Authors: Eric Legg1, Mary S. Wells2, John P. Barile3

1 School of Community Resources & Development, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
2Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
3Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu, HI

Corresponding Author:
Eric Legg, Ph.D.
411 N Central Ave; Suite 550
Phoenix, AZ 85015

Eric Legg, Ph.D. an Associate Professor in the School of Community Resources & Development at Arizona State University in Phoenix, AZ.  His research focuses on recreational sports, and community development.

Mary S. Wells is an Associate Professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, & Toursim at the University of Utah.  Her areas of research focus on creating sport and recreation that help youth and adults develop positively

John P. Barile is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa in Honolulu, HI. His research focus on health, quality of life, and quantitative methods.

The relation of achievement goals to sense of community in an adult recreational sports league: A multi-level perspective.


Psychological sense of community (PSOC) has important positive associations with a number of other indicators of quality of life. One community where PSOC may develop is in adult recreational sports. Indeed, voluntary “communities of interest” appear to be replacing traditional geographic communities as places where individuals experience PSOC. Despite the possibility of PSOC developing within adult recreational sports, however, limited research has explored specific elements in this setting which may lead to PSOC. This study addresses that gap by assessing the relation of both individual and team-level achievement goal orientations to PSOC. Specifically, the purpose of this study was to examine the link between achievement goal orientations at both the individual and group levels to PSOC. Researchers collected data from 155 participants, nested within 40 teams. Questions were related to achievement goal orientations and feelings of PSOC. Results suggest that individuals with individual ego orientation are less likely to develop PSOC (p=.031); however, individuals on teams with high task-orientations are more likely to develop PSOC (p=0.047), and further, the negative impact of individual ego-orientations is moderated when participating on a team with an overall high task-orientation (p=.032).  No significant relations were detected between individual task-orientation (p=.051), team-level ego orientation (p=.087), individual income (p=.449), or the number of years a participant had played on a team (p=.852) and PSOC. Results extend our understanding of the impact of achievement goal theory and PSOC, by recognizing the role of collective (team) goal orientations.

Key Words: sense of belonging, task orientation, ego orientation


Many adults continue playing recreational sports, and similar to the well-documented benefits of youth sport, playing adult recreational sports may lead to a number of social and psychological benefits (13). In fact, some research suggests that the benefits of recreational sport participation for adults may exceed the benefits of participation in competitive sport (7). As youth often participate because they enjoy playing on a team (61), adults also often participate for social reasons. Further, though adults participate in both individual (e.g., tennis) and team recreational sports (e.g., flag football), given the social nature of many adult recreational sports, participation in team sports appears to be associated with more benefits than individual sports (16).

The feeling of a psychological sense of community (PSOC) represents one benefit that may develop from playing adult team recreational sports. Broadly, PSOC describes “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together” (31). PSOC itself is important due to its association with a number of indicators of overall well-being. For example, PSOC is associated with increased self-confidence, emotional connections (19), feelings of empowerment, and coping skills (19), as well as decreased negative moods (50) and feelings of alienation (48). Further, PSOC correlates to increased participation in community programs (43), prosocial behavior, increased volunteerism (41), and increased civic participation (8). Thus, individuals who develop PSOC may experience both personal benefit and contribute to community benefit.

Individuals may develop a PSOC in relation to geographic similarities (i.e., neighborhoods) or around communities of interests (i.e., places where people gather and form relationships based around a common interest). In fact, communities of interest may be replacing traditional sites, including neighborhoods and churches, as places to experience community (56). These communities of interest include associations in recreational sport settings, making them an ideal place for individuals to gather around a common interest and form PSOC. Existing research also illustrates that PSOC can develop among recreational sport participants (65).   

While recreational sport settings provide a particularly germane opportunitiy to develop PSOC, it is also clear that PSOC does not automatically develop (6; 66). Although previous research links recreational sport participation to the development of feelings of belonging and community, missing from the literature is an understanding of the specific mechanisms within sport participation that enhance the development of PSOC. According to a recent review, approximately half of research related to the benefits of participation in adult recreational sport merely compares participants versus non-participants and does not provide theoretical grounding for explaning how the benefits develop (15). Further, when looking more broadly at predictors of PSOC, much of the existing research focuses on demographic and behavioral variables, or on the importance the individual places on the particular group (27; 36).  Little research examines both individual characteristics and the collective impact of individual characteristics within a team. As many individuals participate in adult recreational sport, the aggregate influence of the team would appear particularly germane to understanding outcomes. Existing research, however, largely ignores this collective impact, thus leaving a key gap in our understanding of the role the team, and in particular team goal orientations, play in the development of positive outcomes such as PSOC. This aim of this research is to address these gaps by presenting a theoretically grounded approach to explaining the development of PSOC that recognizes both individual and aggregate team characteristics.

One potential lens through which to address these gaps in the PSOC research is through achievement goal theory. In achievement-oriented settings (e.g., sport, the classroom), achievement goal theory (AGT) has been successful in explaining a number of outcomes. For example, within sport, AGT has been used to explain effort, self-esteem, affect, beliefs about societal contributions, social status, and relatedness, just to name a few (see 49 for an extensive review). Dispositional goal orientations represent the central tenant of AGT. At its most basic and its most frequently used form, AGT proposes that in achievement-oriented settings, individuals are primarily motivated to demonstrate competence (2; 12; 13; 35; 51; 54). Individuals’ perceptions of success, however, differs based on their definition of competence. Specifically, an individual may define competence through self-referenced criteria (task-orientation) or other-referenced criteria (ego-orientation). When individuals use self-referenced criteria, they seek to demonstrate competence only in reference to their own self (11). A person who is task-oriented, therefore, would demonstrate competence through effort, learning, and mastery of skills. Conversely, a person with an ego-orientation would seek to demonstrate competence in comparison to the performance of others.

Previous research in achievement goal theory alludes to a relationship between goal orientations and PSOC. First, research links task orientation to a belief that success requires collaboration with peers (11; 22; 51). That is, individuals who have a higher task-orientation are more likely to believe that working together as a group is essential to success. In addition, task orientation is linked to a feeling of relatedness (57; 63). Deci and Ryan (9) define relatedness as the desire to be connected to others, to care for them, to be cared for by them, and to a feeling of belonging with them. This connection points to the relevant feeling that corresponds to a task-orientation. Although the feeling of relatedness may be a feeling of connection to an individual person, and not just a group (9), the idea of relatedness suggests similarities to the feeling of belonging that is part of the membership component of PSOC. Thus, it seems likely that in regards to individual goal orientations, persons with a higher task-orientation would experience higher levels of PSOC through both a commitment to the group and through a feeling of belonging.

Though individual goal orientations may help explain outcomes such as PSOC, situational factors also may explain outcomes, and may further interact with individual factors. Papaioannou and colleagues (10) argued that measuring goal orientations at only the individual level violated the assumption of independence as individuals in groups (e.g. teams) are likely to be more similar to each other on average that to individuals in other groups. The importance of measuring at the group level  is especially true in adult recreational sport settings where individuals often participate for social reasons, and teams do not have traditional coaches that exert a strong influence. Thus, the influence of peers is likely to be stronger than in adult recreational sports than in other settings. Scholarship outside of sport provides evidence of the influence of group-level factors on PSOC (4). However, despite the probable influence of group-level dispositions, most research within sport focuses only on the individual level.

Given the potential of participation in adult recreational sports to develop positive outcomes such as PSOC, it is important to examine the specific factors that predict PSOC. A wide body of research suggests that dispositional goal orientations may predict positive social-psychological outcomes in recreational sport, however, existing research has largely ignored the group-level impact and has not specifically examined the link between goal orientations and PSOC. In particular, the examination of the group-level impact represents an important extension of the existing literature that primarily focuses on individual characteristics. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the link between achievement goal orientations at both the individual and group levels to PSOC.

Psychological Sense of Community

To begin the examination of the connection between psychological sense of community and achievement goal orientations, a complete understanding of PSOC is necessary. Although the general construct of a PSOC emerged in the mid-1970s from the seminal work of Sarason (53); the work of McMillan and Chavis (31; 30) represents the elaboration of the theory. PSOC is comprised of four general elements – membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. Each general element includes multiple sub-elements and the interaction of all elements creates an overall feeling of PSOC. Since the original conception of this theoretical approach, research has demonstrated its utility in multiple settings, including communities of interest as well as geographic communities (19; 27; 28; 26; 37,39).

As noted, PSOC consists of four interacting elements. More specifically, membership refers to the general feeling that one belongs as part of the group (31; 30) and is comprised of boundaries, emotional safety, and a sense of belonging. These sub elements develop membership by clearly demarcating who is and who is not part of the community, providing a safe space within the community, and creating a feeling and awareness of being part of the community. Influence operates in a bi-directional manner. The community influences individual members and individual members influence community norms (31). Integration and fulfillment of needs refers to the idea that strong communities meet the needs of their members and reinforce that need fulfillment through status, success, and competencies of other members (30). Finally, PSOC includes a shared emotional connection (31) which is created when members share time together around events that include drama, closure, and recognition of members. This shared emotional connection also becomes symbolized in traditions, symbols, and a sense of a shared history (30). While the interaction of these four components comprises PSOC, it is less clear what individual and team factors associate PSOC in adult recreational sports. Achievement-goal theory represents one approach that may help explain how individuals and teams relate in the context of PSOC.

Achievement Goal Theory at the Individual and Team Level

Achievement-goal theory presents the idea that dispositional achievement goal orientations represent individual cognitive level factors. AGT also recognizes that the environment matters and building off AGT, many researchers have noted that situational factors may moderate the impact of individual goal orientations (14). One prominent outgrowth of this line of thinking is research related to the motivational climate which represents characteristics of the environment that encourage the adoption of task or ego involvement (1).

While previous research suggests both individual goal dispositions and the motivational climate are related to several social and psychological outcomes, both measurements rely on the individual perception and fail to account for the aggregate impact of individual factors within a team. Further, motivational climate research often focuses on the role of the coach in creating the climate (59). In adult recreational team sports, however, there is often a team captain rather than a formal coach, and the impact of the peers on the team may be more influential.

As stated, prior research supports the assertion that considering both individual and situational factors improve one’s understanding of the sport context (51). For example, Kavussanu and Roberts (24) found that both individual goal orientations and the perceived motivational climate were important predictors of intrinsic motivation for adults in beginner tennis classes, while   and Roberts (60) found significant interactions existed between individual goal orientations and perceptions of the motivational climate for adolescent female basketball players. It is clear, therefore, that situational factors as well as individual factors are important in predicting outcomes.  

Furthermore, researchers have also suggested that not only are both situational and person factors important in explaining behavior, but the interaction of those two factors may help explain more variance. In line with this thinking, the compatibility hypothesis proposes that individuals benefit more from an environment that is consistent with their particular goal orientation (43). That is, the relation of individual orientations to the outcome is likely to be stronger when situational factors match the person’s orientation.

The literature and logic, therefore, warrant three propositions and five corresponding hypotheses.

Proposition 1: Individual dispositional goal orientations will have a significant relation to PSOC.

H1: Individuals who have a higher task orientation will report higher PSOC.

H2: Individuals who have a higher ego orientation will report lower PSOC.

Proposition 2: Aggregate team dispositional goal orientations will have a significant relation to PSOC.

H3: Individuals who are on teams with higher average task orientations will report higher average PSOC.

H4: Individuals who are on teams with higher average ego orientation will report lower average PSOC.

Proposition 3: Aggregate team dispositional goal orientations will moderate the effect of individual goal orientations.

H5: There will be a significant interaction such that the effect of individual goal orientation on PSOC will depend on the aggregate team goal orientation.

Figure 1: Proposition 1 Hypotheses

Figure 1

Figure 2: Proposition 2 Hypotheses

Figure 2


In order to assess the stated propositions and hypotheses, the following methods were used.


The population of interest for this study was adults participating in a team recreational sport. Within that population, purposive sampling was used to identify a specific adult recreational league to use in the study. Adult flag football was chosen due to its increased popularity as a sport and as means of exercise. The U.S. Physical Activity Council notes an overall increase in adult sport activity, with outdoor sports such as flag football, showing the largest recent growth (47). Further, though specific participation trends at the adult level are difficult to track, participation in youth flag football recently surpassed participation in tackle football, another indicator of the growing popularity of this sport (3). The researchers, therefore, chose this specific league include in the research due to available access and the expressed interest of  league administrators.

Participants in this study were players in an adult recreational flag football league located in the Intermountain region of the United States. Data were collected near the end of the league season to allow PSOC to develop. A full team could consist of as few as five players, and over 90% of the league consisted of male-only teams. Most teams were self-formed from groups of friends, though the league would help interested players find a team if they did not have one.  Players reported having participated in the league from one to 15 years, with the average length of participation at just over four years. Participant recruitment yielded 155 participants within 40 teams (of the 89 teams in the league). Consistent with the demographics of the surrounding area, the sample was male (94%), White (86%) and earned less than $50,000 a year in annual household income (51%).


A questionnaire was designed to meet the objectives of this study. The questionnaire included 8-items from the Brief Sense of Community Scale (BSCS; 46), 11-items from the Perceptions of Success Questionnaire, Adult Version (POSQ; 50), and additional questions related to demographics and number of years spent on the team.

Sense of community. Sense of community was evaluated using the Brief Sense of Community Scale (BSCS). This scale was chosen rather than a sport specific SOC scale (64) to be consistent with the broader theoretical approach in measuring psychological sense of community. Prior research developed the BSCS as a shorter alternative to the 24-item Sense of Community Index-2 (5). The BSCS includes eight items and supports both the four-factor structure of PSOC and PSOC as an overall underlying construct. The purpose of developing a brief measure was to have an empirically validated scale that could be easily incorporated in to community-based research (46). Previous studies have used the BSCS with a variety of populations (46; 69) and have demonstrated this scale to have a high internal consistency (ranging α =.77 to α = .92) and convergent validity with expected items of community participation, empowerment, mental health, and depression (46). For purposes of this study, the participants were instructed to think of community as “the community of people you interact with as a result of your participation in this league.” Thus, participants were given some flexibility as to how they perceived their community. The BSCS asks respondents to rate their agreement with statements on a Likert-type scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Sample items include, I belong in this community”, and “I can get what I need in this community.” Internal consistency of the BSCS for this study was also high (α =.90).

Dispositional goal orientations. The questionnaire assessed dispositional goal orientation through 11-questions from the Perceptions of Success Questionnaire, Adult Version (POSQ; 50). This questionnaire asks participants to assess, on a 5-point Likert-type scale, what makes them feel successful when participating in the league. Each item begins with the stem, “When playing in this league, I feel most successful when …” Sample items include “I show other people I am the best,” “I reach personal goals,” and “I make friends I can confide in.” Internal consistency for the two subscales in this study was acceptable; ego orientation (α =.78); and task orientation (α =.84).


Prior to the start of the study, researchers contacted the league administrators to obtain their agreement to participate and then obtained Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Following IRB approval, the primary researcher visited game sites on five different occasions to collect data from league participants using convenience sampling. The game site included six fields of simultaneous play. Participants were approached either prior to or immediately following their games and asked to take part in the study. Though convenience sampling represents a limitation of this study, due to the nature of data collection during competition, the researchers deemed this procedure to be the best way to collect data. Further, as teams were approached simply based on when games finished, it is believed that this approach did not  produce any systematic bias to the sample.

Data Analyses

A multi-level modeling (MLM) approach was used for data analysis. Multilevel modeling was well suited for this study for four reasons: (a) it takes into account the hierarchical nesting of the data consisting of data from individuals within teams; (b) it is able to consider the team as a random factor; (c) it allows for within team and between team correlations to be modeled simultaneously; and (d) it uses estimation procedures that are robust for unequal sample sizes within teams (49).

 All analyses were carried out using Mplus v7.1 statistical software (Muthen & Muthen, 2013).  A full-information, robust maximum-likelihood estimator (mlr) was applied to obtain parameter estimates and standard errors robust to non-normality. Multilevel estimation techniques that include both individual and team-level predictors were used. Multilevel modeling was used because participants were clustered within teams. Furthermore, it was believed that individual level effects could differ from those found at the team level.  In order to assess the influence of the team context, aggregate scores were calculated for each team. Previous research has indicated the appropriateness of this aggregation technique as a proxy for  situational (group-level) factors (33).

To account for individual differences that may influence individuals’ responses but may not be directly relevant to the research questions at hand, several covariates were also included in the analysis. For this reason, gender, income, and number of years spent playing in the league were included as covariates due to previous findings suggesting that these factors may influence PSOC (4; 27).


Prior to hypothesis testing, all missing data were addressed using multiple imputations (55). All results correspond to the pooled estimates of 20 imputed datasets. Multiple imputation for missing data has been found to reduce bias compared to listwise deletion or other traditional imputation techniques (20). The highest percentages of missing data were associated with the covariates of income (12%), years participating in the league (16%), and the dependent variable, sense of community (14%). Missing data on all other variables ranged from <1% to 3%. Notable unadjusted intraclass correlations were found for all independent variables (ego orientation = .31; task orientation = .42) and the dependent variable (sense of community = .09). All predictors were included at both the individual and team level (aggregates) due the level of variability that occurred at both levels (31% of the variance was found at the team level for ego orientation and 42% for task orientation). Including predictors at both levels has the advantage of uniquely accounting for their effects on measuring a sense of community, thus minimizing the potential for aggregation bias.

Multilevel models with cross-level interactions were tested to determine whether dispositional orientation was associated with PSOC at either the individual or the team level. The cross-level interactions assessed whether individual level associations between orientation and PSOC were dependent upon the aggregate level of team orientation. All team level scores and the covariates (income and years on the team at both levels) were grand mean centered. The individual level orientation variables (e.g., ego and task social orientation) were group mean centered. Group mean centering of individual variables included in cross-level interactions has been found to minimize the chance of spurious results and reduce bias (18). Descriptive statistics are reported in Table 1.

TABLE 1:  Descriptive Statistics for Independent and Dependent Variables

Independent Variables Level 1   
     Task Orientation1514.390.61
     Ego Orientation1503.620.86
Level 2   
     Task Orientation404.390.41
     Ego Orientation403.610.49

A model was tested using the individual level orientation predictors of ego and task orientation, the team level orientation predictors, and cross-level interactions between each of the individual and team level orientation predictors.

Results of the model are presented in Table 2. At the individual level, ego orientation was found to be significantly negatively associated (p = .031) with sense of community (i.e., the greater an individual’s ego orientation, the lower his or her perceived sense of community). The relation of task orientation at the individual level to PSOC was not found to be statistically significant (p=.0051). Thus, H2 was supported while H1 was not. However, at the team level, H3 was supported and H4 was not as the main effect of task orientation was found to be positively associated with sense of community (p = .047). Team level task orientation was also found to moderate the individual level association between ego orientation and sense of community (H5; p = .032). This finding suggests that the negative association between individual ego orientation and sense of community is reduced or buffered by team task orientation. This association is graphically represented in Figure 3.

Table 2:  Multilevel Associations between Dispositional Goal Orientation and PSOC

  Sense of Community
  b SE p
Individual level      
    Income 0.37 0.49 0.449
    Years on Team 0.05 0.28 0.852
    Ego Orientation -0.23 0.11 0.031
    Task Orientation 0.42 0.21 0.051
Team level      
    Average Income 0.44 0.74 0.552
    Average Years on Team -0.08 0.33 0.820
    Ego Orientation 0.31 0.18 0.087
    Task Orientation 0.48 0.24 0.047
Cross-level Interactions      
    Ind. Ego X Team Ego 0.02 0.03 0.457
    Ind. Ego X Team Task 0.08 0.04 0.032
    Ind. Task X Team Ego 0.09 0.05 0.065
    Ind. Task X Team Task 0.07 0.15 0.646
b= unstandardized beta

Figure 3: Interaction between team task orientation and individual ego orientation

Figure 3

Note:  This figure represents the association between ego orientation and overall sense of community for individuals on teams that have average task orientations one standard deviations above or below the overall mean. Low team task orientation represents one standard deviation above the sample mean and high team task orientation represents one standard deviation above the mean.


Playing recreational sports as an adult can lead to a number of social and psychological benefits including the development of a PSOC. In testing the relations between both individual and aggregate team goal orientations to PSOC, this study extends the understanding of the impact of individual goal orientations, and recognizes the impact of collective team goal orientations. Researchers found that being on a team with a collective high task-orientation may mitigate the negative link between a high individual ego-orientation and PSOC. In other words, while an individual with a high ego-orientation would normally feel a decreased PSOC, if he or she is on a team with a high task-orientation, then that individual may not experience a negative impact on PSOC. This finding highlights the importance of the team and the collective goal-orientation, while also affirming previous research that primarily links task-orientations to positive outcomes.

The first major consideration that emerges from this study is the significant inverse link between individual ego orientations and PSOC. That is, as individual ego orientation increases, PSOC decreases. This result was not surprising given that existing research largely supports links between ego-orientations and negative outcomes (29; 51). For example, previous research links ego-orientations to decreased belief that contributing to society should be an important life goal (44), and negative affect (23). Further, while ego-orientations occasionally significantly correlate with positive outcomes such as enjoyment (62), links generally are weaker than the positive associations with task-orientations (51).

Somewhat surprisingly, the present study did not support a significant link between individual task-orientations and PSOC.  A host of research supports links between task-orientations and positive outcomes including most relevantly help seeking (40), satisfaction in sport (42), belief in the importance of contributing to society (42), and relatedness (57). It may be that the internal, self-referenced nature of task-orientations does not lend itself to having needs met by the outside community. As need fulfillment is an important component of PSOC (30), when one defines success through self-referenced goals, he or she may not seek need fulfillment in the larger community. For example, if people meet their need for competence by giving maximum individual effort (a task-oriented goal), then they may not require the broader community in order to meet their needs. Further, the relatively high mean task orientation and low variability provides little opportunity to explain variances in the outcome variable. Given that the sample was overwhelmingly male, this finding is consistent with previous research that reports finding  males typically score higher than females on both task-and ego achievement-goal orientations (63).

The present study also adds to the existing literature by examining the impact of collective goal orientations and the interaction between collective and individual goal orientations.  While extensive research has examined the relation of individual goal-orientations, few have also examined the collective orientations of the team. By also considering collective orientations, this research demonstrates the role that the overall team serves in predicting outcomes, above and beyond simply individual characteristics. Previous authors have suggested that research related to goal orientations needs to consider the effects of the team (43). Despite these suggestions, the majority of research related to goal orientations ignores team level effects. Thus, this research extends the existing literature by including aggregate team orientations.

Specifically, individuals on teams with higher average task orientation also reported higher average PSOC. Although this relation is significant in the predicted direction, it is worth noting that the individual level task-orientation was not significant while the team level orientation did achieve significance. Thus, the collective team orientation represents a better predictor of PSOC than an individual goal-orientation. This finding points to the importance of common goal orientations in team settings. Indeed, past research supports the potential role of sport in facilitating common goals (32; 58). These data also lend indirect support for the influence component of PSOC (30). A higher team average orientation could point to the team community influencing other team members to situationally adopt a similar task-involvement even if they had a stronger ego goal disposition.

Finally, this study extends existing research by examining cross-level interactions between individual goal orientations and team collective orientations.  Results suggest that team level task-orientation buffers individual level ego-orientation. That is, if an individual is high in ego-orientation, but on a team that is high in task-orientation, he or she is more likely to feel higher PSOC than if he or she was not on a team with high task-orientation. In fact, when individuals were on teams with an average task-orientation that was at least one standard deviation above the mean, there was no longer a statistically significant negative relation between individual ego-orientation and PSOC. In other words, negative relations between individual ego-orientations and PSOC no longer exist when the individual is on a team with a high overall task-orientation. This finding lends indirect support for a compatibility hypothesis (43) which proposes that individuals benefit more from an environment (represented by the overall team average score) that is consistent with their particular task orientation. In this case there is not compatibility, but a buffering effect of incompatibility. In other words, when the team average is higher on task orientation, the inverse relation of individual ego orientation to PSO is mitigated. Thus, if a player has a general disposition towards goals that emphasize winning (ego orientation), but is on a team where the overall goals tend to emphasize skill mastery (task orientation), then the negative impact of the ego orientation on PSOC may be lessened. This result is consistent with other studies that reported negative effects of incompatibility in classroom settings (10; 43). Thus, an environment that is not consistent with the individual orientation reduces the expected effects of the individual level orientation. In this case, the generally more positive collective task-orientations of the team reduced the generally more negative impact of an individual ego-orientation.


Though the findings of this study provide some promising results, several limitations may affect both the interpretation of results and the generalizability of the results to other populations. These limitations include the timing of survey administration and limited causal inference.

Limitations may exist due to the timing of the survey administration. Most potential participants were approached following their participation in league games. As such, participants affect and thoughts were undoubtedly influenced by the results of the game they had just played. This possible limitation was addressed by asking participants to record how they generally felt when participating in the league, rather than how they felt at that moment.            

The cross-sectional nature of the study also indicates that limited causal inferences may be made. For example, it may be that achievement goal orientations are a result of existing community norms. The theory of PSOC notes the importance of the community influencing community members. In this case, the PSOC could be influencing the particular goal orientation rather than the other way around.


The outcomes of this study provide valuable information that expand knowledge of achievement goal theories and PSOC, demonstrate the importance of examining the collective impact of the team orientations, and the impact of person-situation fit through the interaction of individual and collective team goals.  Specifically, results point to significant inverse links between individual ego-orientations and PSOC; positive links between collective team task-orientations and PSOC; and a significant interaction between individual ego-orientations and team task-orientations whereby collective team task orientations buffer the negative relation between individual ego-orientations and PSOC. As such, this study both extends existing literature on AGT and PSOC and offers support for future research to continue to examine the impact of collective team-level characteristics.

Future research should continue to explore questions through multi-level analysis. Measuring individuals’ perceptions of the overall climate would also enhance the results by assessing salient elements within the environment that influence task-involvement. Environmental cues are generally easier for program administrators to adapt and so are particularly worthwhile to explore due to the practical implications. Identifying specific program design elements that influence PSOC will help sport administrators design programs to improve PSOC. Finally, future research should utilize more diverse participants across a variety of sports to expand these findings to multiple settings.


Results of this study lead to practical applications for coaches and sport administrators. Given the numerous associations of PSOC with beneficial outcomes, PSOC is a worthy goal of sport programs. Recognizing the role of achievement-goal orientations at both the individual and team levels provides coaches and administrators with specific means to improve PSOC. Existing research indicates that the adoption of achievement goal orientations can be influenced by the environment. For example, coaches that emphasis effort and learning are promoting the adoption of task orientations, while coaches who emphasize winning at all costs are promoting the adoption of ego orientation. At the macro level, programs can also emphasize effort and mastery by rewarding effort, improvement, and skill improvement in lieu of (or in addition to) only rewarding the winning team(s). By promoting the adoption of task-orientations, coaches and program administrators are likely also promoting the development of PSOC.


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