Although some nuances were found, research reviewed in this chapter has shown that harmonious passion is generally associated with more positive consequences than obsessive passion is. It would therefore seem appropriate to propose ways of facilitating harmonious passion. To promote harmonious passion, the three-step process at the core of the development of passion (see Mageau, Vallerand, Charest, et al., 2009) can be used. The three steps are, respectively, (1) activity selection, (2) activity valuation, and (3) the internalization of the activity representation in a person’s identity. As seen previously, the role of the social environment at each of the three stages is crucial. Adults are in a prime position to promote children’s harmonious passion, especially if they nurture children’s need for autonomy and relatedness. With respect to the first step of activity selection, parents and physical educators should encourage children to perform a variety of sport activities, especially at a relatively young age (3–6 years). Later on (age 7–10 years), parents can register their children for a different activity each term. When they have tried a variety of activities and have developed sufficient knowledge to make decisions (perhaps around age 10 to 13 years), children can be encouraged to decide for themselves which activity they would like to engage in for the season. Such a variety of experiences may translate into a greater likelihood of selecting an activity that is a good fit with the child’s identity and will thus later become a passion (see Mageau et al., 2009). Enjoyable experiences devoid of pressure and coercion in which children are provided with autonomy support and have the opportunity to choose by themselves their sport activity should set the stage for harmonious passion to blossom. In contrast, pressure or coercion to engage in sport or physical activity is likely to lead to the development of either amotivation (or the loss of motivation) or an obsessive passion toward the sport.
Autonomy support is also recommended for the other two stages of passion development. For instance, with respect to the second step in the passion development process, namely valuation of the selected sport activity, noncontrolling and supportive parents, physical educators, and coaches who preach by example and serve as models (e.g., Bandura, 1977a) may provide the necessary impetus to lead the young athletes to invest further in the sport activity and value it even more. The role of peers should not be underestimated because friends’ influence becomes increasingly important as children move toward puberty (Damon, 1988). It should not be surprising that players on the same team have similar levels and types of passion in part because of the coach’s influence but also because of the modeling influence that teammates provide. Such influence may lead to the internalization of the prevalent type of passion in that particular team environment. Similarly, a harmonious passion is likely to develop if the internalization process takes place in social environments (e.g., parents, friends, and especially coaches) that promote children’s sense of autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 1987, 2000) by providing opportunities for choices, ownership, or “voice” regarding decisions and behaviors. For example, athletes who have recently started cross country running would be more likely to develop a harmonious passion toward this sport if their coach clearly explains to them why it is important to practice daily and gives them opportunities to choose among various practice regimens. Conversely, chances are that the same athletes would either lose their motivation for running or develop an obsessive passion if their coach pressures or coerces them to practice more or fails to explain the purpose of various training exercises.
Finally, practitioners and coaches who work with elite athletes should keep in mind that providing autonomy support is also important with high-level athletes. Indeed, by helping athletes feel autonomous by allowing them to provide input in game decisions (perhaps in the manner of Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers), the coach is likely to help maintain athletes’ harmonious passion, facilitate a high level of performance, and create positive coach–athlete relationships. Coaches and consultants may believe that it is appropriate to be controlling toward high elite and professional athletes because such practices may enhance performance. Although the evidence presented in this chapter does not indicate that being controlling necessarily undermines performance, it does indicate that such behavior is likely to lead to obsessive passion and thus to some negative outcomes, such as lower levels of psychological, health, and relational well-being in athletes. In turn, negative coach–athlete relationships may have ill effects on cohesion, indirectly and negatively affect performance, and even cost the coach her or his job. Thus, creating an autonomy supportive environment may go a long way in providing positive outcomes for both athletes and coaches.