Helping Others Find (Favorable) Motivation

What is 'favorable motivation'? Theories of achievement motivation describe someone who is a high achiever (favorable motivation) to be someone who

  • directs her motivation to achieve success and focuses on the feelings of pride of success
  • he ascribes his success to ability and failure to luck
  • adopts goals based on personal performance
  • perceives herself to have high competency and that achievement is within her own control
  • seeks out challenges and competitors of similar skill and ability
  • tends to perform well during competition

How can a coach, trainer, parent, teacher, or program administrator help a performer who is struggling with motivation?  Consider these five guidelines: (see Gould & Weinberg, 2011)

1.  Motivation resides both within the Person and the person's Environment.  The key is to consider the INTERACTION between a person's characteristics and their performance environment. 

When working with a performer it may be tempting to view a performer's motivational difficulties to reside within the individual's characteristics (e.g., "She doesn't want to win badly enough.").  When viewed from this perspective, the motivational solution is to change the individual's characteristics.   It is also tempting to view a performer's motivational difficulties to reside within the environment or performance situation (e.g., "The workout must be too boring"). When viewed from this perspective, the motivational solution is to change the environment or situation.  While these two perspectives often explain motivational difficulties for a select number of people or for a select situation, not ALL motivational difficulties can be adequately explained using these perspectives.  The best motivational research suggests that motivational difficulties must be viewed to result from the INTERACTION between personal characteristics and the performance situation.

2. Understand the MULTIPLE motives for a performer's involvement. 

A summary of almost 30 years of research into sport motives reveals that children (and adults) have multiple motives for participating in sport and exercise.  In general, research consistently reveals the motives to include: To learn skills and demonstrate competence, to build friendships and connections with others, for health and fitness, to be challenged, and for excitement and fun. Interestingly, some motives take priority over others, and some motives can be in conflict.  Females often emphasize social motives where males emphasize competitive motives.  A coach, trainer, parent, teacher, or program administrator can better understand a performer's motivational motives by observing the performer in multiple situations, asking the performer about his or her motives in an informal setting, and gathering writings and reflections from the perform about his or her sport participation.

3. Find the best environment to meet the performer's motives for participating most of the time. 

Understanding the performer's motives to participate in a sport program is not enough to enhance motivation. A coach, trainer, parent, teacher, and program administrator needs to engineer the sport/performance environment to match the motives.  Engineering distinct opportunities to meet motives towards skill competence, social connections, and 'fun' in sport is important for enhancing motivation.

4. Model motivational problem-solving techniques for the performer.

Coaches, trainers, parents, teachers, and program administrators generally fulfill a  leadership role when working with performers.  There are days when you too, will struggle with your motivation toward your work.  Explaining to the performer that you work with what you do during low motivational periods can be very helpful to a performer.

5. Use behavior modification to change undesirable participant motives and strengthen week motivation.

Behavior modification techniques involve the use of reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement involves the presentation of rewards for behaviors that are desirable (e.g., praise for efforts made during a challenging activity), or the withholding of rewards for behaviours that are undesirable (e.g., taking away a priviledge to participate in a 'game' during practice because the performer disrupted training time).  Punishment is the presentation of a undesirable consequence for behaviours that are undesirable (e.g., criticism directed towards the player for wasting training time).