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How to Use Motivation in Sports Part 1

Updated on December 23, 2018
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American football
American football | Source

Motivation plays a key role in sports. It is attributed to the improvement and success of the athlete (Hagger & Chatzisarantis, 2007). Thus the coaches who interact with the athlete at a personal level need to master this attribute so that they can realize the full potential of the athlete. Further, the motivation technique used by the coach will determine the results.

Therefore, the coach must come up with a technique that will resonate with the athlete. Research indicates that athletes respond to different techniques in different ways. For instance, there are those athletes who prefer the rewarding, recognition, and evaluation by their coaches. On the other hand, others prefer inward-driven motivation to attain their goals (Vallerand & Losier, 1999). In this essay, we focus on the different motivation strategies used by coaches on athletes.

Autonomy-supportive behavioral strategy

The autonomy-supportive behavioral model is used by coaches who allow the athletes to exercise some freedom. The athlete is allowed to choose (Katz & Assor, 2007). Further, the coach acknowledges the feelings of the athletes and also involves them in making decisions (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). This strategy is quite different from the controlling approach where the coach pressures the athlete so as to achieve the set target (Black & Deci, 2000).

Coach | Source

Additionally, the autonomy-supportive behavioral strategy is crucial in improving the interpersonal relationships between the supervisors and the subordinates; in this case, the coach and the athlete. This clearly shows that whenever the autonomy-supportive behavioral approach is adopted: that means autonomy is given, the needs of the athlete will be met.

Also, the athlete will be self-determined to achieve their goals (Pelletier, Seguin-Levesque & Legault, 2002). This promotes teamwork between the coach and the athlete. Therefore, the relationship between the coach and the athlete suggests that the motivation strategy adopted by the coach have far-reaching implications on the athlete.

Previous research indicates that whenever a coach allows the athlete to exercise autonomy, the results are improved performance on the track, self-determination, and persistence in training Mageau & Vallerand, 2003). For such benefits to be realized the coach need to take steps to enhance the autonomy-supportive climate. One of the steps is to allow the athlete to make decisions when training. The benefit with this step is that the athlete will own the idea.


The second step involves explaining some coaching decisions pertaining to rules. The third step is on the feelings of the athlete. It is important for a coach to differentiate the person and the athlete so that some of the tedious activities can be eliminated. Further, for the autonomy-supportive strategy to work, the coach needs to promote the aspect of responsibility in the athlete. In particular, this allows the athlete to come up with training drills and deliver them.

The other aspect is that the coach and the athlete need to establish a competent feedback mechanism. This is not meant to control the athlete but to act as a platform to find solutions. Most importantly, the coach needs to encourage the athlete to keep on improving the performance. At times, the coach can critic the behavior of the athlete so as to effect change. Ultimately, the autonomy-supportive behavioral strategy enhances the psychological well-being of the athlete.

Additionally, the autonomy-supportive behavioral strategy is supported by the self-determination theory (SDT) proposed by Deci and Ryan. The theory suggests that a person who is self-determined has a sense of direction and freedom to make choices. Further, if that person is an athlete then they will be intrinsically motivated. This means that the person will find the sport interesting and thus increase their determination.

Also, the theory outlines the benefits of an athlete who is self –determined as opposed to being controlled. For instance, in a stressful situation, the athlete will use positive coping measures since they are able to make choices. Moreover, the athlete would show a high level of concentration and resilience in training (Bartholomew, 2011). These benefits are difficult to attain for coaches who used the controlled strategy.

According to the self-determination theory, to attain self-determination there are three primary needs that need to be addressed. These are autonomy, relatedness, and competence (Mallett, 2005). These needs are psychological. Looking at autonomy, it is simply the desire to have control over your actions. This is an essential aspect of the autonomy-supportive behavioral strategy that drives the athlete to make good judgments.

Regarding relatedness, the athlete feels connected to other people in the sport especially the coach. The main benefit of relatedness is that the athlete develops a state of belonging. On competence, the athlete feels effective in the sport. This means the athlete is able to meet the goals and is happy about it. Research has shown that there is a need to optimally satisfy these needs. However, according to Treasure,(2007) competence would be more important for elite athletes than relatedness.

Player and his coach
Player and his coach | Source

Attribution retraining strategy

According to Grove and Prapavessis, the attribution retaining strategy is a cognitive approach towards motivation that is meant to explain the causes of failure and success. This is imperative since the athletes and the coaches need to understand the outcome of their performances so that they can plan for the future.

For instance, where the dismal performance was associated with the poor execution of skills the coach may need to make adjustments in the training sessions. In circumstances where the failure was associated with luck, the implications may be disheartening but this may not lead to changes in the training (Green & Holman, 2004). Therefore, it is important for the success or failure to be carefully evaluated since it will have a direct impact on future performance.

Research done by Anderson and Riger seeks to understand whether the attribution strategies adopted by the athletes led to persistence in the sport in the future. Specifically, they interrogate whether the performance improved after the measures employed by the coach.
Further research has been done on the attribution retraining strategies.

Faulkner and Findlay (2005) suggested that the attributions should be evaluated using a qualitative technique as opposed to relying on the quantitative methods so as to develop more concrete attributions of the athlete and the team. To him, this will pave way for a better outlook of the attribution expectations of the athlete participating in the sport. Most importantly, it will help to elucidate the impact of time and feelings on the attributions of the athlete.

Furthermore, Rejeski and Brawley, 1983) proposes that if the attributions of the coach and those of the athlete differ; a conflict may ensue and this will have repercussions. To him, the implications may be of motivational, evaluative, or behavioral nature. Therefore, he affirms the claim made above that the relationship between the athlete and the coach should be evaluated through qualitative measures so as to gain more insight into the attributions.The theory is based on the helplessness hypothesis.

In part two of this article, I will look at more motivation strategies.

© 2018 Jeff Zod


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    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      17 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Amri,

      Thanks for reading my article.

    • enzoman profile image

      Amritpal singh 

      17 months ago from United States

      Really great article, enjoyed reading.


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