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The word motivation is tossed around as freely and inaccurately as Little League pitches.

How many times a day do you hear coaches and announcers attribute successes to "highly motivated" players and losses to "unmotivated" players?

There is a reason for all of the focus on this somewhat intangible element.

Motivation can indeed spell the difference between winning and losing.

Strength training is hard work and often very uncomfortable. Few athletes at any level are willing to subject themselves to the amount of discomfort necessary to fully exhaust their physical potential. While many athletes enjoy the process of physical preparation, others simply prefer to show up just for practice and games.

The fact is, in order to succeed in strength training, athletes must have the desire and commitment to do so. They must be motivated, be willing to put in the time in the weight room.

That motivation must come from the coaches, in large part from the head coach. If he is sold on the importance of physical preparation, chances are that the players will accept his reasons why strength training and conditioning are so important. They will become a captive audience looking to be taken to the next level, to become disciplined and motivated athletes.

Conviction and dedication are what separates the "rep counters" from the inspired leaders.

Understanding the Term

While it takes many forms and works differently from one person to the next, there are two basic types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation is external.

At the professional sports level it usually stems from money, publicity, etc. At other levels, it stems from fans, publicity and adulation.

This type of motivation fluctuates and is usually temporary. An athlete who relies solely on extrinsic motivation typically will not possess the discipline needed from day to day, game to game, and year to year.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It is a desire to be the best player you can be. It is a hunger most athletes have to reach their full potential physically and as a player. It is a willingness to prepare throughout a season, regardless of external factors.

In order for your team to be the best it can be, it obviously has to have talent. But great teams must also have many intrinsically motivated players, which is something you as a coach can help foster every time you train and interact with your athletes.


There is no one blueprint for becoming a good motivator. But the first step is to become highly motivated yourself. All successful coaches are highly motivated. You must strive to develop a motivational style that fits your personality, experience and situation.

Athletes are typically motivated by things that are important to them or that they feel will help them achieve the things that are important to them. Find out what they're striving for and tailor your messages accordingly.

You should realize that the concept of "If you build it, they will come" isn't quite as simple as it sounds, Even if you are highly motivated, have mastered the mechanics of a good conditioning program, have furnished the facility with the best equipment available within your budget, and have made a concerted effort to keep updated on the latest health and fitness information, your efforts will be virtually useless if there's no one around to take advantage of it. You have to get your players into the weight room, and keep them coming back.

The best way to do that is by providing demanding but realistic, attainable short-term and long-term goals. As results are obtained and goals are met, success is sure to follow. This is how motivation is bred.



Use positive reinforcement. It is the most basic element. Verbal encouragement and conspicuous measurements (posted attendance records) are musts.

Informed athletes are generally more motivated athletes. Explain the benefits of your training program (reduced injuries, enhanced performance and longevity speak volumes to players hoping to make the most out of their careers).

Keeping records for athletes (e.g. a workout card) is an excellent, time honored practice--they can see what they've accomplished at a glance, and visualize their next goal.

Think about having an agreement, signed by your players, that outlines their commitment to their goals. Putting something in writing can be very inspiring.

Reward players with some tangible items if you can--t-shirts, hats, etc. This falls into the category of extrinsic motivation, but in tandem with the other positive reinforcement you've provided it can be effective.

Create an atmosphere of peer awareness. Let players know when one of their peers has done something well and encourage them to talk to one another about their progress.

Make the facility a place in which athletes will want to train. Keep it clean, have plenty of mirrors, make sure it's bright, play good music, and use banners and posters to decorate.

Involve others--coaches, trainers, teachers and parents. Make them aware that the players are supposed to be working toward some specific goals, and should be asked about their progress. The players will want to have something positive to report.


Never embarrass your athletes. Positive, not negative, reinforcement will improve their level of motivation.

Be sure not to set goals too high. There are few things less motivating than working hard and getting nowhere near the finish line.

Remember that your team is made up of individuals with different needs. While some players might work well in groups, others might thrive solo. Accommodate them as much as possible within 'the constraints of your schedules and the scope of your overall program.

Don't compare your athletes to one another. There will always be a small group of players that are bigger, stronger or faster than the majority of the team.

Don't have "pound clubs" or other random measurement rewards for your team. The objective is to have players working at their maximum level of effort, not to meet an arbitrary weightlifting goal.

Never yell at your athletes. The volume of your voice doesn't determine how well the message is being received. To the contrary, you'll risk losing the respect of your players by not respecting them.

Each coach possesses different motivational skills. Develop your own philosophical approach to motivating your athletes. Continue to look for new and innovative techniques that will help to bring out the very best effort from every rep, set and workout.

May the Power be with you!
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Article Details
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Author:Arapoff, Jason
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2000
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