Motivation is a way of increasing some individual or group of individuals’ reason to do something that they are already doing. Motivation has always been in sport in one form or another and sports psychologist has been trying to find the perfect technique for many years but have never been able to find what they have been looking for. What they have been able to accomplish is what makes effective motivation and how it can differ from one person to the next. There are two kinds of motivation that has been classified as intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic is motivation that comes from inside the athletes themselves. It is caused by their reasons to participate in sports such as personal satisfaction and increasing fitness. It can also be attained by gaining knowledge of their performance such as through the media or from their coach, families and friends.

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Extrinsic motivation is gained through knowledge of results such as winning or feedback. It is also external reasons for participating in the sport that comes under extrinsic motivation such as money or seeking social status or fame.

For the majority of athletes, their motivation derives from intrinsic forms. This is usually due to the fact that nearly everyone who gets involved with sports is because they enjoy the excitement of their sport or the social connections they make which in turn leads to enjoyment. It is often said that intrinsic motivation is a better form of motivation than extrinsic due to its durability but the athletes’ coach or family can easily destroy it. As with many things related to motivation, different events and situations can lead to different outcomes, it just depends on the nature of the athletes’ personality.

There are two types of feedback that assist motivation, they are primary and secondary. Primary is feedback that is derived purely from within the body, this can be anything from a broken bone, a headache, or when every skill you have learnt comes naturally during a game. This form of feedback can either increase or decrease motivation and again, depending on how determined the athlete is depends on how different types of primary feedback will affect them. Secondary feedback is gained from outside sources such as the media etc, and it often works along side primary feedback.

Drive theory.

Hull in 1943 and again in 1951 and Spencer in 1956 first put the drive theory forward. It was based on the theory about drive reduction and the fact that if the motivation to achieve in sport was reduced then inhibition may be suffered.

The drive theory suggested there is a relationship between excitement and the athletes’ performance. It is said that for a beginner a high amount of excitement can cause a decrease in performance where on the other hand for experienced athletes a high level of excitement will increase their performance.

Operant conditioning theory.

This theory was put forward by B. Skinner and suggested that we operate and react according to our environment and there is a connection or reason why there are consequences to our actions. For example, if you kicked a ball a certain way and it performed a very tight curve, in the future when you want it to curve you will know how to do it.

So in simple, the nature of the actions consequences dictates whether or not the action is repeated. With this theory however, some consequences of certain actions will want to be reinforced so that they can be used again if necessary, this will require training and practise. Not all actions will be wanted by the coach or athlete to do again. Such things are like foul play or bad technique; these can be dealt with through punishment or more effectively through corrective practise to increase consistency of the correct action. This is called negative reinforcement.

Achievement theory.

The achievement theory can be defined as being the athlete’s predisposition to approach or avoid a competitive situation, (R.H. Cox).

This theory suggests that depending on the athletes’ personality depends on how they will achieve a goal. There are two categories of personality in this theory, NACH (the need to achieve success) and NAF (need to avoid success). They both have different characteristics as expected. NAF athletes tend to give up easily and often take their time in completing a task if they decide to complete it at all. These tasks are often easily obtainable as NAF athletes feel that they must be able to reach their goal. They avoid personal responsibility as they see it as too much of a burden and therefore do not like feedback, even if it is constructive.

On the other hand, NACH athletes tent to be the opposite. They seek challenges so often set themselves hard objectives. They tend to strive for quick completion of tasks and take responsibility for their actions and in doing so appreciate feedback given to them.

Social Learning theory.

This theory suggests that the athletes’ upbringing and surrounding social life will have a direct link between performance and motives. This is arguably a weak theory as every person is different, one person’s actions from a particular background and social life will not necessarily mean that a similar athlete will perform or act in the same manner. However in certain circumstances such as in children, this theory is more evident than with adults.

Attribution theory.

This is a complex theory that suggests that when an athlete performs a certain action he/she is likely to have a reason or explanation for doing it. This theory was brought forward by Weiner, Heider, and Russell who thought athletes with coaches will be most motivated by this theory. This means that if a coach tells his/her athletes to do a specific action it will lead to a decrease in motivation as it removes the freedom from the athlete to do as they deem suitable at the time. Certain actions are done because an athlete will think it is the right thing to do at the time but a coach may think otherwise. In young children this is not good as it decreases motivation as the child will eventually live down to the coaches expectation, and in adults who are more experienced will question the coaches decision and again will eventually lead to a decrease in motivation also.

Coaching techniques.

Different techniques in motivation such as communication styles and leadership can have a direct impact on motivation. A good coach who leads and communicates well with their athletes will gain their trust and respect which in turn will boost the athletes’ motivation. An athlete with a good coach will want to carry on performing in their particular sport because they feel comfortable with their situation. Athletes with a poor coach will not feel confident with their situation and therefore motivation will decrease. Having good coaching techniques will always increase motivation with the athletes.

Behaviour modification techniques.

When athletes are first learning a skill, reward as soon as possible after desired behaviour. Only reward athletes when they have earned it, it an athlete has a bad day, it is good practise to be empathetic rather than sympathetic. It is difficult for a coach to know when to reward, it is best to reward frequently with youngsters, especially if new skills are well earned. As well as rewards as a source of reinforcement, feedback is a very constructive and if given correctly can be a good motivator. To reinforce something is to increase the probability of it happening again, however there is also negative reinforcement.

This is useful in adults where bad habits have been formed and you want to correct their skills. This is often very difficult for the athlete so plenty of feedback and a good reward should be in effect when dealing with this situation. To be able to give rewards and feedback, goals need to be set by the coach so the athletes can improve on their performance and consequently increase motivation. The goals must be obtainable and constructive and set over a reasonable period of time so that it does not get boring. Coaches must not forget to reward, set goals, and give feedback to athletes as it can have a very strong effect at decreasing moral and motivation.


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