Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Kinesiology



Major Advisor

Nicole D. Bolter, Ph.D.

Major Advisor

Shelley Lucas, Ph.D.


Tyler G. Johnson, Ph.D.


Yong Gao, Ph.D.


Collegiate women’s rowing has evidenced unprecedented growth in the past three decades. With an average roster of 50.2 athletes, women’s “crew” has been an attractive sport for colleges and universities to add to their program offerings and achieve compliance with Title IX. To satisfy the increased demand for female athletes, college rowing teams often recruit athletes with no previous rowing experience (i.e., “true novices”). Unfortunately, many programs experience significant attrition within their novice and varsity rowing rosters each season. Thus, while Title IX has been successful in affording opportunities for women rowers, the present study sought to determine the factors that predict and enable athletes’ persistence in the sport and identify ways to help maintain those opportunities. One way to understand college rowers’ continued participation behaviors is to examine their motivation. According to self-determination theory (SDT), coaching behaviors predict the satisfaction of athletes’ basic psychological needs, which in turn determine athletes’ motivation and persistence or dropout from sport. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine individual and social-contextual factors that contribute to rowers’ motivation and continued participation or dropout from sport. As an extension of previous research, this study differentiated between the type of coach athletes primarily work with and employed a longitudinal design. METHOD: NCAA Division I, II, and III female rowing athletes (N = 174) completed self-report questionnaires focused on their perceptions of autonomy-supportive coaching behaviors, basic needs satisfaction (i.e., competence, autonomy, relatedness), and motivational orientation at two time points (i.e., Time 1, Time 2) over two competitive seasons. At Time 2, 97 athletes were still active rowers (i.e., persisted) and 22 athletes had dropped out. RESULTS: First-year, true novice rowers reported significantly less perceived competence when compared to their more experienced peers. Athletes who worked primarily with their head coach felt significantly more competent and autonomous compared to athletes who worked most often with assistant, J.V., or novice coaches. Perceptions of autonomy and coach relatedness were positively related to intrinsic motivation and negatively related to athletes’ amotivation. Rowers’ amotivation at Time 1 significantly predicted dropout at Time 2. Continuing participants reported similar feelings of needs satisfaction and motivation at Time 1 and Time 2. DISCUSSION: Findings are in line with previous research and SDT suggesting that satisfaction of athletes’ basic needs and self-determined forms of motivation are key predictors of persistence in sport. Results also support the SDT assumption that dropout in sport will occur when athletes feel they have neither intrinsic nor extrinsic reasons for continuing participation. Findings can inform coaching practices and administrative decisions to ensure rowers’ long-term participation, maintain the viability and growth of the sport, and ultimately satisfy the larger goals and spirit of Title IX.