Applied Concepts for Motivation

We all share a common thread as human beings. We are purpose-driven. At first, we were driven to attain what Maslow deemed some of the basic tenets of life; including food, shelter, and reproduction, love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization. All of these needs are extremely important. Sport and a desire to maximize athletic performance and the pursuit of excellence in competition are most aligned with Maslow’s final attribute, self-actualization. The motivation to achieve this level of excellence can be fueled through the following: Vision, Goals, Feedback/Support. 

Here are some practical ways we can begin to drive motivation in ourselves and within our teams.

I. Vision:

It is often hard to pursue and attain something for which you do not know or understand. Traveling is a great metaphor for vision. Think about a recent trip or vacation. It’s hard to get excited and motivated to plan something out if you don’t have a location for which you are going. Nailing down your vision is a great starting point to help kick start your motivation. After which it is important to spend quality time identifying your mission statement. Your mission statement is a declaration statement of how you are going to arrive at your vision (the way in which you will play, win, and train.) 

Whether you’re a team or an individual spending time fantasizing and sinking into a vision will kick start the rest of your road map to success. We know that goals drive success and fuel motivation. Having vision and mission statement are  great way to set the tone towards maximizing your potential and achieving success. Vision Boards can be a great way to make this project fun and creative as images have a way of capturing and cementing a feeling more than words. The combination of the two might serve you best. 

Applied Concept: 

1. Spend time early in your training phase to nail down your vision and mission statements.  

2. Make them clear and simple. 

3. Use Images, catchphrases or the combination of both. Put these in visual locations that you will often see: bedroom mirror, locker room, or a screensaver on your phone. 

II. Goals

Goals have been talked about and dissected exhaustively and yet they still rule supreme in staying on and reaching a desired outcome. However to keep yourself motivated, two of the most important principles with goals that are at times overlooked are: accountability and monitoring of your progress towards your goals. There is a wide range in which people establish, follow, and notate goals. Some athletes establish their own goals and adhere very strictly to these goals, while others need help and support in nailing their goals down to follow them. We have all heard of the Acronym of SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, but we can add another concept here  of task orientation along with goals. 

Task Orientation makes the objective more about learning and achieving a specific task. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways in learning a new skill. Games can be introduced to make it fun. We have learned that keeping sports fun, keeps athletes engaged and motivated, but we also know that coaches and athletes like to know and see their progress. Goals done properly help to more clearly define these aspects. So, to keep engagement and motivation high a combination of concrete goals along with task-oriented games and learning helps refine skills, make the process fun, and create accountability to  reach a broad array of teams and athletes. In the end coaches and athletes all have a bit of a unique style of learning and coaching that may be the result of varying factors such as genetics, childhood experiences, and models. Knowing oneself and understanding which conditions you or your team operates best under may dictate how you go about training, and keep motivation high with either very specific goal or task training, or even somewhere in between the two. 

Applied Concept:

1. Assess and understand what type of process keeps you or your team most engaged and motivated by defining goals and incorporating task based learning.

2. Incorporate games and game-like situations into training to keep it fun and applicable. 

III. Support/Feedback 

Our last learned concept that helps drive motivation is the feedback and support that you give yourself and receive from your support network. This feedback comes in many forms and should include direct feedback from your peers/teammates, coaches and anyone else involved in your process. Video is a time tested tool to help give one direct feedback on not only your technical skills, but also your mental skills. Video is a great tool to look at communication styles and body language. This concept of feedback also applies to coaches. Coaches require just as much support as athletes if not more. Coaches can rely on feedback from their coaching staff, sport psychologist, certified mental performance consultant, and strength and conditioning trainers. This can also be viewed as reflection time and should be built into training as a proactive tool.

To begin to incorporate reflection and feedback on progress when things are failing or going wrong would be considered reactive. The point here is to be proactive with your success. As the famous John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” The pace of competitive sports seems to have increased over the last decade and a half. More and more demand for results and outcomes have driven competitiveness, but with it, we seem to have lost some of the reflection and feedback on our progress in doing our process. It is imperative that we give recognition to the small accomplishments and progress we made, as this drives confidence and can help fuel motivation to keep improving. If we feel we are constantly pressing forward for results without giving ourselves or our athlete’s feedback and support on the process, we leave ourselves vulnerable to burnout.

Applied Concept:

 1. As an athlete, solicit feedback from your peers and coaches that know you best. Be open to both positive and critical feedback.

2. Create your support system and feed it through gratitude to the ones that help you most. Your support system includes coaches, yourself, and other athletes. Coaches are often in need of this process just as much, if not more, than athletes. Use videos, team meetings, meditation or imagery practices, and feedback forms to help cement this. Be proactive in this process.

3. End training sessions with feedback as a form of debrief for 2-5 min on what went well and how things are progressing as well as what needs more attention to reach your goals.

Ami Strutin-Belinoff, M.A., CMPC, LMFT

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