Keeping a team motivated is hard. An unexpected defeat, run of patchy form or just a lack of focus are things that every sports team suffer from – and overcoming it falls into the lap of the coach.
Motivating your team to be the best they can be is one of the most difficult tasks you're faced with. Here are a number of things you can take into your next coaching to help them keep their head in the game.
1. Decide on your type of motivation
There are two common types of motivation: Extrinsic and Intrinsic.
Extrinsic is the use of external factors to encourage and motivate a player to perform or act in the way you want them to, whether it be positive or negative. In the workplace, it could be things like a pay rise, a bonus or the afternoon off. It could of course be less savoury things like the threat of losing your job altogether.
In the sporting arena, coaches can adopt the same strategy. Extrinsic motivation might be the promise of being paid a match fee or a promotion to team captain. More negatively, a coach might threaten to drop a player from their team, or even consider banishing them from the club altogether.
The extrinsic model of motivation aligns favourably with the “carrot and stick” school of motivation. Offering a player reward or enforcing their compliance with the threat of negative consequences is a little old-hat in terms of motivating your sport's team in the 21st Century. Instead, look to use intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is the internal desire within a player to improve, achieve and succeed. It's your job as a coach to be able to inflame that desire within a player, challenging them to become the best every single day.
The best coaches will use intrinsic motivation, inspiring players and meaning the unpredictable and less effective extrinsic methods are not required.
2. Create the right environment
Motivation starts on the training pitch. When a player arrives for one of your training sessions, they should feel a surge of impetus hit them from the off. You can rouse that emotion in your players by creating a positive environment in and around your training facilities.
Take a look around, does the environment inspire confidence in players that they can turn up, give their all and contribute to a club that's heading in the right direction? You can make small improvements to this by investing in new equipment or sprucing up your clubhouse or changing rooms.
Give your club a lift with some fresh aesthetics and breed that positivity from the second your squad arrives.
Similarly, do you as a coach promote that positivity when interacting with your team? Positivity in coaching is a much more effective method of success than being an authoritarian, hierarchical coach that doesn't connect with their team.
Let players know you're more than just the coach, but a friend who shares their passion for sport. Bringing yourself closer to your team, and your team closer together, making them more motivated to fight for one another out on the pitch.
The working environment is key to making your team a happy and motivated one. Make sure everything you do is geared towards creating that environment.
3. Communication goes two-ways
We touched on the importance of communicating comfortably with individuals in social scenarios. Communicating well with your team in sporting scenarios is just as important to improving motivation – and it needs to be considered a two-way street.
As a coach the onus is generally on you to present solutions to your team that they are then expected to implement. But communication should always be a two way street, and listening to your players can help you gauge their thoughts on how best to improve and move forward.
Tap into the minds of your players and find out their thoughts on personal and team development, helping you appeal to those objectives when motivating them in future.
4. Make it fun
Central to creating a good, positive team environment is fun. Fun is one of the most vital aspects of taking part in sport, and yet one of the hardest to achieve. Youth teams are known to value the enjoyment of sport above winning; and even adults can be hard to motivate in a community sports framework.
Your players turn up every Sunday due to their passion for the sport and dedication to your club, so don't suck these elements out of your team.
Challenging your players and breeding that drive and endeavour to succeed is itself part of the fun of taking part in sport. Use the pointers in this article to create that engaged, motivated environment and players will get much more enjoyment out of playing for you and with one another.
5. Use competitive aspects
We all undergo similar emotions when playing sport, and one of the most pressing is the will to win. Competition is a central topic to motivating yourself to succeed, and your team are no different.
There's nothing wrong with inflaming that innate competition in sportsmen and women. It fuels that necessity for fun and helps to motivate your team to constantly improve and become better than their peers.
A word of warning though – it's all about balance. Using competitive influences in your coaching is great, but pushing it too hard can have adverse effects on morale. Don't place too much emphasis on winners and losers and don't fall back into that trap of rewarding winners and punishing losers. Otherwise you'll end up with a divide in your group.
6. Don't punish failure
Sport is an emotive subject. It rouses passion, delight and despair in all of us – sometimes all within a few seconds of one another. In response, coaches can sometimes get carried away in the disappointment of a last minute defeat or individual lapse in concentrate and fly off the hook.
Coaches who adopt this authoritarian, hardline stance has been proven to have a negative effect on performance on player performance. Stay positive and encouraging in front of your players and fuel their motivation to constantly improve.
7. Celebrate the good times
Further to not punishing players for failing to get to where they need to be, take full advantage when things do go your way.
Show your appreciation for players when their endeavours on the pitch come to fruition. But again, that doesn't necessarily mean rewarding them with an external factor (and by comparison not getting that reward if they fail). The satisfaction of seeing improvement for your efforts should be enough for players to keep themselves motivated towards further improvement.
If you're constantly challenging your players, keeping them motivated and pushing them towards your goals, they'll enjoy it all the more when they emerge from the finish line victorious – and so will you.
8. Everyone is different
Your squad is made up of a number of individuals, each of which have their own individuals means, goals and requirements. Certain individuals will be happy to take control of their own game, whilst others may need a little more encouragement in order to make the necessary changes.
It's up to you as a coach to appeal to each of those individuals, tweaking your coaching style to get the best out of that player everyday.
To do so, we switch back to communication. Try to dedicate enough time to each of your players and, as we suggested earlier, take your time to listen to their thoughts and gauge their goals and ambitions.
Gather this information and consider how best to approach that individual. The player will recognise your efforts to listen to them and receive a handy boost in motivation as a result.
9. Set goals
We've discussed the importance of setting goals in several other posts and again, it's relevant here. If a player isn't aware of where their personal development is heading, their role within the team, or where you want that team to be in future, their motivation to keep pushing forward can be hit.
Setting goals to your players is about challenging them to be the best. Lay down individual goals for players and be sure to place them within the wider context of your team's goals. Help a player understand their overall role in getting the team to where they need to be.
A player that knows exactly what they're working towards (and why it's so important) is one that will be much more motivated to get the job done.
10. Empower your team
Great coaching is all about belief and handing that belief into the hands of your players. Particularly at community levels of sport, belief can be a barrier for players who are struggling to push themselves.
Often people just need to know that you, as the coach, you have that belief in your players. Show confidence in their abilities and their ability to achieve those outlined goals, and you can go a long way to motivating an individual.
Empower your players to take on the responsibility for their own self-development, safe in the knowledge their coach trusts that player can take it on. Cut back on micro-management and constantly looking over a players shoulder and give them the belief to take control of your team's success.
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