According to Harter the theory of achievement motivation is based on an athlete’s feeling of personal competence. According to Harter individuals are innately motivated to be competent in all areas of human achievement. An individual’s self-perception of success at these mastery attempts develops feelings of positive or negative affect. Successful attempts at mastery promote self efficacy and feelings of personal competence, which in turn foster high competence motivation. As competence motivation increases, the athlete is encouraged to make further mastery attempts.
Conversely, if a young athlete’s attempts at mastery result in perceived rejection and failure, and then low competence motivation and negative affect will be the end product. It is hypothesized that low competence motivation will result in a youth sport dropout.
Sports-related studies have provided support for Harter’s competence motivation theory. In Harter’s model, high competence motivation leads to successful task performance, much as high self-efficacy leads to successful performance.