Publication Date

Summer 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Tamar Z. Semerjian


Elite, Female, Motivation, Qualitative, Sport Psychology, Triathlete

Subject Areas



The multidimensional theoretical framework of Self-Determination

Theory (SDT) has gained prominence in the sport and exercise field to assist in

understanding human motivation. While there is extensive research on motivation

of recreational athletes, no study has qualitatively examined the motivation of elite

female triathletes. The primary purpose of this research was to determine how

motivation to train and compete is maintained at the elite level using the Basic

Needs Theory. The participants were eight elite female triathletes who competed

in International Triathlon Union (ITU) draft-legal Olympic distance, Half-

Ironman, and Ironman triathlons. Results from the semi-structured interviews

revealed that challenges, love of the sport, and togetherness enhanced motivation

to persist in this demanding sport. Several similarities with Deci and Ryan’'s

(2000) Basic Needs Theory were found. Directions for future research using SDT

within the sport of triathlon were discussed.