Strategies Table of Contents
Motivation is Not Always Black and White: Attending to African American Athletes' Psychological Needs for Sport Involvement
Athletics and organized sports have become an
ever-increasing field of inclusion of individuals from
every walk of life. Team diversity in every level of
performance has gone from the aspect of being all Caucasian
athletes to that of primarily ethnic minorities in sports and
athletics (Duda & Gano-Overway, 2001). Specifically, the
proportion of the African American population in athletics
is much larger than that in the overall U.S. population; African Americans constitute nearly 70 to 80% of the National
Football League and National Basketball Association/Women’s National Basketball Association athlete population but
only 12% of the total population (Shakib & Veliz, 2013).
With sport involvement not being limited to the participation of only Caucasians, the overall team dynamic changes
with the incorporation of diverse athletes of differing cultural backgrounds.
African American athletes experience motivational factors differently due to cultural barriers or promoters (Abshire
et al., 2019; Stodolska et al., 2014). These barriers included
stereotypes and monetary costs (e.g., equipment, transportation) in regard to lower-income and some middle-class African American families (Stodolska et al., 2014). This can
lead to restrictions in accessing training facilities to improve
skills or even compete. Additionally, African Americans,
both male and female, report a decrease in motivation toward
physical activities due to a lack of social support and access
to certain resources (i.e., density of recreation resources, facility access, and sport equipment) in terms of being engaged in physical activities (Abshire et al., 2019; Sweeney et al.,
2019). Although African American athletes are influenced
by cultural promoters that may lead them to be active in
athletics, these promoters can be understood as historic
myths of African American athletes being naturally gifted
for sports (Shakib & Veliz, 2013). The athletic community
has internalized historic myths and misconceptions, which
are propagated by the extensive media coverage of African
American athletes in major professional leagues (Shakib &
Veliz, 2013). Younger African American athletes are then
more likely to pursue involvement in sports and hopes of
achieving a higher level of competition. Thus, it becomes
crucial to understand how culture and race/ethnicity may
influence motivation for sport involvement (Duda & GanoOverway, 2001). In a qualitative study on African American
college athletes’ view on race and athlete activism, participants stated that “race will always matter,” and “It’s been a
big impact [race] on everybody because that’s what everybody really judge you off ” (Agyemang et al., 2010, p. 425).
Therefore, coaches should take into account race in coaching practices, such as diversifying the overall team composition and small-group interactions intentionally to reduce
racial biases in coaches and athletes (Oosting & Chu, 2020).
These repeated interactions can foster familiarity and deeper
connections between racial groups based on personality, attitude, and values instead of surface-level traits, such as skin
color and associated presumptions (Zhang, 2017).
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