Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Exercise and Sport Science

First Advisor

Joel Cormier

Department Affiliation

Exercise and Sport Science

Second Advisor

Ellen McMahan

Department Affiliation

Exercise and Sport Science

Third Advisor

Jonathan S. Gore

Department Affiliation



PURPOSE: The relationship between need satisfaction and burnout has been well defined in literature, but studies of the relationship between athletic identity and burnout have produced varying results. The purpose of this study is to examine the factors that may contribute to burnout in athletes by determining the direction and strength of a relationship between burnout, athletic identity, and need satisfaction.

METHODS: In this study, an online survey was distributed to a population of NCAA Division I varsity and club student-athletes. The survey consisted of demographic questions, the Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (AIMS), the Basic Need Satisfaction in Sport Scale (BNSSS), and the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (ABQ). AIMS, BNSSS, and ABQ score results were compared through various statistical analysis methods to determine the significance of their relationship.

RESULTS: Participants (N=60) consisted of 43 male (71.67%) and 17 female (28.33%) athletes. Individuals were aged 18-22 (M=19.40, SD=1.06). Correlation analysis and comparison of means were conducted. No significant correlation was found between athletic identity and autonomy, relatedness, competence, or burnout. Autonomy, relatedness, and competence each had statistically significant relationships of varying degrees when compared. Autonomy and competence produced significant relationships with burnout. A significant difference between the means of autonomy scores was found in varsity versus club athletes.

DISCUSSION: Results of this study suggested five key findings: (1) there is no relationship between athletic identity and burnout, (2) there is no significant relationship between athletic identity and need satisfaction, (3) there is a significant and positive relationship between the three components of need satisfaction, (4) there is a significant and negative relationship between the autonomy and competence components of need satisfaction and burnout, and (5) autonomy scores were significantly higher in club athletes than varsity athletes. To manage or prevent burnout, sports professionals should focus on supporting autonomy and competence rather than reinforcing athletic identity. Creating a team culture of group decision-making and abundant opportunities to demonstrate athletic ability could effectively combat developing burnout symptoms in athletes.