Athletic Scholarships Are Negatively Associated With Intrinsic Motivation for Sports, Even Decades Later: Evidence for Long-Term Undermining
In the United States, many colleges offer some student athletes scholarships contingent on maintaining high-level performance at a particular sport. Consistent with the well-supported “undermining effect,” studies have demonstrated that such scholarships can reduce athletes’ intrinsic motivation for their sport during their college playing career. The present study examines what happens to former college athletes’ intrinsic motivation after college, even decades later. Three hundred forty-eight former Division I college athletes completed an online survey (67.5% men, Mage 49.2, 76% formerly on scholarship). Even after controlling for time elapsed since college, scholarship (vs. no scholarship) status was positively related to felt external motivation during college, and negatively related to present-day enjoyment of the target sport. Our findings suggest that undermining effects may persist much longer than previously documented (i.e., for decades, as opposed to hours, weeks, or months).