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Motivation for sport participation in older Italian athletes: the role of age, gender and competition level


This study aimed at identifying whether age, competition level and gender influence motivation for sport participation in Italian senior athletes. Four hundred and thirty-three athletes aged 45–80 years participated in the study by completing the SMS questionnaire validated for this population. Separate scores for the 7 Extrinsic Motivation (EM), Intrinsic Motivation (IM) and Amotivation (AM) subscales of the SMS questionnaire, as well as a global self-determination index, were calculated. Psychometric testing did not fully support the factor structure of the SMS due to the presence of cross-loading items, suggesting that some items should be revisited to better fit the older athlete population. The analyses of the effects of age, competition level and gender on sport motivation of senior athletes showed a significant interaction between age (45–55, 55–65, >65 years) and competition level (local, regional, national, international) both for the global self-determination index and for the EM scale score. It suggests that the oldest athletes competing at local level are less supported by self-determination as compared to their younger counterparts or to age-matched athletes competing at national or international level and that EM may be a key motivational factor for the ageing athlete depending on his/her competition level. Despite the hypothesised influence of stereotyped gender role socialisation on self-determination of older athletes, no gender difference emerged.

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Correspondence to Laura Capranica.

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De Pero, R., Amici, S., Benvenuti, C. et al. Motivation for sport participation in older Italian athletes: the role of age, gender and competition level. Sport Sci Health 5, 61–69 (2009).

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Key words

  • Self-determination theory
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Extrinsic motivation
  • Amotivation
  • Senior athlete