A popular pondering of most team coaches is “How can I motivate my athletes?” There are many sources of motivation for your team. Unfortunately, you are not on the top of the list. In order to strengthen your athlete’s mental game, it’s important to understand the most influential factors. Let’s look at the number one source of motivation in sport
The strongest source of motivation lives within the athlete.
When an athlete has a burning desire for something, motivation is high and consistent. So “self-reinforcement” is the most powerful source of reinforcement and learning.
Internal control is stronger than external control. The athlete’s ability to reinforce him or herself is internal control. In essence, the athlete coaches herself a portion of the time. A coach cannot be everywhere all the time. So the ability of a player to self-motivate, to self-reinforce is key to performance improvement.
An internally controlled athlete who uses self-reinforcement is the most motivated athlete. The coach’s challenge is to teach their athletes how to coach and reinforce themselves.
Here are a few ideas:
- Have the athlete set a performance standard for a particular task.
- Have the athlete self-reinforce only when the standard is met or bettered.
- Help the athlete construct a menu of reinforcing self-talk.
Stay “Tooned” – I’ll reveal the second and third strongest sources of motivation in upcoming posts.
Note: This post is adapted with permission from The neural and psychological bases of baseball pitching. Rushall, B. S. (2009). Spring Valley, CA: Sports Science
Want more effort from your players? If so, then make sure you reward it. What kinds of awards do you give out as a coach? Are your rewards and awards just for the standard “outcome” goals of your sport – points scored, shooting percentage, runs etc? Not a problem.
Yet, how about rewarding the stuff that leads up to the outcomes? Hustle, defense, assists, picks, floor burns? If you want more of these behaviors from your team, then reward it. I’m not talking about expensive trophies or gifts. Watch today\’s video and discover a simple, inexpensive yet powerful way to get more of what you want out of your players.
Some say, “Variety is the spice of life” – it might also be a key to coaching. Variety not only keeps things interesting it also taps into the various ways our athletes learn. All athletes learn differently: they have their own unique learning style.
Learning styles are different ways of thinking and learning. High school and colleges coaches that understand their athletes’ learning styles and vary his or her style of teaching strategies accordingly, have the best shot at truly impacting all their players.
In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, psychologist and professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, proposed his theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardener believes that there are many ways to show our intellect and he defined 7 original intelligences.
Gardner claims that all people have all intelligences but to varying degrees, such that each person has a unique intellectual make-up. For a coach to optimize their learning environment, they must identify and teach to these various styles with a range of activities that engage all types of learners.
Today, let’s look at one of the seven intelligences – Linguistic or Word Smart. People who are naturally good with writing or speaking and memorization. They learn best by reading, writing, listening and discussing ideas.
Traditional teaching and coaching (telling athletes how to do skills) favor this type of learner. Other strategies to consider include having athletes:
- Read books and articles about your sports techniques and tactics;
- Write down what they’ve learned at practice and games;
- Talk about they’ve learned, or
- Discuss corrections they would make after viewing video tape of their technique or tactics.
Teams are living breathing organisms – constantly changing and adapting. They progress in phases just like a child goes through development phases; from a toddler to an adolescent to an adult. In essence team coaches are excellent ‘course correctors.’ Like airplanes that fly off course 99% of the time, the pilot is however always constantly correcting. The same can be said for team leadership. A good high school or college coach recognizes where their team is and what the team requires at any given phase.
Ken Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams provides a great framework for studying ‘team.’ Blanchard gives a complete definition of the characteristics of ‘high performance teams’ and their subsequent stages of development. He also provides a welcome alternative to the classic yet clunky “Forming, Norming, Storming and Conforming” model of group dynamic.
Blanchard provides us with 4 stages of progression for teams: Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Integration and Production. Throughout the course of a singles season a team may move through all the stages, or the team may become stuck in any one of them. Teams may also move fluidly between the phases – forward and backward – depending on the leadership and on the challenges that they face.
Let’s look at Stage 2 – Dissatisfaction This is the ‘adolescent’ phase of the team. It can be challenging and wrought with conflict and confusion. It is a period of low confidence and high doubt. The biggest lesson here is that this is not ‘BAD’ but actually a necessary step that all great teams must navigate through. Have you heard the expression – “It is darkest right before the dawn”? Well keep this in mind when your team is in the dissatisfaction phase. Athletes will be competing for power, authority and attention so there will be an understandable dip in morale and commitment. They may be displeased with authority and eager to assume control and ownership. The group may fragment. Notice if you see ‘cliques’ forming.
During Stage 2, effective team leaders will need to clarify the big picture. Have a clear communication process so that your group can harness the power of their discrepancies and differences. Continue to get clear on who is responsible for what and demonstrate that you are steadfast when it comes to holding everyone accountable – including yourself! Open and honest conversations during this phase will lead to break-through in the future. If you trust this process your athletes will also.
When things are challenging continue to encourage, reassure and acknowledge each and every person. One very common pitfall in this stage is to avoid conflict – assuming that it will damage team cohesion. However the ‘dissatisfaction’ everyone experiences eventually becomes the catalyst for greatness in the future. It will take great patience for you to ‘hold’ the team’s frustrations. You’ll want to keep the oven door closed during this phase – a moderate temperature will allow the bread to rise … if its too hot the bread will burn, and if its too cold the bread will not rise.
Many of the best teams spend the greatest amount of time in this phase, mainly due to the presence of strong willed and assertive team members. You will be best served by finding effective and safe ways for allowing people to express themselves.
One of the most crucial yet most ignored area of training is the mental game. Team Coaches and athletes sometimes hear mental strength training and think it implies only to people with major mental issues. Not true. My goal is to see the mental game become a normal, everyday part of training.
Where does one begin?
In developing any skill, the best place to start is with an assessment of the current situation. A tool I’ve used with all of my teams is the Competitive Adjective Profile (C.A.P.) developed by Dr. James Loehr. Each item on the profile represents an important competitive quality.
A key to developing an effective mental strength game plan is to establish a 360-degree view of the current situation. The C.A.P. will give you and your athletes a composite view of their current state of mental toughness.
You can download a blank copy of the C.A.P. by clicking here.
Here’s how it works:
1. Have each of your players fill out the C.A.P. on themselves. Instruct them to think hard and portray the most accurate picture possible of themselves when they compete in their sport. It’s vital to avoid making themselves look a lot better or worse than they really are.
2. Next give each of your athletes three blank copies of the C.A.P. and ask them to put their name at the top. Instruct them to get three people who know them well competitively to anonymously complete the C.A.P. on them.
3. You also fill out the C.A.P. anonymously on each of your players as well.
4. Have each athlete create a composite C.A.P. form on themselves. The composite represents the averages of all the scores they received. Once each athlete has a clear, well-rounded view of their current level of “mental strength”, it’s time to create a mental game training program.
Here are the steps to give your athletes:
STEP 1: Identify your four weakest areas from the C.A.P.
STEP 2: State the weaknesses in positive factor form: Examples: I’m very patient, I am a great actor, I’m highly motivated.
STEP 3: Make those 4 positive factors the most important themes in your life as an athlete Suggestions: Put reminders up in your locker, on your bathroom mirror, next to your bed – everywhere you can.
STEP 4: Write a one- page summary of what you will do to improve each positive factor over the 30 days. Example: My plan for Showing Strong Body Language
STEP 5: Track your progress daily for one month.
Rinse and repeat every 2-3 months