September 17, 2012 | Dr. Chris Stankovich
Often the difference between "average" and "great" athletes is an understanding of sports motivation. It also helps to have some great weapons in your arsenal that can help you take your game to the next level.
First, we must distinguish between the two types of motivation that impact athletic performance—intrinsic and extrinsic.
This type of motivation drives you because you love to compete—so you stay longer at practice to perfect a skill or perform extra sets in the weight room to boost your strength. Your love for your sport and your desire to become the best athlete you can be are your motivators, regardless of whether the coach notices you.
The opposite of intrinsic motivation, this involves doing something to achieve a certain outcome or receive a specific reward, like turning in a bonus project for extra credit in a course. You might not love (or even like) doing the extra work, but you are prompted to do it because you want the reward.
Both types of motivation are important to athletic success. Below are additional motivational tips to help you increase your mental toughness and reach new levels in your game.
1. Set Goals With Rewards
Develop goals that deliver a reward when you achieve them. The rewards do not have to be big or expensive, but they should be motivating. For example, you might hold off watching a specific movie until you have completed two-a-days.
2. Make It Meaningful
The goals you develop for yourself should have value. In other words, setting goals that others want you to achieve is nice, but they will only go so far unless you personally buy into them.
3. Focus on Love of the Game
Understand the reasons why you play your sport and focus your attention on them. For example, if you are motivated to be the first in your family to make a varsity sports team, be sure to write that down as a goal and think about it every day to keep your intrinsic motivation high.
4. Make a Contract With Yourself
In psychology, if you set up a reward to enjoy once you reach a goal, it's called a "contingency contract." The "contract" ensures you don't cheat and give yourself the reward before you achieve the goal. Although it would be easy to cheat (no one but you will hold you accountable), if you want to reach your full athletic potential, it's important to develop self-discipline.