The Relationship Between Inclusion and Motivation In Physical Activity

Motivation is arguably the most prominent driving force that maintains the interest of both children and adults to continually engage in physical activity. Therefore if an individual is motivated to be physically active, that person will engage in physical activity. On the flip side, someone who lacks the motivation to be physically active will continue to lessen the quality and duration of their physical activity until that person no longer has the motivation to be physically active.

The same case holds true when it comes to both children and adults in the special needs community. A substantial number of people within the special needs community continuously lose motivation to participate in exercise and physical activity every year. Individuals with special needs are at an even greater disadvantage and are more prone to a lack of motivation to participate in physical activity than those with typical needs. This is due to the fact that many activities and exercises that are utilized to keep people in shape, and even some sports as a whole, are not inclusive for those who have special needs. As a result of a lack of inclusion and adapted exercises, individuals with special needs have a greater potential to lose the motivation to lead a physically healthy life. Motivation and inclusion have a direct correlation and are very deeply connected.

Harter’s Competence Motivation Theory breaks down exactly how a successful and an unsuccessful attempt of a skill or task directly affects anyone who participates in any form of physical activity. Upon a successful completion of a task, the participant or athlete will typically experience a sense of self-efficacy or sense of pride in their personal accomplishment. This in turn will lead to higher levels of motivation that ultimately lead to a continuation of attempts and a desire to grow athletically. Upon an unsuccessful completion of a task, the individual attempting the task or skill will typically experience feelings of incompetence which usually manifest as the emotions of anxiety or shame. This feeling will lead to a decreased level in motivation to complete the same task or skill which results in fewer attempts to complete the task and may very well lead to a complete loss in motivation and a complete dissociation from the activity itself.

This is where inclusion comes in to the equation. In an environment similar to E-Sports where inclusion is utilized and practiced, the negative feelings associated with an unsuccessful outcome or result of the attempt drastically decreases and the significance of a successful attempt dramatically increases. In an inclusive environment, individuals work together and encourage each other regardless of background or needs to become better and push each other just the right amount to help one another reach all of their athletic goals. Because an inclusive environment puts more value upon the enjoyment and teamwork qualities of sport and physical activity, the incompletion of a task is seen as a stepping stone to success as opposed to a failure. In a truly inclusive environment, the goals of a skill or task are adapted so that everyone participating in the activity is reaching for the same goal together.

It is this aspect of teamwork and partnership that makes inclusion such a powerful tool and grants it the ability to dampen the negative effects of an unsuccessful attempt. This will ultimately assist in raising motivational levels of children and adults within the special needs community to participate in physical activity and to lead physically healthy lives.



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