Motivation is something many coaches talk about.
Some read about it and try to learn the secrets of motivation in a bid to help their athletes achieve the impossible.
Others spend money on motivational speakers to try and motivate their athletes through a passionate team talk or an explosive, emotional pre-performance presentation.
Others attend courses, go to workshops and enrol in mental skills programs to learn the mysteries of motivation.
Coaches….don’t waste your time and money.
No one can motivate anyone to do anything.
You need to understand Motivation and Coaching.
Motivation and Coaching: Understanding Motivation.
Motivation is desire. It is the “fire” that fuels great performances, outstanding victories, persistence, perseverance, determination and drive.
It is the explanation for why some athletes have a winning “attitude”.
It is the rationale behind “mental-toughness”.
It is the strength and the character that allows athletes to overcome adversity, setbacks, disappointments, injuries and non-selections.
It is the seemingly endless energy driving athletes to complete even the toughest, most challenging and most exhausting workouts.
Motivation is the cornerstone of success for every great athlete and every great athletic achievement.
Coaches constantly seek the magic pill or the miracle ingredient or the breakthrough technique to motivate their athletes and it is all a waste of time: you can’t motivate anyone to do anything. And besides….motivation is not your job.
Motivation and Inspiration: There is a difference.
What most people think is motivation, i.e. the motivational speaker talking about money, power, success and glory is actually inspiration.
The two can work together, i.e. you can be inspired to change your behaviours to help you realise a dream, but there is a difference.
Inspiration is something that comes the outside: from listening to another person or being involved in an event or through observing something which triggers an emotional response.
Motivation, however, comes from within. Motivation is a fire: a fire which is ignited by a dream and fuelled by passion.
So, what is the coach’s role when it comes to Motivation?
Simply, the coach’s role is to create the environment and to provide the opportunity for the athlete to express their motivation in all that they do.
It is the coach’s role to support the athlete and encourage them to unleash their “fire” in preparation and performance.
It is the coach’s role to help athletes discover their own motivation: to find their “fire”.
It is the coach’s role to inspire athletes to feel confident in themselves and to feel empowered to let their “fire” free.
Motivation is a powerful ally for coaches and an important aspect of successful coaching.
How do you help athletes find their Motivation?
Simply: do nothing.
Just watch. And listen. And observe.
Motivated athletes stand out like a street light at midnight in winter.
The athlete who arrives early to help set up the training environment.
The football player who stays behind to help clean up the gym.
The swimmer who, at the end of a hard training set asks the coach for more.
The field hockey player who encourages her team mates every time they try something new.
The basketballer who asks the facility manager to leave the lights on for another five minutes so they can practice 20 more free throws before they leave.
Motivation will, given the opportunity, express itself….if you allow it to.
Subtle Coaching: The path to Motivation.
Too many coaches over-coach in a bid to motivate their team. They believe that the key to motivation lies in constantly talking, “psyching-up” and providing a high energy, high enthusiasm coaching environment.
Motivation does not work like that: in fact, it’s just the opposite.
Try, giving your athletes some free time. Tell them, “Hey guys, you can do whatever you like for the next 30 minutes. Work on an aspect of your performance that you enjoy”. Then stand back and watch them.
People, by their nature, given free time, will do the things they love to do, which are for the most part, the things they are also good at: their strengths.
Watch what your athletes do during their free time. Chances are, they will go straight to their strengths and in doing so provide you with a doorway to their dreams and a window to their motivations.
Know thy Athletes.
Every coach needs to get to know his / her athletes.
Try scheduling a five minute one on one session with a member of your team before each training session and another five minute “one on one” with another athlete after each training session. Over a few weeks, you can arrange to spend some quality one on one time with everyone in your team. Talk with them about school, family, their life, their dreams, their concerns, their favourite movies – anything – just get to know them and to understand what it is that fuels their preparation and performance.
Because motivation comes from the inside, it is by nature a personal thing.
The key to better understanding what motivates your athletes is to get to know them as human beings.
Motivation is like digging for gold: it can be difficult to find but if you persevere and persist until you find it, the rewards are immeasurable.
Coaches cannot motivate athletes: rather coaches must seek to provide the environment and opportunity for athletes to discover what it is that motivates them as individuals.
However, if coaches understand their athletes and what it is that motivates their athletes, great things are possible.
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