Understanding and Improving Motivation for Sports Success

July 17, 2012

Michael Jordan

Motivation can be the key to unlocking athletic success. When your motivation is high, you are more focused, committed to your goals and mentally tough. All of these variables are closely linked to athletic success, and all can be improved with sport psychology tips (Sport Success 360).

The general definition of motivation is the arousal we feel that prompts us to put forth effort toward reaching a goal. On a basic level, we are all motivated to eat on a daily basis. However, when it comes to things like athletic training and practice, motivation varies a lot among athletes.

The best athletes are usually those with great natural abilities coupled with high motivation to reach their potential. But even if you're not one of the lucky ones with superior genetics, you can "level the playing field" against more gifted athletes by upping your motivation. That's why motivation is so important in sports.

Below are a few sport psychology motivation tips to help you take your game to the next level:

  • There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is when you are driven by outside factors, like being praised by a coach for working hard. Intrinsic motivation is when you are driven by your own personal interests, like working out extra long because you want to get in great shape. Both types of motivation are important and can help you reach your athletic potential.
  • Goals that are specific, realistic, controllable and measurable dramatically increase intrinsic motivation. You can actually see your hard work getting you closer to achieving your goals. Extrinsic motivation usually increases when you reap rewards from your efforts, like winning a trophy or being named to the all-star team.
  • Intrinsic motivation is more difficult to improve through goals alone. To improve intrinsic motivation, you have to find your own reasons—not those of your parents or coaches—for why you are competing in sports. For high school athletes, intrinsic motivation can increase when they dream about playing sports in college or aspire to become role models in their school. Everyone has different reasons for playing sports, and there's no right or wrong approach to building motivation. The key is to find reasons why you want to be the first to practice and the last to leave!

Motivation is a big part of success in sports, so think about the many ways in which you can improve both your extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For help getting started, check out the Sport Performance Assessment app. It's designed to test your level of mental toughness and help you set goals that will motivate you to improve in the future.

Chris Stankovich
- Chris Stankovich, Ph.D., is a licensed professional clinical counselor and founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, a counseling and performance center based in Columbus, Ohio....
Chris Stankovich
- Chris Stankovich, Ph.D., is a licensed professional clinical counselor and founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, a counseling and performance center based in Columbus, Ohio....
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