by Richard Bernier
Motivation is a very complex issue with a lot of implications. It is agreed that top athletes have a lot of motivation but the question is how can this motivation be replicated and maintained? A coach can be a factor in which motivation can be enhanced or destroyed. Athletes have varying reasons for their individual motivation. Capabilities, autonomy, and connectedness are some motivating factors.
Another part of motivation is the use of rewards. There have been studies conducted to determine the effectiveness of internal and external rewards. The strongest rewards are internal rewards, when the athlete plays the game for the love of the game. Using external rewards could possibly diminish the effectiveness of these rewards. Coaches and others involved with the athlete need to be aware of this whenever giving external rewards. (The APA Division 47 publication Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology Volume 3 Number 1 (February 2014) has a research article on controlling behaviors of coaches on scholarship athletes. It touches on the motivation of athletes and their perceptions of coaches controlling their behavior. More research is needed but gives the reader an idea of when and how an athlete is affected motivationally with this extrinsic reward.)
Preconceived notions on the part of a coach and adversely affect the development of an athlete. A coach who deems and athlete as not having ability or skill usually ends up with that athlete getting less attention then the athlete that is deemed to be talented. Because of the lack of attention the athlete continues to perform at a lower level and the coach pats themselves on the back for being such a great judge of talent. All the coach did was create a self-fulfilling prophecy. This phenomenon is very prevalent at the youth level. A properly trained coach can be made aware of this biased reaction and can prevent this from occurring. (This is an area I have become very interested in. I have seen this in my 24 years of involvement in youth soccer and would like to help change this attitude).
Is leadership and inherent trait or can it be taught? This is a question that is echoed not only in sport, but in other areas as well such as business and education. There are formal leaders and informal leaders. Formal leaders are coaches, captains, and managers. They have formal leadership authority through their position. A teammate that everyone looks up to would be an informal leader.
Each leader has their own leadership style and any one may not necessarily be correct. In fact, there is research to suggest that effective leaders may have different leadership styles throughout their career. For example, a coach of a soccer team may use a democratic leadership style when preparing for training. He may have a list of suitable activities that would accomplish his goal for the session and may ask the team to choose which one they would prefer to do. In a game he would use an autocratic style of coaching when assigning positions or making substitutions.
Leadership needs to be developed within a team. Good leadership is beneficial in keeping morale high. This is usually accomplished when there is trust and respect on the team, especially between the players and leaders of the team.
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