Motivation is a key element of getting positive results in the sports arena. And I’m not just talking about winning! It’s the quality that will propel athletes to keep giving it their all as long as there’s time on the clock, to bounce back after failures or setbacks, and to do everything they possibly can to perform to their full potential. You can do a lot to help your athletes develop winning motivation, here are some quick guidelines and strategies to get you started.
MOTIVATION IS ABOUT SHARED RESPONSIBILITY
It is not just up to you to motivate your athletes. They must have some spark of motivation themselves. You can’t motivate someone to do something unless they want to also!
MOTIVATION IS ABOUT HAVING A DIRECTION/GIVING A DIRECTION
Everyone is motivated. The key question is to do what? As a coach you have to help your athletes develop that direction so they are motivated towards goals they actually connect with intrinsically.
MOTIVATION IS ABOUT SELLING
Good motivators are good sales people. You have to sell your athletes on hard work and the pursuit of excellence. You have to get them to buy that their sacrifices and sweat are worth the price of the goal. This means that you have to explain to them the necessity of their efforts. Simply telling an athlete to do something is nowhere near as effective as explaining to them how this exercise or drill will help them get closer to where they want to go.
DO NOT TAKE MOTIVATION FOR GRANTED
Even professional athletes need outside motivation from their coach. Too many coaches wrongly assume that the athlete should already be totally motivated and that this motivation piece is up to the athlete. Big Mistake!
MOTIVATION IS AN EVERYDAY JOB, NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU DO BEFORE THE BIG COMPETITIONS
90% of motivation happens in practice from day #1. 5-10% of motivation gets done just before the big game/race/match. Unless you are working every day at being a motivator, the gimmicks and talks that you pull out on game day will be ineffective.
THE HEART OF MOTIVATION IS DEVELOPING A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR ATHLETE
The kind of relationship that you develop with each athlete from the beginning of the season will largely determine how motivated that individual will be to learn from and perform for you.
RELATIONSHIP/MOTIVATION BUILDING GUIDELINES TREAT YOUR ATHLETES WITH RESPECT
Deal with your athletes the way that you would like to be dealt with. Respect them and they will respect you, be able to learn from you and will go to the ends of the earth to perform for you.
Comparisons almost always make athletes feel badly about themselves, kills their motivation and engender intrasquad rivalry & unhealthy competition. Compare only to specific techniques athletes may be excelling at, rather than idealizing fellow athletes themselves (i.e., “Look at the way Janice executes that move… especially watch what she does with her upper body”).
DEAL WITH YOUR ATHLETE AS A WHOLE PERSON
Take an interest in your athlete beyond his/her athletic abilities. If you care about them as a person rather than just what they can do for the team, they will reward you with high motivation, increased intensity and great performances.
The heart of effective communication is listening. The way to make an athlete feel better about themselves is to listen to them when they speak to you and to attempt to understand them from their perspective. Be silent when they talk, don’t plan your next comment and try to step into their shoes. Your efforts will pay off in a strong relationship and a motivated athlete.
DO NOT EQUATE YOUR ATHLETES’ SELF-WORTH WITH THEIR PERFORMANCES
Bad performances don’t mean bad people. let your athlete know that you are even more there for them when they have a bad performance than when they have a good one. Don’t be a fair weather fan to your athletes!
MOTIVATE BY CHALLENGES RATHER THAN THREATS
If you really want an athlete to go to that next level, challenge them. Encourage them to go for it and let them know that you believe they can do it. A challenge is positive and motivational. A threat is negative and gets the athlete preoccupied with the consequences for failing, punishment.
Nothing good comes from negativity. It’s a real demotivator. Consistently getting down on your athletes will not make them feel good about themselves or you. Be positive, no matter what, and you’ll be a successful motivator.
Recognition is one of the most powerful motivators there is. Every day let your athletes know that you know they’re there and giving an effort. Even simple comments like, “good job”, or “nice hustle” will go a long way to motivating them.
HANDLE FAILURES AND MISTAKES CONSTRUCTIVELY
Teach your athletes that failures and setbacks are a necessary part of the learning process and not a cause for embarrassment or quitting. Model this attitude and you’ll motivate your athletes to take risks and really go for it. If you jump in an athlete’s face whenever he messes up you’ll demotivate him and get him worrying about failing.
MODEL MOTIVATION IN ALL OF YOU INTERACTIONS
If you want to be a motivator you have to be motivated yourself! If you can’t get excited about practice and always seem to just “go through the motions” forget about motivation. Motivation starts with you. Display enthusiasm and passion to your athletes and they will start to pick up on it!
HAVE A BIG ENOUGH “WHY”
Motivation is all about having a big enough “why” or reason for doing something. If you have a big enough why, you can always find the “how” to accomplish it. Help your athletes develop a big enough “why” to train and pursue excellence. Remind them daily of this “why”.
USE GOAL SETTING THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE SEASON
Clearly defined goals help you take your dreams and turn them into reality. Work with your athletes at the beginning and throughout the season on specific, measurable, clearly defines goals that they can break down into long term, intermediate and short term pieces. Help your athletes make sense of every practice in relation to their long term goals.
Create an atmosphere of fun on your team and you will motivate your athletes to train harder and longer. If practice is nothing but uninterrupted drudgery your athletes will quickly lose interest. If you really want your athletes to be serious competitors and come through in the clutch for you, introduce humor and fun regularly in practice.
Rest is part of good training. If an athlete does not get a chance to rest he/she will ultimately burn out, either mentally or physically. Short breaks in training over the course of the season will keep your athletes physically and mentally fresh and insure that they stay.