Commitment in Sports

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  (ECis  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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Young, B. W., & Medic, N. (2011). Examining social influences on the sport commitment of Masters swimmers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12, 168–175.

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