Sports Psychology
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Role of Motivation in Sports

Positive Motivation Inspires Individuals

       Some individual use positive concepts to inspiring children and students to apply themselves and strive to attain their fill potential. Unfortunately some also use goods, privileges, and monitory incentives as a reward (bribe) to achieve the same goals. Some individuals withhold their love and recognition if specific tasks are not performed to their satisfaction. Not far removed from this negative incentive is the actual physical abuse and mental terrorizing of the child or student.

What can coaches and parents do to help develop athletes who will face
and conquer
challenges rather than be overwhelmed by them?

Why is it that many athletes seem to fall apart when they enter competitions
and face performing against other athletes who are really good?

Can labeling a child  as "gifted" or "talented" do more harm than good?

Is self motivation something that can be taught?

Can positive motivation techniques be taught to coaches and parents?

       Motivation is all about identifying the needs of an individual and/or team. The process of striving to meet those needs provides the opportunities for coaches and parents to motivate.

           Methods of enhancing an athlete's motivation include:
  • Providing more time and attention to an athlete when he/she is having difficulty learning a skill.
  • Reward small gains of achievement for ALL skill levels - beginners through elite skaters.
  • Develop other measures of recognizing skating achievement besides winning.
  • Show your athletes that they are important to you after a loss as well as after a winning.
  • Show your athletes that you are proud of them and excited about what they are doing in skating and especially recognize non sports interests.
Athletes need self worth, self esteem, self confidence in skating and non skating activities
  • Providing more time and attention to an athlete when he/she is having difficulty learning a skill
  • Reward small gains of achievement for ALL skill levels - beginners through elite skaters
  • Develop other measures of recognizing skating achievement besides winning
  • Show your athletes that they are important to you after a loss as well as after a winning
  • Show your athletes that you are proud of them and excited about what they are doing in skating and especially recognize non sports interest
Setting Goals
        Setting goals has proved to be one of the most simple and effective motivational devices developed for sports within the past three decades. While the concept is not new, today the techniques for effective goal setting have been refined and clarified.
        Goals give direction. They tell us what needs to be accomplished. They increase effort, persistence and the quality of performance. Establishing goals also requires that the athlete and coach determine techniques for how to achieve those goals.

        There are different factors that must be considered when formulating goals that will work. The following are brief descriptions of important considerations:
Measurable and Specific Goals 
    Effective goals are very specific and measurable. Goals stated in the form of "I want to be the best that I can be!" or "I want to improve my performance!" are vague and difficult to measure. It is positive sounding but difficult, if not impossible, to assess if they have been achieved. To have a valid purpose, a Measurable Goal must establish a baseline for recent performance.

Difficult, but Realistic Goals  
    Effective goals are perceived as challenging, not threatening. A challenging goal is one perceived as difficult but attainable within a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable amount of effort or ability. A threatening goal is one perceived as being beyond one's current capacity. Realistic implies that judgment is involved. Goals based upon a baseline of performance recorded during the past one or two weeks are likely to be realistic.

Long versus Short-Term Goals
    Both long and short-term goals provide direction, but short-term goals appear to have the greatest motivational effects. Short-term goals are more readily attainable and are stepping stones to more distant long-term goals. Unrealistic short-term goals are easier to recognize than unrealistic long-term goals. Unrealistic goals can then be modified before valuable practice time has been lost.

Positive versus Negative Goal Setting
    Positive goals direct what to do rather than what not to do. Negative goals direct our attention to the errors we wish to avoid or eliminate. Positive goals also require coaches and athletes to decide how they will reach those specific goals. Once the goal is decided, the athlete and coach must determine specific strategies and techniques which allow that goal to be successfully attained.

Set Priorities
    Effective goals are limited in number and meaningful to the athlete. Setting a limited number of goals requires that athletes and coaches decide what is important and fundamental for continued development. Establishing a few, carefully selected goals also allow athletes and coaches to keep accurate records without becoming overwhelmed with record keeping.

Mutual Goal Setting
   Goal setting becomes an effective motivational device when athletes are committed to achieving those goals. When goals are imposed or established without significant input from the athletes, motivation is unlikely to be enhanced.

Establish Specific Time Lines
    Target dates provide urgency to an athlete's efforts. Specific target dates tend to eliminate wishful thinking and clarify what goals are realistic and which are not. Timelines are especially valuable in high-risk sports where fear often promotes procrastination in learning new skills.

Formal versus Informal Goal Setting
    Some coaches and athletes think that goals must be set in formal meetings outside of practice and require long periods of thoughtful evaluation before they are decided upon. Goals are literally progressions which coaches have been using for years but are now expressed in measurable, performance terms rather than as vague, generalized outcomes.

Team versus Individual Goals
   Team goals have great importance for pair and dance teams or Synchronized Teams or Theater On Ice teams.  Most team goals can be broken down into individual roles or responsibilities. Any weakness of an individual skater on a team requires establishing a separate set of individual goals. Each skater must accept their individual responsibilities for the team to function effectively.

Goal Setting Domains
   When asked to set goals, athletes typically focus on the learning of new skills or performances in competitions. A major role of the coach is to broaden the athlete's perception of those areas, and goal setting can be an effective tool. Goals can be set to enhance fitness, improve attendance, increase intensity, promote sportsmanship, develop team spirit, find more free time, or establish consistency.

Setting Realistic Goals
   Identify a long-term goal. Now break down that long-term goal into short-term and intermediate goals that will help you reach the long-term goals. Coaches use a similar process to break down complex skills into smaller, simpler skills.

   Goal setting is simply defined as "a specific outcome that an individual is striving to achieve", Expressions such as "intend to" or "desire to" are often used in setting goals. For example, "I intend to compete in Junior Ladies this year."

   Goals are set to satisfy needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs to classify human needs into five general categories. Those needs that are higher in the hierarchy are considered more important, and cannot be satisfied unless the needs below them in the hierarchy are satisfied first. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs stresses personal growth and development.  Understanding the Hierarchy of Needs helps to explain differences in behavior between individuals.

Goal Difficulty
    A subordinate goal does not imply an easier goal. Locke & Latham suggests that more difficult goals will enhance performance level, especially when the task is performed voluntarily. Setting up rigid and realistic goals based on the learner's competence is more effective than setting easy goals.

Performance goals vs. Mastery goals
   According to Ames' 1988 study, when performance goals are involved, there is a concern by individuals whose ability is being judged. Success is often given as evidence of ability that is demonstrated by outperforming others, but it may also be that others have had a "bad day" that is not truly representative of their abilities.

   In the mastery of a goal the importance is attached to developing new skills. The process of learning itself is the valued goal of mastery that is seen as dependent on effort the individual's effort.

      Comparison of mastery and performance goals:
  • Mastery Goals - Understanding the concepts and their application is more important than earning a high grade, and that's why I work so hard to learn. My performance is better than it was at the beginning of the semester.
  • Performance Goals -  The key to success is avoiding mistakes to receive a high score. The reward for practicing hard is that my performance is better than other skaters.
Recommended Reading:

Sports Psychology - Motivation A level revision - A summary of motivation, what is motivation and how can it affect performance.

Motivation for Sports
Articles about motivating yourself to start and continue with an exercise program.

Extrinsic Rewards and Motivation - Association for Applied Psychology. These reasons fall into the two major categories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Athletes who are intrinsically motivated participate in sports for internal reasons, such as enjoyment, whereas athletes who are extrinsically motivated participate in sports for external reasons, such as material rewards.


Developing Athletic Goals

PDF  101 ways to Motivate Athletes

PDF  Motivation Principles

PDF  Motivation Styles

PDF  Long Term Motivation

PDF  Motivation Tips

Burnout (set of articles)    part of the Mind Tools site

Goal Setting for Motivation and Self Confidence     part of the Mind Tools site

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organization/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Flow/Peak Performance
Focus & Concentration
Goals and Objectives
Goal Setting
Personal Sabotage
Self Fulfilling Prophecy

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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