Sport commitment is a central motivational construct because it goes right to the heart of athletes’ persistent pursuit of their sport. Simply put, it is a psychological state explaining why athletes do what they do. There are two types of sport commitment: enthusiastic and constrained. Enthusiastic commitment (EC) is the psychological construct representing the desire and resolve to persist in a sport over time. Conceptualized recently to provide a more complete picture of commitment, constrained commitment (CC) is the psychological construct representing perceptions of obligation to persist in a sport over time. Knowledge of the sources of both types of commitment is critical to understanding the commitment process. These sources are presented as part of the sport commitment model (SCM) detailed next.
The SCM explains the complex process of commitment by encompassing the sources of both types of commitment, and their predicted behavioral consequence: actual persistence in one’s sport. The SCM has been tested, modified, clarified, and expanded from the time it was first introduced in the literature in 1993. Many researchers have contributed to this progress, and using the combination of quantitative survey and qualitative interview methods has increased significantly the depth with which we understand what it is that creates commitment.
The sources of commitment are presented in this entry in the following manner. First, every source in the SCM is defined. Next, the hypothesized or explored relationships between the sources and EC and then CC are summarized.
Sources of Commitment: Construct Definitions
- Sport Enjoyment—the positive emotional response to a sport experience that reflects generalized feelings of joy.
- Valuable Opportunities—important opportunities that are only present through continued involvement in a sport, such as traveling to competitions or playing in a future World Cup.
- Personal Investments-Loss—personal resources put into a sport that cannot be recovered if participation is discontinued. Example investments include time and effort expended.
- Personal Investments-Quantity—the amount of personal resources put into a sport.
- Emotional Social Support—the encouragement, caring, and empathy received from significant people to the athlete such as parents, coaches, and teammates.
- Informational Social Support—the provision of useful information, guidance, or advice received from significant people.
- Desire to Excel–Mastery Achievement—striving to improve and achieve mastery in a sport.
- Desire to Excel–Social Achievement—striving to win and establish superiority over opponents in a sport.
- Other Priorities—attractive or pressing alternatives that conflict with continued sport participation such as work, educational pursuits, and family.
- Social Constraints—social expectations or norms that create perceptions of obligation for the athlete to remain in a sport; for example, anticipating the disappointment of parents or coaches if the athlete dropped out of the sport.
Sources of Commitment: SCM Predictions
Sources of Enthusiastic Commitment
The SCM hypothesizes that many sources are positive predictors of EC and, thereby, strengthen it, while one source is negatively related to EC and, hence, lessens it. The following sources are contended to strengthen EC: sport enjoyment, valuable opportunities; both types of personal investments (loss and quantity), social support (emotional and informational), and desire to excel (mastery and social achievement); and social constraints.
SCM conceptualizes other priorities to be negatively related to EC and, therefore, the source lessens or chips away at this type of commitment. In fact, to keep this negative effect from happening, rich interview data show that many elite athletes, and their families, actively employ strategies to eliminate any conflict with other priorities in their lives. This allows playing to remain the top priority.
Sources of Constrained Commitment
The research is limited when CC is studied within the general framework of the SCM. Hence, with three exceptions, the current sources of EC will need to be explored to see how they relate to CC. In a few studies, personal investments, other priorities, and social constraints were found to be positive predictors of CC. Future research will help us understand why some athletes feel trapped in their sport.
Progress with the SCM continues. Based on what has been learned from research to date, a significantly updated English version of the Sport Commitment Questionnaire has been developed, and adapted into Spanish and Portuguese to stimulate cross-cultural research. There also is considerable interest in adapting the questionnaire into other languages.
- Scanlan, T. K., Chow, G. M., Sousa, C., Scanlan, L. A., & Knifsend, C. A. (2013). The development of the Sport Commitment Questionnaire 2 (English version). Manuscript submitted for publication.
- Scanlan, T. K., Russell, D. G., Magyar, T. M., & Scanlan, L. A. (2009). Project on Elite Athlete Commitment (PEAK): III. An examination of the external validity across gender, and the expansion and clarification of the Sport Commitment Model. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 31, 685–705.
- Scanlan, T. K., Russell, D. G., Scanlan, L. A., Klunchoo, T., & Chow, G. M. (in press). Project on Elite Athlete Commitment (PEAK): IV: Identification of new candidate commitment sources for the Sport Commitment Model. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
- Scanlan, T. K., Simons, J. P., Carpenter, P. J., Schmidt, G. W., & Keeler, B. (1993). The Sport Commitment Model: Measurement development for the youth sport domain. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 15, 16–38.
- Wilson, P. M., Rodgers, W. M., Carpenter, P. J., Hall, C., Hardy, J., & Fraser, S. N. (2004). The relationship between commitment and exercise behavior. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 5, 405–421.
- Young, B. W., & Medic, N. (2011). Examining social influences on the sport commitment of Masters swimmers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12, 168–175.