Motivation is anything but static, continuously coming and going. It is easy to obtain when things are going your way and ever so absent when things are not. As a coach, you are responsible for mustering not only your daily motivation but assisting your athletes with theirs as well. What makes this particularly difficult is that most individuals are motivated by different things and varying degrees. Show me a coach whose singular focus is the x’s and o’s of the sport, with little to no motivational qualities, and I’ll show you a coach who will never succeed. Motivating an athlete or entire team ultimately boils down to a few simple things. How well do you know your athletes? How well can you communicate and lead? Are you leading by example?
Know The Athlete
Athletes are humans. First, they are somebody’s son, daughter, brother, mother, sister, or father always remember that. Their chosen sport is only a drop in the can of the entire ecosystem we call life. Assessing the athlete in the athletic setting alone and attempting to motivate them through such a narrow lens will often fail in terms of success. Coaches must take the time to understand where their athletes come from, what their home life is like, the different obstacles and successes or failures they’ve overcome. This is how truly meaningful relationships are built, and how coaches get a view into what makes an athlete strive for greatness or why they do what they do. The experiences one has had in their life ultimately shape their thoughts and behaviors. A coach that takes a path of empathy can relate to their athletes on a level greater than athletics. This is how trust is built. This is how buy-in is created. This is the seed for instilling motivation.
Effective communication is another pillar of motivation. If one cannot get their point across or resonate with whom they are trying to reach, motivation will never be found. Communication can take on many forms, it can be a daily reminder to stay focused, an inspirational speech, or even a reassuring conversation. The most effective method of communication will ultimately fall back on knowing how an athlete responds best. A motivational conversation or talk with an athlete or group of athletes must be relevant, relatable, and actionable. As a coach, attempting to motivate a group of football players before a long week of practice by yelling angrily at them with no advice to improve upon and failing to take any ownership for mistakes yourself will likely motivate nobody. Instead, being honest about mistakes made by oneself and providing constructive action items can provide the framework needed to motivate improvements and better performance.
Leading By Example
Lastly, but most important in the path to motivating others is leading by example. Nobody will follow a coward into battle who crumbles at the first sign of hardship they encounter. Similarly, no athletes will listen to a coach who preaches discipline, timeliness, and work ethic who consistently shows up late skips their workouts, and eats’ like trash. Practice what you preach, show others the way, and that great things can be accomplished by being disciplined and putting in the work. It’s critical to remember that when coaching a group of athletes, particularly younger ones, you are serving as a role model and instilling values and habits that those young men or women will carry for the rest of their lives. Do your best to create not only better athletes but better humans by doing better yourself first.