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By Staff | Jul 6, 2016

Becoming a great athlete is like losing weight! You must be motivated.

“This is perhaps the most important and most powerful concept for you to embrace. It’s the progress of the student, not wins and losses.”

This is a simple and profound concept that you need to embrace. When the coach treats the player as a student, players and the team show tremendous improvement.

The harsh reality is that players do in games exactly what they do in practice. Don’t fool yourself. A remarkable pre-game speech isn’t going to suddenly light a fire that lasts the entire game. This is not the answer.

The way to motivate players is easy. Teach them. Players will respond if you teach them. And when they notice that they have improved, this will yield even more motivation.

The lesson here is simple: Treat your players like students. Teach them. Help them improve. Make sure they see that they are improving. Don’t let improvement slow down.

A good teacher (and sales person for that matter) explains the “reason why”. Many times coaches need to put their sales hat on (in addition to teaching) because you need to make sure players believe.

Quite often, players don’t understand why they are doing a certain drill, and frankly, they lose motivation. They don’t truly believe the drill is helping them.

This is why you need to explain the “reason why” the fundamentals and drills that you run are important.

The best motivation of all is when athletes can see and feel that they are constantly improving.

Kids are motivated by progress and by growing; so offering constant feedback on their effort and performance is important.

If your players improved, had some fun, and learned life lessons, then it was most certainly a success! Celebrate those successes. That’s what teaching is all about.

Occasionally, for significant effort, praise players in front of the team. Public praise is often well received and players will work hard to earn such praise.

When you praise a child, it is best to be specific with your words. Obviously saying something like “great job” or “nice shot” is better than nothing, but being specific helps to promote the positive behavior or the behavior you want. The players will also feel like you are paying attention to what they do if you are specific with your praise. That’s one of the things I remember the most – coaches saying “nice job, good hustle, great pass.” “Good job running the break” is better than “good job.” And “way to be tough setting that hard screen” is better than “way to be tough out there.”

Know that what motivates some players will not motivate others. It is important to get to know your players as individuals and to know how they will respond individually and as a team to motivational tactics. In the end, if you’re involved, excited, and willing to take the time to keep practices interesting, then your team will respond.

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement significantly accelerates.”

In the business world, this phenomenon is called Pearson’s Law.

Simply showing the right statistics and metrics to your players will boost their performance. You’d be surprised how effective this is. Posting reports in the locker room, sharing them in practice, and talking about them will make players more aware of how they are performing.

They key is to share the data. You don’t even need to set goals. Simply sharing the data improves performance and motivates.

There are so many things you can measure – team statistics, an individual’s statistics, high fives, compliments and so on. The best motivation, though, is the concept of striving for a personal best effort. Athletes should focus on trying to improve their own performance, as opposed to comparing their performance to those of teammates.

One of the best ways to motivate players is to show that you care about them outside of sports. Show a genuine interest. This will show them that you really care about them and will help you build a better relationship. And once they believe you truly care, they will go to war for you.

Get to know your players as individuals. Spend time talking to them one on one. It doesn’t have to be for hours; a couple of minutes will do the trick. The point is to let them know that they’re important to you on and off the field or court.

Some players are (realistically) motivated to play at the next level (or levels); while others are not. Larry Bird was motivated by his fear of playing poorly. Every player gets motivated in different ways. For some it is the “rah rah” session; others take a more focused, quiet approach. You have to know who is who.

All human beings are more motivated by things they enjoy; so try to have fun, especially with youth players! Let’s face it: Do you really think players are going to be motivated to work hard if they know drills are going to be monotonous, super hard, and they’ll be yelled at by drill sergeants? Of course not!

To make practice fun, be sure to have fun yourself. Smile. Enjoy the process. Most importantly, kids enjoy succeeding. So be sure to run drills and put kids in situations where they can succeed.

And of course, make your drills fun. You can make almost any ordinary drill fun. Just use your imagination.

One of the most common ways to motivate players is by adding competition to your drills and practice. Most players are more motivated when there is something on the line. Plus adding some competition here and there can make it more fun for your players.

Just remember that comparisons between teammates can make some players feel badly about themselves and can spur rivalries between teammates. In short, it can squash a player’s motivation. They must learn to work together.

“An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a bundle of sticks, and said to his eldest son: “Break it.” The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful. “Untie the bundle,” said the father, “and each of you takes a stick.” When they had done so, he called out to them: “Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken. “You see my meaning,” said their father.

Are your players a close group? Do they hang out together? Do they respect each other? What can you do to improve their relationships?

You’ll find that the hardest working teams are often good friends, respect each other, and believe in teamwork. Teams like this win championships, work hard, play for each other, and achieve the highest success.

In addition, teach your players commitment, in particular, commitment to the team and themselves.

One idea is to insert yourself into some drills and competing with the players. Players like coaches who sweat with them and will take it as a challenge to work harder and beat you.

Motivating Female Athletes

Let’s face it. Women tend to compete for different reasons than men. Women will react to motivation techniques in a different way than men.

This is why women require different kinds of motivation to achieve.

Quite often men are coaching women’s teams. And frankly men don’t usually understand female players. Obviously not the ideal situation and this can be frustrating for everyone involved.

If you can understand some of the differences in what makes them tick, you’ll go a long way in successfully motivating them.

First, simply by realizing that women react differently will solve many problems.

Women tend to be more goal oriented than men. Women tend to put a lower priority on winning than men. Everyone wants to win, but women tend to put less priority on it. Boys tend to put a higher priority on school sports, where women tend to put a priority on more than just sports. Conversely, too much yelling and screaming can be a big de-motivator. That is something I witnessed at a girls summer league this week. A certain coach from out of the area who, quite frankly, couldn’t even hardly walk up and down the court, takes a time out to scream and yell at his players because an opposing player hit a few shots.

Women tend to perceive their skills in more of a negative way than men. Many times they are better than what they think. So self perception and confidence is very important for women. Make sure your players are comfortable with what is asked of them and their position on the team.

Clear and positive feedback is critical for women. They will respond to good communication, good listening, and frequent feedback. This is what they almost always want! When coaching a girls’ team, remember that they need that reinforcement that they belong. Give them confidence. Provide constant feedback and excellent communication. Spend lots of team developing team chemistry. Remember each player is different and has different needs. Do the little things to show you care.

Do all those things well and you’ll have a team that will run through a brick wall for you!