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Researcher looks at motives of competitors


Brigid Veale
7 November 2006
As more than 10,000 people converge on the Gold Coast for the Pan Pacific Masters Games, being held this week (November 4 to 12), a Southern Cross University student is asking the question: why?

Pat Gillett, a PhD student, is looking at the different motives that influence people to travel to other parts of the country to attend competitive sporting events.

“I hope the results demonstrate that ‘sport tourism’ is a viable investment opportunity, but it must be planned and marketed appropriately,” Pat said.

“I’m also hoping to demonstrate that it is necessary to understand and evaluate the underlying psychological benefits that participants seek (or obtain) when they take part in sports events that are held away from the home location.”

Pat said for some individuals the opportunity to travel and play sport was driven by a competitive motive - the chance to compare their skills against unfamiliar opposition - or it might be to socialise and make friends with others who enjoyed the same kind of active lifestyle.

For others the motive may be an opportunity to strive for achievement.

“Participating away from the home location enables the individual to strive for success without the shackles of being labelled a ‘try-hard’ by friends and family. For others still, the concept of travel and sport may contribute towards an individual's view of themselves as an athlete,” he said.

With the assistance of Queensland Events Gold Coast, organisers of the Pan Pacific Masters Games, Pat has distributed surveys to more than 1500 participants. He has so far received 400 replies.

While his analysis is still in the early stages, Pat said an interesting finding so far was the discovery of a particular group of participants who were not really sports people.

“There appears to be a distinct type of participant who I would not describe as a true sports enthusiast. It may be that they are simply looking for a reason to travel and have chosen to include this event as part of their Gold Coast experience,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to undertaking further analysis in order to identify the size of this participant category and to compare them against those who are considered serious competitors.

“As a result of findings like this, it demonstrates that organisers need to look at the events in terms of more than just the competition that they offer. There has to be more intrinsic value. I know that the Pan Pac organisers do this very well with a broad variety of social events on offer.”

Pat has also conducted interviews with non-local competitors who took part in the 2005 Australian Masters Games in Adelaide. In those interviews he identified competition, extrinsic achievement, socialising, camaraderie and athletic-identity as some of the key motivators.

“Local governments that are planning to coordinate an event as part of their sport tourism strategy need to consider that those who travel to play sport do so because the activity says something about ‘who they are’. It is more than simply the opportunity to play sport,” he said.

The next step in the research, which he hopes to complete by this time next year, will be a full statistical analysis.

In the meantime Pat, a former semi-professional squash player, will be taking some time out to play hockey in the Pan Pacific Masters Games.

His research is being supervised by Dr Steve Kelly, Head of School of Commerce and Management, Professor Dick Braithwaite, with the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, and Ms Rosanne Coutts, sports psychology lecturer with the School of Health and Human Sciences.

Photo: Competition, extrinsic achievement, camaraderie and athletic-identity are some of the key motivators for participants in masters games.