Fundamental to effective coaching is a sound understanding of why sporting participants engage in the ways that they do. Of specific interest in many high-performance sporting organisations is what directs the engagement of key actors in the performance pathway. As a peak sporting body, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) represents an example of such an organisation. The ARU’s major strategic pillar related to building sustainable elite success has meant that there is great focus on player engagement, understanding what motivates, engages and drives players, and given the various relationships between state unions, franchises and the ARU, this is especially so at the junior elite level.

A variety of scholars such as Pelletier, Cresswell and Hodge, have sought to understand why players may persist and develop in sport settings while others reduce engagement and leave sports. One way of attempting to inform the coaching of those working in elite youth and adolescent environments is through a consideration of athletes’ personal strivings. Personal strivings refer to motives or reasons for action that are considered in specific categories, yet remain abstract and flexible in nature (Singer, 2005). While Emmons described strivings as “abstracted qualities that can be achieved in a variety of ways” (p.1059), personal strivings in an athletic setting might be thought of as identifying what players typically or characteristically try to do on a daily basis within their sport.

Making use of an Australian cohort of Under 20 years Rugby Union Players, the aim of this study is to examine the personal strivings of individual players who have been identified and selected into a program within the ARU’s performance pathway. Emmon’s basic dimensions of personal strivings frame the data collection procedures that include administration of a survey at three time points (preseason, in competition, and post-season). Survey responses are augmented with qualitative approaches including probes regarding temporality and specific examples.

Through a comprehensive understanding of what these players are trying to accomplish, seeking to gain, and trying to avoid, an objective of this study is to assist coaches in understanding and contributing to suitable inputs for reasonable, measurable outputs and markers. Findings will be discussed in relation to the ARU’s vision of elite success, with recommendations presented for coaching practitioners