Campbell, D. J., & Ilgen, D. R. (1976). Additive effects of task difficulty and goal setting on subsequent performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61, 319-324.

Goal-setting has a positive effect on performance through its effect on motivation. Individuals working under high goals have high levels of intended performance and put forth more effort to reach the high performance levels. Task difficulty appears to increase performance by providing individual incentives to increase skills to deal with more complex situations and challenging physical tasks. The mobilization of increased skill levels leads to performance increases.

Implication. A coach's and athlete's expectations for training and competitive performances should err on the side of difficulty rather than being "soft" or easy. Sufficient task challenge has to be perceived by athletes to extend the level of effort and the degree of skill mobilized to perform.

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