Understanding the motivation process of the players experiencing homelessness in the Homeless World Cup

Article information

Int J Appl Sports Sci. 2019;31(2):138-154
1 Graduate, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough UK
2 PhD Student, Institute of European Sport Development and Leisure Studies, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne Germany
Received 2019 May 08; Revised 2019 September 01; Accepted 2019 September 25.


Homeless World Cup (HWC) program contributes to supporting and inspiring homeless people in order to positively change their own lives. There has been diverse research on the HWC, but most have emphasized outcomes. An effort for understanding of specific motivation process still remains scarce. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to understand the motivational process of the participants and describe the process in view of ERG theory. For the study, qualitative approach is conducted with using semi-structured interview. Findings show that the motivation could be thought as a result of their feeling of security, self-esteem and the desire to achieve their goals. Their behavioral changes toward others are related with the satisfied their psychological basic needs, and existence needs seemed to be based on the social relationship. In spite of several limitations, the findings give a chance to consider about how the HWC program should be developed.


In recent years, sport has contributed to producing positive social change in the world. Since the establishment of UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, the United Nations (UN) has also emphasized the importance of sport, which could play a vital role in inspiring vulnerable people, such as disabled people, migrants and people experiencing homelessness to improve their life (UN, 2015). Under the positive auspices of UN, existing Sport for Development (SfD) movement has become more vigorous and energetic across the world. SfD means a social movement which uses all types of organized physical activities and sport to achieve non-sporting outcomes contributory to international development (Levermore & Beacom, 2009). A variety of SfD programs are carrying out to achieve the initiatives created by many countries, Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Indeed, many developed countries and NGOs have implemented SfD programs and projects within communities in the Global South. Also, Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) are recently involved in SfD movement for the purpose of CSR, as well as altruism. As such, SfD movement is recognized as a key vehicle to address various issues, such as individual development, health promotion, social integration, gender equality and economic development.

Homeless World Cup (HWC) program is known as a type of SfD programs, which helps motivate and inspire people who have faced homelessness and social marginalization through football training and tournament. Although SfD programs are in line with the HWC program with regard to the use of sport for social development around the world, there is a gap between two initiatives. Generally, SfD programs seek to achieve social development goals for children, youths and adults in a certain region. In particular, the thematic areas of SfD programs have focused more on education, social cohesion and health than others (Schulenkorf, Sherry & Rowe, 2016). For instance, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) implemented reginal SfD projects in Africa, which include to provide sports infrastructure, training initiatives and integrated educational provision for young adults and children (GIZ, 2015).

However, it is likely that the HWC program has commonly pursued to improve social interaction, health and self-esteem of certain people experiencing homelessness (Long & Sanderson, 2001). In this regard, Sherry & O’May (2013) demonstrated that the HWC program can provide opportunities to develop social capital, and act as a tool of social intervention. Sherry (2010) noted that the HWC program could play a role in developing a sense of community and a sense of family of marginalized people experiencing homelessness. Moreover, it has widely been recognized that participating in football could positively affect physical health through regular sports activities (Magee, 2011). Also, it was argued that a majority of players in the HWC program have changed their mental health, social relationship, self-confidence and self-esteem (Sherry & O’ May, 2013). Magee and Jeans (2011) argued that more than 90% of players who participated in 2004 Sweden HWC program had a new motivation to change their lives and behavior for the better life.

As such, the HWC program seems to contribute to social change and social capital on the basis of individual development. Robertson & Greenblatt (1992) argued that it would not be easy for people experiencing homelessness to be motivated to combat their homelessness life without meeting the basic needs. In other words, their positive changes are strongly associated with satisfying basic needs. This means that it is necessary to identify changes in the motivation of individuals which can help positive social changes. As just mentioned above, however, previous studies have paid attention to the ultimate outcomes from participants of the HWC program, not the overall process which they suffer from. In fact, it is obvious that the studies have not mentioned sufficient information and processes as to how the motivation for the outcomes can be emerged through the program, which means that an effort to figure out specific motivation processes of the participants still remains scarce.

Therefore, this study aims at understanding and describing the motivation process of the participants who have experienced the HWC program. Specifically, this study explores what motivation processes the participants experienced to improve their lives through the HWC program, and investigates the extent to which the processes could be described in view of ERG theory. The categories of the findings consist of three themes: before, during and after the HWC program, and then each category involves in several sub-themes. The study is expected to contribute to the overall understanding of knowledge on how the HWC program affects participants’ motivation processes, which can provide a critical implication and perspective in the context of the HWC program.

Homeless World Cup (HWC)

The Homeless World Cup (HWC) is the annual football tournament, which started in 2003 in Graz, Austria, in order to encourage people experiencing homelessness to combat their issues and promote social opportunities through football. Established in 2001 by the International Network of Street Papers, the HWC program has had positive impacts on the change in the lives of people experiencing homelessness with an innovative approach to alleviate the worldwide problem of homelessness through football tounrnament. The HWC foundation has worked with more than 450 locations network across the world to raise awarness of homelessness and make positive change of consciousness among the public. The HWC challenges negative streotypes of homelessness and demand new advocates towards the cause. By doing so, the HWC functions as a driving force to change attitudes of government, media and the public to homelessness.

Moreover, the HWC organization has currently worked with 74 national partners and global sponsors for the program (HWC, 2015). Also, more than 2800 volunteers have helped and supported to achieve the ultimate objective of the HWC program (Sherry and O’May, 2013). As mentioned above, the HWC program has contributed to recognizing the issues around the people experiencing homelessness, and even supporting their own living through football. Cooperating with the national partners is an important part for success of the HWC program. Each partner has generally selected eight of homeless players, providing an opportunity to engage in local football leagues and regular football training program for participating in the HWC. In order to be a player of the HWC, applicants are required to have the following qualifications (HWC, 2015). Mandatory Criteria: (1) Be at least 16 years old before departing country of residence (2) Have not taken part in previous Homeless World Cup programs. Players must meet at least one of the following criteria: (1) Have been homeless at some point within the last 12 months, in accordance with the national definition of homelessness (2) Make their main living income as street paper vendor (3) Be asylum seekers currently without positive asylum status or who were previously asylum seekers but obtained residency status within the last 12 months (4) Currently in drug or alcohol rehabilitation and also have been homeless at some point in the past two years.

In particular, the partner offers them well-organized training session prior to the HWC tournament to enhance the homeless participants’ physical fitness for the program. Moreover, under the guidance of the HWC organization, they are trying to encourage the homeless participants to access a variety of services, which are related to health, education and employment issues before and after the HWC. As such, the national partners play a vital role in achieving the goal of the HWC program. Since the remarkable achievement, the HWC has been supported by UEFA and has posive influnces on the lives of nearly one million people experiencing homelessness around the world.

Change in the Player through the HWC Program

Common changes in the participation in the HWC programs are positively associated with improved health, self-esteem and social interaction of people in vulnerable conditions (Long & Sanderson, 2001). The existing research has already suggested that the HWC program has a positive effect on a variety of physical and mental aspects for the participants. Homeless Link (2014) reported that more than 70% of the people experiencing homelessness have suffered from physical health problems. However, the physical conditions of the participants were significantly improved by participating in the HWC program. HWC (2015) reported that people experiencing homelessness who attended in 2006 Cape Town HWC program were positively changed in terms of the physical health. As a result, they found that aerobic fitness and power, muscle mass and hypertension of the players were visibly improved.

Meanwhile, mental disorder is one of the most common symptoms among people experiencing homelessness. According to the case study regarding the 2008 Melbourne HWC program, approximately 65% of participants in the past have struggled with their mental illness, especially depression (Sherry & O’May, 2013). After the HWC program, however, it was reported that the players’ mental health was clearly improved. Street Soccer Canada (2013), one of the HWC national partners, found that they become more stabilized, and the incidence of the mental illness remarkably decreased. Moreover, the HWC program affects the homeless players’ alcohol and drug dependency during the training session (Magee & Jeans, 2011). In fact, the players attending the program often decided to stop taking alcohol, drugs and junk food for their physical fitness (Vic Health, 2007). Thus, the HWC program has a positive effect on dealing with both of the physical and mental health problems of the participants, which can give self-motivation to change their life for the better.

Self-esteem can be defined as one’s evaluation or respect (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). It mainly enhances the desire to achieve the personal goal (Branden, 1969; Kernis, 1995). In particular, the participation in sport seems to affect the participants’ self-esteem (Bowker, Gadbois & Cornock, 2013). Sport programs can give participants opportunities to build a positive self-image, which is formed from their social relationships. Thus, it is assumed that the HWC program could affect the change in the players’ self-esteem. When it comes to people experiencing homelessness, they usually tend to have low self-respect (Blake, Fradd & Stringer, 2008). This means that they seem to be afraid of their challenge and failure. During the HWC program, however, the players felt more confidence and the spring of hope (Magee, 2011). For example, the captain of Northern Ireland's team who attended in the 2013 HWC stated that the football made him consider himself as an important person (BBC, 2013). Moreover, the Wales players felt that their fear and shame had been replaced with pride and confidence in himself (Magee & Jeans, 2011).

In addition, self-esteem enables a person to achieve a specific goal (Gencer, 2012). In other words, self-esteem is related to self-actualization which increases the desire to accomplish goals (Branden; 1969; Kernis, 1995). For example, Bebe who participated in the 2010 HWC program signed with Manchester United. Through the HWC program, he found what he wants and makes efforts to become a football player, and he finally contracted with Manchester United (HWC, 2010). Likewise, people with a high level of self-esteem are more likely to solve tough problems and try to develop their life by achieving their goals (McPheat, 2010). Also, those who have a high level of self-esteem are less likely to feel depression and worthless (Orth & Robins, 2013). As mentioned above, mental condition is linked with self-motivation. In line with the view point, it could be thought that self-esteem also has an impact on the motivation.

Sport has played a role in improving the social exclusion of vulnerable groups. As one of the marginalized groups, it is true that the homeless are socially excluded or isolated with insufficient supporting. Sport activities might be able to strengthen their social relationship. According to report on the 2006 Cape Town HWC program, 89% of the participants experienced improved social relationship (Global giving, 2003). Homeless Link (2014) found that the HWC program makes majority of England team members enhance their relationship with family members. As such, it is notable that the HWC program has positive impacts on the change of their social relationship. In addition, social interaction with positive and supportive people, such as family, friends and social service providers enables individuals to improve the quality of life (Molina-Jackson, 2008). Scotland player expressed that the more he interacted with other people, the more he could get confident, and he could return to school again and finally became the leader of his school (Sherry, 2010). Thus, it could be assumed that the homeless participants’ motivation would be based on the positive change of social support and social interaction.

ERG Theory

ERG theory was created by Alderfer, which has been widely utilized as useful analytical framework to explain human motivation through three needs, such as existence, relatedness and growth needs (Caulton, 2012). Aram & Piraino (1978, p.79) described ERG theory as “the most enduring ways to understand the motivation process”. ERG theory is similar to well-known Maslow’s theory in exploring human motivation and how it affects human behavior. In addition, both theories have their own hierarchical framework which include from basic needs to sophisticated needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy theory, an individual is motivated through meeting basic human needs which are ordered by hierarchy; Physiological, Safety, Belongingness, Esteem, and Self-actualization needs (Huitt, 2007; Maslow, 1943; Pardee, 1990). The needs are divided into two categories: deficiency needs (physiological and safety) and growth needs (belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization). Maslow’s essential precondition noted that lower-level needs should be fulfilled prior to the emergence of higher-order needs (Carpenter, Bauer & Erdogan, 2012).

The ERG theory has more specific forms of hierarchy compared to Maslow’s theory. The ERG theory assumes that the process of motivation is basically generated by three needs rather than five needs (Carpenter et al., 2012). In contrast to Maslow’s theory, which can be successively explained by five-level pyramid structure, ERG theory said that people can satisfy three needs in different ways at different levels. The ERG theory argued that individuals generally move up the hierarchy in satisfying their needs. In other words, the ERG theory assumes that person’s lower level needs could regress even if higher-level needs remain gratified, which is called frustration-regression (Ball, 2013). For instance, if an individual is continually frustrated in his or her attempts to satisfy growth needs, relatedness needs can resurface as key motivators. In other words. The ERG theory suggests that a gratified need can become active even if a higher need cannot be satisfied. In addition, the ERG theory suggests that individuals could be motivated through more than one level of needs (Griffin, 2012).

As such, the ERG theory could make up for the drawback and limitations of Maslow’s hierarchical order (Carpenter et al., 2012). Thus, it could be thought that the ERG theory is a more flexible and realistic approach than Maslow’s hierarchy theory (Wahba & Bridwell, 1976). Although the ERG theory explains that motivation is based on hierarchical order of needs, needs would be necessary to be considered as a range rather than as a hierarchy. The three needs explained by the ERG theory are described in following section: Existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs.

Existence Needs

The basic needs are essential to all people as these might be connected with their health, safety and survival. In terms of ERG theory, existence needs refer to the basic needs for physical and psychological well-being (Griffin, 2012). For instance, food, housing and the feeling of safety are involved in these basic needs (Ko, Rhee, Walker & Lee, 2013; Lussier, 2013). In other words, existence needs could be defined as human basic needs, which can have an influence on the change of human behavior.

Homelessness could be defined as individuals who live in temporary residence, such as street, shelters (Wood, Dunton, Spellman, Abbenante & Griffith, 2009). However, living in temporary houses is not just simply problem as it has closely linked with their physical and mental health, employment, and education (Hulchanski, 2009). Temporary residence threatens their basic needs and prevents them from escaping the lives of homelessness (Khadduri & Kaul, 2007). The poor housing conditions caused them to be exposed to biological and physical hazards. Also, temporary housing has negative impacts on the feeling of safety, which plays an important role in motivation. According to Shelter (2004), a majority of people experiencing homelessness experienced that they felt dangerous as they have a difficulty protecting themselves from constant dangers of disease or physical harm in their temporary accommodation (Rosdahl & Kowalski, 2008). As a result, most people experiencing homelessness keep moving from place to place due to the fear and anxiety.

National Coalition for the Homeless (2009) found that most people experiencing homelessness spend the most of their time on finding food and shelter. This means that the priority of their life is to solve their basic needs rather than develop social relationship, personal goal, growth and development. The lack of the safety needs prevents them from thinking about social relationships or the way to improve their life (Rosdahl & Kowalski, 2008). In other words, the degree of their feeling of safety has influence on the motivation of homelessness.

In sum, the degree of existence needs could be related with health, and are linked with the motivation. The existence needs refer to the needs for the requirements which have effects on not only health, but also motivation (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008). Considering the HWC program, most players have experienced the change of their physical and mental health. This means that investigating the existence needs of the participants within the context of the HWC program could contribute to understanding their motivation process.

Relatedness Needs

In ERG theory, relatedness needs involve the desire for interpersonal bond, acceptance toward society and a sense of belongingness (Lyons, 2011). Generally, people who often feel lonely seem more difficult to promote motivation (Park & Baumeister, 2015). In this context, the needs to belonging are connected with motivation. North, Fyrich, Pollio & Spitznagel (2004) thought of homelessness as individuals who are excluded from society. People experiencing homelessness become more and more difficult to trust others for protecting by themselves who are under poor environment (Rosdahl & Kowalski, 2008). Khadduri & Kaul (2007) found that those who live in substandard housing condition are more likely to be isolated from their family and other social network.

As outlined above, supporters of family, friends and social service providers enable individuals to develop their lives (Molina-Jackson, 2008). The lack of the sense of belonging could prevent them from being motivated to overcome the external challenges, such as social exclusion and unemployment (Khadduri & Kaul, 2007). Moreover, Muhlenkamp and Sayles (1986) asserted that the level of social support could be associated with their self-esteem. In other words, the lack of social support might cause their social exclusion and negative self-esteem.

When it comes to the HWC program, the participants’ social relationship seemed to be improved. Considering the impacts of social relationship, it could be believed that their motivation was associated with the development of their social relationship. Thus, the participants’ relatedness needs are examined to understand one of the motivation processes regarding the HWC program.

Growth Needs

Growth needs refer to the desire for personal development, and are involved in the needs for self-esteem and self-actualization (Griffin & Moorhead, 2013). Self-esteem refers the favorable or unfavorable evaluation of the self (Baumeister et al., 2003). Self-actualization means one’s evaluation or respect which enhances the desire to achieve goals (Kernis, 1995). Maslow described self-actualization as “never-ending and gradual process of improvement” (Heylighen, 1992, p.44). As such, it could be interpreted that the desire for personal growth is a result in the positive evaluation of the self and the willingness to accomplish goals.

The majority of the homelessness seem to have unfavorable perception and low sense of purpose. Parker (2012) revealed that the number of people experiencing homelessness evaluate themselves in a negative light. Their negative perception of self leads people experiencing homelessness to avoiding their challenges (McPheat, 2010). This means they could be more likely to give up when they face challenges because they underestimate themselves and expect their failure. Also, NHS (2014) reported that self-esteem is significantly related with an individual’s capacity to trust. This indicates that their social exclusion issue could be fundamentally associated with their low self-esteem. Moreover, a low self-esteem has a negative effect on their self-actualization (Shoura & Singh, 1999). Self-actualization is developed by attainting individuals’ goal and improving the personal development (Shoura & Singh, 1999). In other words, the unfavorable evaluation of the self prohibits their motivation to combat homelessness.

As mentioned above, the players’ self-esteem seemed to be improved through the HWC program. Most participants were trying to achieve their own goal after the HWC program. The degree of growth needs could be related with their self-esteem and self-actualization, which could have a relationship with the improvement of the players’ lives. Therefore, it would be necessary to go over growth needs to figure out overall motivation process of the participants.


The method employed to explore the motivation process was formulated by a qualitative analysis of the experience of the players participating in the HWC program in view of ERG theory. The qualitative study focuses on how the meaning is formed and shared among people, which can provide a sufficient descriptive explanation (Creswell, 2009). Most scholars have recently emphasized the necessary of qualitative method in the context of sport for development study, as it allows the researchers to explore the social phenomena in detail (Coalter, 2013). Thus, qualitative research can enable the researchers in the field of sports to have deeper knowledge and develop understanding to the phenomena and context.


Seven participants (Male=3 and Female=4) were selected, which had experienced the HWC program as players in the Street Football Wales (SFW) and Street Soccer Scotland (SSS). They have experienced in homelessness and marginalization in the past. Specifically, interviewees have participated in the HWC program between 2004 and 2014. Six participants were field players at the time of the HWC program, but one participant played a role as a manager. At that time, it seemed meaningful to include the manager due to the fact that she could objectively watch their life change in person. The interviews were conducted at the appropriate space for about 30 to 60 minutes in Edinburgh and the office of SFW from 25th June to 3rd July 2015.

For the study, purposive sampling strategy among non-probability sampling was adopted to gather extensive information from participants who have the relevant experience. Purposeful sampling is widely known as a technique employed in qualitative research, which effectively enables the identification and selection of well-organized data in spite of limited resources (Patton, 2002). This technique facilitates selecting interviewees with great knowledge or experience on a phenomenon of interest (Cresswell & Piano Clark, 2011). Moreover, purposeful sampling ensures a high possibility of the sincere response and willingness of the participants in a reflective manner (Bernard, 2002). As such, the sampling is deliberately conducted along with the researcher’s personal judgement or the specific purpose of the research. In the study, seven participants were chosen with help of the employee of the HWC program who has abundant prior knowledge of the population. Although the representativeness of the sample could not be fully confirmed in reality, the purpose of the study could be efficiently achieved in a relatively short time.


Qualitative research usually collects data through document, interview and direct observation. In this study, the semi-structured interview was mainly used as a main tool to gather the valuable data. This is a form of interviews, which is based on the minimum question guidelines, but freely asking the interviewer’s preference. It helps collect more abundant and richer information than structure interview. Waldrip & Taylor (1999) argued that the semi-structure interview can be less formal to carry out an easy exchange of information depending on the interviewees. In the study, semi-structured interview was conducted to understand and explain the process of the players’ motivation by using questions and follow-up probes about existence, relatedness and growth needs.

Interview questionnaire guide was designed in respect to examining the motivation process of the players through chronological order; before, during, and after the HWC program. Also, these questions consisted of the factors of ERG theory; existence, relatedness and growth needs. The questionnaires for players consisted of one and twenty items which are divided into three parts: before, during and after the program. In the part of before the program, interviewees were asked four questions, which focus on identifying their standard of living and their marginalized life before taking part in the HWC program (e.g., ‘Do you think your health had changed since you experienced homelessness?’) Considering during the program, fourteen questions were designed to explore the existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs. They aimed to examine how the program influenced their motivation to their better quality of life (e.g., ‘Did you feel your physical and mental health get better during the program’, ‘Was your social relation improved during the program’ and ‘Do you think there was a change about your perception of yourself during the program?’). For after the program, questionnaires were associated with the influence of the program on the participants’ lives (e.g., ‘Could you describe a usual day for you, including people and places which you encounter?’). Also, the questionnaires for the manager consisted of twelve items, which are mainly related to how the HWC program motivates the players in view of existence, relatedness and growth needs.

Data analysis

All semi-structured interviews were recorded by using mobile record device, and NVivo software was used for sorting and coding relevant documents and interviews. The interviews were transcribed right after the field work and interviews. In this regard, Chilisa & Preece (2005) noted that the transcription should be twice conducted through a code-recode procedure to minimize the potential risk of dependability and enhance the reliability of the study. After that, the mass textual data was divided into three main themes by chronological order: before, during and after the HWC program. The chronological analysis enables for the researchers to examine the sequence of events (Diaz, 2008). Subsequently, it would be necessary to apply constant comparative method to identify general patterns among the mass texture data. The method can develop a theory by comparing the similarity and difference between each category which is made by coding process: axial, open and selective coding (Glaser & Strauss, 2009). In the study, comparative method was employed to understand the participants’ motivation in view of ERG theory. Lastly, the interview data was coded from raw data themes into higher order themes to find out sub-themes of each theme.


Data was analyzed with applying the chronological order. The categories of the findings mainly included three main themes: (1) before, (2) during and (3) after the HWC program, and each theme was involved in several sub-themes.

Before the HWC Program

Before the program, the participants seemed to suffer from the lack of feeling of safety and the sense of purpose, and low self-esteem toward their lives.

The Lack of Feeling of Safety

Physically, I was not too bad, but mentally I suffered from depression and anxiety. (Player S – Female)

I had mental health problem…. stressed and depressed. Physically I was ok. (Player P – Male)

Before the HWC program, three of the participants mentioned that their physical health was drastically at serious risk, due to the lack of food. However, the participants revealed that they could get some food supported by their family or friends, and even several participants could buy and eat a little food by themselves since they were at work at that time. In other words, it would be necessary that their physical issues were not based on the lack of physiological requirement, but could be understood by their psychological issues. Indeed, when it comes to the mental health, all participants had psychological problems, which are in need of medical attention. In case of player S, she needed to have ongoing treatment for her mental problem.

I was not in a good place, and my family did not want to see me (Player J – Male)

I argued with my parent a lot. That’s why I became homeless (Player C – Male)

Family breakdown was probably the biggest reason for homelessness (Manager B – Male)

Most participants possessed their own places which can stay with their family permanently. Nevertheless, they became homeless, and choose to stay at temporary accommodation without any promise of return. In case of player J, he felt that it was not good place for him to stay with his family, due to the reason that he stopped talking with his family. He finally took himself away from his family. Also, player S could not psychologically feel safe because of discord within the family. In light of the interview, it could be thought that the feeling of being unsafe was caused by disharmony with their family.

Low Self-Esteem

Worthless, just a loser, I did not have any respect for myself (Player V – Female)

The participants’ self-esteem was very low (Manager B – Male)

The self-esteem of the participants seemed to be low, except for the only one person. For example, player K used the word ‘scrampy’, which means that ‘anything is negative’. She thought of herself in a negative light. Player J said that he did not feel his self-esteem during his homeless life.

Their support was bad, and I argued with my parent a lot. That was why I became homeless…The only person I could believe was myself (Player C –Male)

Two of participants answered that they felt worse by themselves, and could not trust those around them. They tended to keep everything locked up. Player S mentioned that she had a difficulty to open her mind up to people. She needed to go counselling to receive mental health treatment. The data implicitly showed that low self-esteem could cause serious mental health problems and social exclusion.

The lack of Meaning in Life

Even if you have enough the feeling of safety and food, everybody needs a goal and purpose (Player J – Male)

Player J said that the purpose for living could be the most important thing for motivation. When she was homeless, she did not want to achieve anything. Also, player C and K stated that they did not have any goals to live, and did not care about what they were doing. In other words, they appear not to attempt or to accomplish their goal.

During the HWC Program

Compared to the first theme, the interview data found that there were some differences about their feeling of safety, self-esteem and attitude toward goals during the program. It could be explained that three sub-themes: responsibility, goal and support.


I would have a lot of responsibilities, and my role was an important factor for others (Player P – Male)

The participants could get some food and clothes during the training section. All of participants agreed that their physical health was improved through attending the training. They tried to take their duties during the training section and the program. National partners had a right to select eight players who could get a chance to take part in the HWC program. This means that the training gave the participants the responsibility as they needed to take a responsibility to meet the criteria of the selection process.

We held team building day. The team designed their own manual of how they needed to play if they played a team. Also, it included that rules which are related to alcohol and things like that (Manager B – Male)

The HWC program asked the players to take another responsibility, such as improving social skills. Manager B said that they held team building events and designed their rules in their own manual book which can help them play as a team. In fact, player S and J said that they needed to get to know and trust other players to play football together. Player K recognized that the training section was basically based on enhancing teamwork.

Mentally, the HWC program put me in a better place (Player V – Female)

Everyone from HWC is my family, and it is a big difference between where I am now and where I was (Player P – Male)

Generally, they felt safe from each other during the program. Also, player S felt that she was respected by others. This means that the training did not just support their physical needs, but their psychological and social needs. The responsibility helped them develop their social relationship and overcame their social exclusion. Therefore, their responsibility seemed to have a positive impact on not only physical needs, but also psychological needs.


I did not really care of nothing beforehand but this was something I wanted to do (Player C – Male)

The HWC gave me something to do, and then I realised it would help me change my life (Player V – Female)

Player J revealed that travelling to the hosting city was the reason for participation in the program. Also, he remembered that everyone was really working hard to go to the HWC as a Scottish player. Player K wanted to play football in the HWC program because she loved football. She tried to improve her physical health and social relationship to be selected as a player. Therefore, it could be thought that they were having their own goal during the program.

We were made to train and work, but it was all beneficial as it got us fit and well. (Player C – Male)

In addition, their goal seemed to lead them not to giving up attending the program although most participants agreed that they had a trouble in finishing their training at the beginning of the training session. Indeed, they mentioned that the training was quite hard and difficult at first since their physical condition was not fit to attend two football matches every week. However, no one said that they wanted to give up being HWC players. Therefore, it could be thought that continuous training and matches positively led to having their own goals.


I respected myself a bit more and gained confidence (Player K – Female)

No matter who you are you can change your life, and I become better person. (Player S – Female)

My attitude was definitely more positive. Look after myself and other people. Manager and coaches were all factors which made me change (Player C – Male)

The coach was the role model. He had the knowledge and he had the respect (Player J – Male)

As just stated above, having a responsibility could positively influence on physical health and social integration of the players. Besides that, these positive changes could be associated with supporting from others. During the program, the participants overcame their isolation and gained confidence. Player C mentioned that his attitude definitely changed more positive because of the support of managers and coaches. The positive change of their perception was based on the support of managers, coach, volunteer and other players. In particular, they stated that the manager encouraged them not to be feeling anxious or depressed.

Moreover, the interaction with other players appeared to enable them to trust and feel good about themselves. Supporting from others could help overcome their social exclusion. Player K said that our team spirit had a power to solve various problems independently. Player V felt that the whole teammates were like her family and respected each other. Player S also could open her mind up more. Meanwhile, they sometimes got along well with players from other countries in the tournament. Player V stated that the same experience with other players made them to approach other players easily. It was true that the participants overcame their isolation, and social support enabled the participants to recover the sense of belonging, as well as self-esteem.

After the HWC Program

The findings indicated that the participants had changed their life by developing their social relationship, doing volunteer activities or challenging their goals.


HWC made me a better person. There is nothing you cannot achieve in life…I spend my time with friends and family, and I like being out not my bedroom (Player S – Female)

After the HWC program, most participants expressed their developed self-esteem. Their self-esteem seemed to affect their attitude in dealing with their problems.

After the program, I contacted with my family. The program made me realise how important family is and how important they are. I started hanging around my friends again (Player V – Female)

In terms of their family problem, it remained as the fundamental problem during the program even though their health, social relationship and self-esteem were being developed. In case of the player J, he talked with his teammates, but did not talk with his family yet. Also, Player V said that she did not connect with her family during the HWC program. In this context, it could be assumed that they were not still ready to handle their problems. After the HWC program, however, the participants tried to solve their relationship with family rather than avoiding their fundamental problems. They had more confidence and self-esteem to deal with their relationship.

I want to help kids who are suffering from mental health and family problem (Player K – female)

I was definitely motivated to change my life, so I became a volunteer of SFW to help other homeless people (Player V – Female)

The higher level of self-esteem made them to accomplish their new challenges. Player S thought that she could achieve what she wanted. Also, Player J wanted to work for other homeless players, and finally he started to volunteer as a coach. In other words, their improved self-esteem assisted to see their matters from different and positive point of view, and enhanced their attitude to achieve goals and personal development. Player C said that sport gave him the feeling of love, confidence and something to live for. Player J stated that his positive changes were based on sport itself. Thus, it could be recognized that participating in sport activities plays a role in improving self-esteem. Main results of this study is presented in table 1.

Main results


The purpose of this study is to identify the motivation process of people experiencing homelessness through the HWC program in view of ERG theory. The ERG theory explains an individuals’ motivation, which is divided into three elements: existence, relatedness and growth needs (Griffin, 2012). In the study, the motivation process can be understood by three main stages: before, during and after the program.

The existence needs indicate fundamental needs for people, such as food, housing, the feeling of safety and freedom from fear. In other words, existence needs include physiological and psychological needs. Hulchanski (2009) noted that people experiencing homelessness are more likely to confront the danger of disease and attack from others, which can be the main issue of them. Before the program, most participants were exposed to health problems, especially mental and psychological. The mental problems of the participants were caused by low feeling of safety for family trouble, which negatively affects motivation of people experiencing homelessness. In other words, their existence needs were unsatisfied because they were in a lack of the feeling of safety. In this regard, Yang, Hwang & Chen (2011) argued that psychological well-being is based on the feeling of safety or freedom from fear. The feeling of safety seems to have a positive effect on the motivation of people experiencing homelessness. In fact, the feeling of safety could be one of the factors affecting individuals’ motivation (Yang, Hwang & Chen, 2011). Thus, it could be assumed that the lack of feeling safe, stable and secure from family mainly has a negative impact on psychological health, which could lead to a decline in the motivation.

Most participants evidently had a lack of self-esteem before the program, and even some participants are difficult to trust others before the HWC programme. NHS (2014) reported that self-esteem is significantly linked with an individual’s capacity to trust. In other words, an individual’s self-esteem is directly related to mental health and social exclusion. Manso, Pérez & Gutierrez (2012) argued that homelessness could be defined as individuals who place on the extreme social exclusion. In addition, it is reported that those who have low self-esteem tend to underestimate their capabilities because they assume that they would be failed (Mcpheat, 2010). As such, the participants suffered from the lack of self-esteem and social exclusion. This means that their relatedness needs were not satisfied at that time. Meanwhile, Shoura & Singh (1999) argued that people experiencing homelessness tend to have a tendency of weakened willingness toward their goals. In fact, the participants could be difficult to build their goals and desire for personal development. It is assumed that their priority could seek food, shelter and the feeling of safety to satisfy their basic needs rather than setting up and accomplishing their goal for living (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2009).

North et al. (2004) argued that people experiencing homelessness could be defined as individuals who have had trouble fitting in with social groups. During the HWC program, however, the participants had a chance to feel a sense of belonging, and even felt safety which they could not feel from their family in the past. Thus, it could be assumed that satisfied existence needs of the participants were based on the feeling of safety rather than food, water, sex, and shelter in view of the ERG theory. The regular training made them take a responsibility in keeping rules and roles, which eventually helped them to encourage psychological and social needs. It is assumed that their responsibility created by the HWC program contributes to overcoming social exclusion and social relationship. The supportive and safe environment of training made them want to not only keep attending but also interact with others. As a result, their relatedness needs were gratified with two factors, which are safe atmosphere and their specific responsibility.

Moreover, most participants felt satisfied and safety from support of managers, coach and volunteers. In particular, the managers and volunteers helped the players improve their social skills and strengthen social relationships by supporting them and displaying their responsibilities clearly. Muhlenkamp and Sayles (1986) argued that social support can change the level of self-esteem. The finding demonstrated that the participants overcome social exclusion and a low sense of belonging with the help of managers, coach and volunteers. In other words, the HWC program led the player to fulfil their existence and relatedness needs which they could not satisfied before the program. Meanwhile, the participants slightly started to have a sense of purpose and direction during the program. For example, they did not want to stop attending the HWC program, and one of them had a dream to travel where the program will take place. These individuals’ goals seemed to be created by increased self-esteem through training and their own rules, which led to personal development. Shoura & Singh (1999) noted that the self-esteem is closely linked with a self-actualization. As such, the interaction with others and higher level of self-esteem could gratify growth needs during the program.

More than 90% of the players experiencing the HWC program were motivated to change their life through getting jobs, solving a housing problem and starting education (Conn, 2006). After the HWC program, increased self-esteem of the participants contributed to solving their own issues by themselves, which led to the personal development. The participants tried to set up new goal to become a better person after the HWC programme, and some have taken part in the program as a volunteers and coach over again. The individuals’ capability to deal with problems seems to be related with self-esteem (McPheat, 2010). Thus, the change of the participants could be generated by a high level of self-esteem.


This study seeks to understand and describe the motivation process of the participants who have experienced the HWC program. Generally, motivation can be regarded as the set of factors which stimulate individuals to change their behavior in a certain way. The participants’ motivation in the HWC program could be understood by changes in the feeling of safety, self-esteem and the desire for achieving personal goal. The changes were generated through taking their responsibility, challenging their goal, and receiving the support of others during the program. This means their self-esteem was improved, and it tends to be developed when they challenged to achieve the same objective for being a player. After the program, they tried to improve their lives by solving their family problems and achieving their personal goals.

As mentioned above, the study aimed at identifying whether the motivation process could be presented based on ERG theory. The main reason for the participants’ homelessness could be thought as the lack of basic needs. During the program, however, they felt secure from the staff, coach and other players. They could interact and work together as a team, and their behavioral changes toward others could be related with the satisfied their psychological basic needs. Therefore, it could be inferred that their existence and relatedness needs were fulfilled. Moreover, even though the 12 weeks training section was difficult for them in the beginning of the program, they became players, and played in the football tournament. This means that they were overcoming their difficulties to achieve their goal. Thus, it could be concluded that their growth needs were reached. In light of these results, motivation process in the study seems to be described based on ERG theory.

The findings could provide several implications which might be helpful for the development of the HWC program. The most important factors for the participants in this study were social relationship, a sense of safety and a sense of belonging created by interaction with each other. Contrary to ERG theory which is recognized hunger as important, hunger did not have a significant effect on their motivation. Rather, relatedness needs were especially considered as significant, and even contributed to existence needs. In other words, existence needs seem to be interconnected with relatedness needs in view of the role of self-esteem and a sense of safety. Thus, when people experiencing homelessness participate in the program, the HWC organization and its national partners should design programs which can help overcome a lack of trust and self-esteem. Therefore, the program needs to provide various social programs which can communicate with volunteers, coach and other participants.

In addition, the HWC program needs to collaborate with social services. After the program, the participants might return some places where they had been. This means that they might confront problems which negatively affect their basic needs and self-esteem again. In order to support them consistently, for example, the HWC organization and national partners need to work with social agencies to improve the sustainability of the function of sport in society. In this context, a variety of sports programs should be implemented to maintain consistent relationships and practical changes. In the study, their positive changes were generated by their responsibility and support from others. Therefore, the HWC organization and national partners need to give the participants specific responsibility, and have more opportunity to communicate with each other during the program.

However, the study was generated by only seven participants’ experiences. The accuracy of findings could be doubtful when the findings are applied to another cultural setting due to the difficulty of the generalization. In addition, the participants in the study were gathered by purposive sampling strategy. The strategy would be useful to gather respondents who are well-informed of the characteristics of research topic or situation. However, the participants came from only two national partners; SFW and SSS. As mentioned earlier, 74 national partners work together for the HWC program, but it was actually impossible to represent people who suffered from homelessness participating in the program. Therefore, further study should collect much more data from various partners and participants to contribute to the generalization of the theory. Lastly, the interview data seemed optimistic. The reason might be stemmed from the sampling strategy. This study was aimed at the participants whose lives turned into positively through the HWC program. Nevertheless, the findings might give a chance to consider about how the HWC program and other sports activities need to be developed or operated in order to maximize the benefits of participation in sport of people who suffer from social exclusion.



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Article information Continued

Table 1.

Main results

Point Existence needs Relatedness needs Growth needs
Before the HWC program They suffered from… Psychological problems from family trouble Social exclusion and a lack of self-esteem Negative mindset
During the HWC program They had… a sense of safety and positive psychological health A sense of belonging owing to the support of others Their own goals, such as traveling and attending the HWC program
After the HWC program They recovered… Self-confidence A higher level of self-esteem Positive thoughts and attitude