The Amateur to Professional Pipeline: How Failure Perception, Feedback, and Relationships Impact Motivation and Confidence to Persist in Sport


Though the sample in this study is comprised of Division 1 (D1) college athletes, implications for professional sports abound as impacts on motivation and confidence permeate all levels of sport. In prior research, motivation and confidence have often been considered as independent constructs with the potential for interaction. This framework has been productive, however, there are common influences on both constructs such as perceptions of failure, feedback, and perceived relationships with coaches and peers. Thus, a framework that integrates motivation, confidence, and these common features would be beneficial theoretically and practically. The present research was conducted at a small, D1 college in the southeast (U.S.A.). Participants first recalled a recent failure and wrote about this failure in an open-ended, descriptive format. We quantified failure valence by processing participant descriptions with machine learning via a behaviorally validated natural language processing algorithm (The Evaluative Lexicon; Rocklage, Rucker, & Nordgren, 2017). Subsequently, athletes were asked to self-report how this failure related to feedback, coach relationship, peer relationships, as well as confidence and motivation for their sport. We will present bivariate correlations between these variables, as well as a path model that integrates variables to predict confidence/motivation. As non-professional athletes must have sustained motivation and confidence to persist to professional levels, we will also discuss how these models may impact the amateur-to-professional athlete pipeline. Finally, we contextualize the results and discuss future directions.


Shelby Stanley
Student, Bachelor of Science, Davidson College, North Carolina, United States

Brian A. Eiler
Assistant Professor, Psychology & Data Science, Davidson College, North Carolina, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Sport Science


Motivation, Confidence, Feedback, Failure, Persistence

Digital Media


The Amateur to Professional Pipeline (pptx)