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Go hard or go home : primary motivations for engagement at the elite level in one of the fastest extreme sports

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conference contribution
posted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Marilyn LewisMarilyn Lewis, S Pegg
Organisers of extreme sports need to better understand the motivations of participants who are prepared to face significant injury and maybe even death on a regular basis. For example, being flipped from your motorcycle at speeds in excess of 300 km/h or sliding over a hard bitumen surface with no control, often resulting in broken bones, comprise simply one aspect of competition in an activity accepted as an extreme sport (Lewis, 2004). One might wonder do competitors simply suffer from a death-wish or, in fact, just the opposite. That is, they seek to live life to the very fullest and, in so doing, want to enjoy every possible minute. The intent of the study therefore, was to explore the phenomena more closely by determining the primary motivations for engagement of individuals in motorcycle road racing at an Australian Championship. This exploratory study was undertaken using grounded theory with one-on-one phone interviews the primary means of data collection. Advocates of motivational theory (Martens & Webber, 2002) posit that there are three primary types of internal and external motivation, as well as a form of amotivation. Study results indicated that all three intrinsic forms of motivation were experienced but only one extrinsic form was highlighted as significant by study participants. The three instrinsic motivators are the intrinsic motivation to know, to accomplish and to experience stimulation. Intrinsic motivation to know was demonstrated through learning how to ride their bike faster and smoother, resulting in faster lap times. Intrinsic motivation to accomplish occurred when riders derived satisfaction and pleasure from the experience which resulted in personal satisfaction and mastery. Intrinsic motivation to experience stimulation resulted from the respondents’ perception of pleasure, fun and excitement from participation. On the other hand, tangible extrinsic rewards were generally limited to riders who had access to a factory-backed motorcycle with the majority of riders considering they suffered financially as a consequence of their participation. Intangible extrinsic rewards revealed themselves in the form of deep, personal identification with the attainment of personal goals which, in turn, lead to personal growth and development. Interestingly, all four motivators were found to result in positive outcomes for the riders which they indicated kept them engaged in the high risk sport. Such results suggest that organisers of such competitive meets need be aware that prize money is not the major attractant for participants. Rather, the personal benefits derived by participants when motorcycle racing was the primary determinant of enduring engagement in this extreme sport.


Parent Title

CISC2006 People, Participation and Performance : 13th Commonwealth International Sport Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 9-12 March, 2006.

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Start Date



Melbourne, Australia


Sports Medicine Australia

Place of Publication


Peer Reviewed


Open Access


External Author Affiliations

Faculty of Business and Informatics; University of Queensland;

Era Eligible


Name of Conference

Commonwealth International Sport Conference