The effect of goal difficulty and goal orientation on running performance in young female athletes

Gershon Tenenbaum, Ron Spence, Steven Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Locke and Latham (1985) hypothesised that goals are more efficiently attained when they are perceived to be difficult but realistic to achieve. Furthermore, goal orientation is believed to be a strong determinant of effort exertion and adherence in performing tasks. To verify these two concepts, in real-life situations, 28 young female runners (13-16 years) were blocked (randomly assigned) to one of three goal-difficulty conditions over a 4-week period: easy, difficult/realistic, and improbable/unattainable. Short-term goals for each condition were set (1.25%, 2.5%, and 3.75% improvement per week, respectively), as were long-term goals (5%, 10%, and 15% overall improvement, respectively). Participants completed the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire prior to the goal intervention. Locke and Latham's (1985) goal attainability hypothesis was not supported by the results of the study, as athletes enhanced their running performance equally regardless of their specific goals. Both ego and task orientations were found to be moderately but significantly correlated with running improvement rate. However, task and ego orientation were found to be significantly correlated to each other, indicating that, in this sample of athletes, these two orientations were not independent of each other. Together, they accounted for 30% of the improvement rate variance across 4 weeks. The additive effect of goal orientation and goal setting on athletic performance should be investigated for a longer period of time and with experienced athletes of a high calibre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes


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