Motivation: The Essence of Coaching
By Wes Simmons

In many ways, motivation is the essence of coaching. A coach’s job is to help athletes pursue and persist toward the pursuit of both short-term and long-term goals. Late Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry summed this part of the job up very well when he said, “A coach is somebody who gets people to do what they DON’T want to do in order to obtain that which they DO want to obtain.”


When a coach helps an athlete overcome the constant temptation to choose immediate gratification, and instead opt for staying committed to the long-term process, it is a very rewarding experience. But…


As Dr. Duke shared in the video, we live in an age of extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation occurs when the inclination to pursue and persist is encouraged with either positive external factors such as scholarships or trophies, or negative external factors like the threat of punishment or coercion. Intrinsic motivation occurs when that inclination is driven by an interest
in or enjoyment of the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressure.

External motivation is not necessarily “bad” or “wrong.” In reality, there are plenty of instances where extrinsic motivation is actually “good” and “right!” However, always remember that extrinsic motivation produces a diminishing return. In other words, in order for it to continue working at it’s current success rate, it will always require more and more. At the same time, it tends to deliver less and less. As the expenditures go up, the effectiveness goes down.

There’s a better way. Check out our online course for certification and/or college credit if you would like to receive more training on HOW to motivate intrinsically. For now though, I’ll give you the cliff-notes version. To help athletes regain a sense of intrinsic motivation, create strategies to step into the lives of your athletes away from the normal athletic environment. This simple act will help move the motivation away from the “stuff,” and toward a stronger relationship between you and your athletes. When the motivation springs forth from a well of healthy relationships, athletes will pursue and persist at a whole new level. As an authority figure in their lives who shows that you care, they won’t want to let you down.

P.S. – I would also highly recommend the book Drive by Dr. Daniel Pink to learn “the surprising truth about what motivates us.”

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