be found
in creating social acceptance and support (making friends, belonging to a group and obtaining
support from parents and teachers). The third motive is related to fun and aims at increasing
positive social experiences and reducing the negative ones.
The general hypothesis of the research was as follows: HgñIt is assumed that today, in the
time of economic crisis, as well as the crisis of general value system that society is faced with,
motivational aspects of the young people for practicing sports are not of intrinsic (personal)
quality. Based on the research tasks, specific hypotheses were derived from the general
hypothesis. These are the following: H1 ñ It is assumed that health and love for sports represent
individual motives that stand first in the hierarchy of the youthsí motives for practicing sports
and sports activities. H2 ñ It is assumed that, in Novi Sad, youth participation in sports activities
Motives of youths for practicing sports
is most intensive between the ages of six and ten. H3 ñ It is assumed that boys differ from girls
as concerns their motivational structure for practicing sports. H4 ñ It is assumed that parents
have influence on young peopleís decision to start doing sports and practicing sports activities.
This research study included
60 participants, chosen among the students of senior
elementary schools and first two grades of secondary schools, of both sexes, aged 13 to 16 and
enrolled in sports clubs located at the territory of Novi Sad. Of the total number, 29 were female,
and 31 were male. The research included the following sportspeople: 11 tennis players, 13
handball players, 15 water polo players and 21 volleyball players, all of them from national
The applied research techniques included survey and rating of importance of the stated
reasons. The survey was carried out by a questionnaire for young people practicing sports. In
order to examine the set research problem, we used a questionnaire that was designed
independently for the purpose of this research study and with the aim to measure motivational
characteristics of the youth for practicing sports. The introductory part of the questionnaire
contains the instructions for filling out the questionnaire, information about the club at which the
participant is a member and about the participantís gender. It contains 15 items, both open-ended
and closed-ended, as well as a list of eight most frequent reasons for practicing sports, which was
given to young participants so that they could rank the reasons according to the importance they
had for their involvement in sports.
For data procession, the statistical package program ìSPSS 8.0 for Windowsî was used.
Basic statistical parameters of descriptive statistics were calculated, and measures of average and
correlation were made. On the basis of the recorded marginal frequency of participantsí answers,
we determined their distribution, which basically contained the middle values of each variable.
This was carried out on the sample as a whole, as well as on the sub-samples determined
according to gender. Chi-square test was applied for testing the differences in the distribution of
answers between boys and girls,with level of significance of p ≤ .05.
By analyzing the results, we reached the conclusion that 73.33% of the participants
answered that their motives for doing sports are personal (Table 1). Young people of both sexes
view sports primarily as a means of improving and preserving their own health. This motive was
marked as primary by 24 participants (40%). This motive is immediately followed by love for
sports. 22 of the young participants put this motive in the first place on the scale of the offered
motives, which represents 36.7%. Success rated third in the hierarchy of the most important
motives for doing sports (8.3%). Friendship was listed as the primary motive by 6.6% of the
participants. These are followed by popularity and looks with 3.3% of the participants who rated
them first. Money serves as the basic motivation for youthsí sports activities in 1.7% of cases. At
the end no one among the young participants (0%) sees fun as the basic motive for doing sports
(Table 2). Youth involvement in sports is most intensive between the ages of six and ten
(71.66%), then between ten to fourteen (18.34%), while at the very early ages, between four and
six, the percentage is small (10%). The mean value for the age at which the young participants
started their involvement in sports and sports activities is 8.3 years (Table 3). The hierarchy of
motives for initial involvement in sports activities does not defer on the basis of gender. The
motivations to start playing sports are health and love for sports, with same percentage and it was
mostly present in the answers given by boys (45.16%).Furthermore, success was mostly present
in the answers given by girls
(17.24%), friendship by girls
(6.89%) and good looks and
popularity by girls (6.89%). At the end, fun as a primary motive for practicing sports is same for
both sexes (0%). Since p = .374 it could be said that by using method ˜2 test no significant
differences found between the youths' gender and their motives for involvement in sports(Table
4). Young peopleís predilection for their involvement in sports is primarily a personal decision
(58.3%) and other peopleís influences are proportionately smaller. Among other important
people, under whose influence the young ones most frequently start practicing sports, we found
parents in the first place (15%), then friends (11.7%), then other unnamed persons (8.3%) and at
the very end, sports idols (6.7%) were listed as the reason that young people start doing a
particular sport (Figure 1).
Table 1 shows resultsthe percentage prevalence of other influence for which young
people start practicing sports.
Numeric and percentage (%) share of the nature of motives for which young people start
I practicesportsonly because of my personal reasons
Tend to disagree
No answer Total
Table 2 shows numerical results of rankingmotivesby the degree ofimportancefrom first
toeighth placeto startpracticing sportsfor both sexes. Offered motives were: Fun, Popularity,
Money, Good looks, Love for sports, Health, Success and Friendship.
Summary table of motives rated from 1 to 8 according to their importance as reasons for
Health Success Love for sports Good looks Friendship Fun Popularity Money
Motives of youths for practicing sports
Arithmetic means are presented in Table 3. Values of arithmetic meansindicatethat the
youths in average start practicing sports when they are 8,3 years old.
Average age at which youths start practicing sports
Age at whichinvolvement in
Number of participants
Table 4 shows that there are no statistical significance (p=0.374) between boys and girls
in motives they have to start practicing sports. Motives that were outlined by participants as the
most important for practicing sports are given in numbers and percentages.
Results of numeric (n), percentage (%) and statistical significance gender-based share of the
motives for which young people start practicing sports
Fun Popularity Money
(27.58%) (0.00%) (6.89%) (0.00%) (48.33%)
(45.16%) (0.00%) (0.00%) (3.22%) (51.66%)
(36.66%) (0.00%) (3.33%) (1.66%) (100.00%)
2 (df = 1) = p =0.374
Who had the i
nfluence on young people to start practicing sports
Personal decision 58,3
Other persons 8,33%
Figure 1 shows the percentage p
revalence of other influence for which young pe
General hypothesis Hg ñ
It is assumed that today, in the time of econo
mic crisis, as well
as the crisis of general value sys
tem that society is faced with, motivational asp
ects of the young
people for practicing sports are
not of intrinsic (personal) quality ñ was not c
people decide for sports primar
ily for their personal motives. These results
lead towards the
conclusion that internal motivat
ion is the dominant instigator for participatio
involvement in physical activiti
es and sports.The H1 ñ It is assumed that he
alth and love for
sports represent individual moti
ves that stand first in the hierarchy of the yo
uthsí motives for
practicing sports ñ proved to be
true. By analyzing results, we reached the concl
usion that young
people of both sexes view sport
s primarily as a means of improving and pres
erving their own
health. We can conclude that all
the data invariably confirm that young people
view their sports
activities as a factor in obtaining
and preserving health, but also as an opportun
ity for achieving
success and confirming their own
competence, or as a place where they can spen
d time with their
peers. Money, fun, popularity an
d good looks are not among the priority motive
s. Hypothesis H2
was confirmed ñ It is assumed t
hat, in Novi Sad, youth participation in sports
activities is most
intensive between the ages of six
and ten. The third hypothesis was H3 ñ It is a
ssumed that boys
differ from girls as concerns th
eir motivational structure for doing sports. Thi
not confirmed. There is no sig
nificant differencein the structureof motivesb
etween boys and
girls.The last hypothesis was H4
ñ It is assumed that parents have influence on
decision to start doing sports a
nd practicing sports activities ñ and it proved
peopleís predilection for their i
nvolvement in sports is primarily a personal d
ecision and other
peopleís influences are proportio
Limitations of this study
might be found in its relatively small sample o
f participants, or
in the territory where the researc
h was conducted, considering that sports activit
ies, and therefore
also the motivational structure f
or the beginning of sports activities, generally
depend on oneís
Although the only relate
d research study that was carried out in the te
rritory of Serbia
(BaËanac, Lazarevi„ and Aruno
vi„, 1994) shows that our young sportspeopl
sports for the prime purpose of a
chieving success, our research proves that, afte
r some years, the
youthsí main motive has chang
ed and that the awareness of healthy lifestyle
Motives of youths for practicing sports
sports is now much more stressed in young population than it was fifteen years ago. What is
more, when compared to the latest research carried out in America, the motivational structure
here differs, primarily in the fact that in America, the primary motive is improvement in physical
fitness, followed by improvement in social acceptance, belonging to a group and having friends,
and lastly by the motive of having fun, which remarkably came in last in the hierarchy of
motives in our study. The results of the mentioned research and complexity of the youthsí
motivational factors for practicing sports taken into consideration, we expect that this study will
give proper contribution to the detection of these phenomena, and that the obtained results will
find their application in the development of the pedagogy of sports.
Although it is believed that doing sports has positive influence on the physical,
psychological and social development of young people, it should be noted that this influence
does not appear automatically. In order for youthsí involvement in sports to be used for the
purpose of their optimal psychological and social development, the contents, organization,
objectives and implementation of sports activities should be harmonized with the youthsí
interests, abilities, needs and expectations. A positive approach in sports and training implies that
there is knowledge and satisfaction of motivational aspects that instigate young people to start
doing sports, which is precisely the reason why this study is significant. This further implies that
the basic task of the physical education expert and trainer should be to develop the youthsí
intrinsic motivation, as well as such motives, attitudes, value orientations and other personality
dispositions that would form the basis for continuous practice of sports activities throughout their
lifetime. The development of personal motivation is therefore an important pedagogical and
psychological task of all those who work with young people. The condition for the fulfillment of
this task is the application of all measures and actions which increase satisfaction, fun, pleasure
and competence, and which are derived from all the contents of sports and physical education.
The core of every training session, discussion or other aspect of communication between
the trainer and a sportsperson, is always a process of learning (OljaËa, 2011), which points out
the importance of the trainer and pedagogue figure in sports. In order to prompt the young
peopleís wish to do sports, pedagogues and sports trainers should stress the contribution and role
of each sportsperson and significance of both victory and defeat. They should point out the
importance of observing rules and controlling oneís behavior; they should nurture individualism
and team work alike. Moreover, training sessions and sports activities in general should be
diverse, in order to avoid boredom and satiation.
Sports and sports activities have so far made part of the educational process. Educators,
trainers and sports experts should undertake the greatest part of responsibility for the youthsí
positive attitude towards sports, because the quality of young peopleís experiences with sports
largely depends on their style of leading young sportspeople and on the relationship they have
with them, and so do the youthsí motives for doing sports and practicing sports activities. If the
development of children in the spirit of sportsmanship is one of the goals of their upbringing, the
research of the youthsí motivational aspects for doing sports is then a task of crucial importance.
As one of the few forms of activity that simultaneously engage body, intelligence and will, sports
could in the future, and should, become the decisive factor in the development of young people
and their better social integration.
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