Relationship between General and Sport-Related Drinking Motives and Athlete Alcohol Use and Problems

Michelle Pitts, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School
Graig M. Chow, Florida State University
Brad Donohue, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Objective: Alcohol use (and adverse consequences due to alcohol use) among college student-athletes is a common occurrence and consequently garners attention as a health concern within athletic departments and the NCAA. One of the strongest predictors of alcohol use in athletes is motivation to drink. However, not much is known about the influence of alcohol use motivations on drinking in collegiate athletes. Therefore, this study examined the influence of sport-related and general drinking motives on alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Method: Participants were female collegiate softball players (N = 721) from 62 NCAA teams. Athletes completed the Athlete Drinking Scale (Martens et al., 2005), the Drinking Motives Questionnaire, revised (Cooper, 1994; Cooper et al., 1992), alcohol consumption measures, and the Rutgers Alcohol Problems Index (White & Labouvie, 1989). Multilevel modeling was used to analyze the data. Results: Higher scores on Positive Reinforcement motives were associated with greater alcohol consumption, heavy episodic drinking, and alcohol-related problems. Enhancement motives were positively associated with heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related problems, while Coping motives were positively associated with alcohol-related problems. Lower scores on Conformity motives were related to higher alcohol consumption, whereas higher scores were related to more alcohol-related problems. Conclusions: These results assist in understanding salient drinking motives among athletes while accounting for nesting effects of athletes within teams. Results demonstrate alcohol use as a perceived means of reward for hard work or good athletic performance, thus attempts to control alcohol use in college athletics should emphasize alternative methods to positively reinforce efforts or celebrate victories.