Passion and performance attainment in sport

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Objectives: To test a performance-attainment model derived from the Dualistic Model of Passion [Vallerand et al. (2003). Les passions de l’âme: On obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 756–767] that posits that both harmonious and obsessive passions are positive predictors of deliberate practice that, in turn, is a positive predictor of performance. Design: A prospective design was used in the present study. Methods and results: The basic model was tested in two studies using structural equation modeling. Results from Study 1 with 184 high school basketball players indicated that both harmonious and obsessive passions were positive predictors of deliberate practice, which, in turn, was a positive predictor of objective performance. The results of Study 2, conducted with 67 synchronized swimming and water-polo athletes conceptually replicated those from Study 1. Furthermore, results differentially linked the two passions to achievement goals and subjective well-being (SWB). Specifically, harmonious passion was a positive predictor of mastery goal pursuit and SWB, whereas obsessive passion was a positive predictor of mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance goal pursuit and was unrelated to SWB. Mastery goals were positive predictors of deliberate practice, which was a direct positive predictor of performance, whereas performance-avoidance goals were direct negative predictors of performance. Conclusions: It appears that there are two paths to high-level performance attainment in sport, depending if harmonious or obsessive passion underlies sport engagement. While the path from harmonious passion is conducive to high levels of performance and living a happy life, that from obsessive passion is less reliably related to performance attainment and is unrelated to happiness.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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