Best Practices for Motivation

By Dean Herbert

This is the second in a series of articles on motivation and youth. The information is based on actual surveys of youth athletes as well as the sports psychology studies. In our first article, we discussed the technique of motivating youth by comparing them to peers.

Some ways to Optimize Motivation

Rephrase your comments to enhance motivational environments. The key is to focus on and get your athletes to focus on the process of competing (or practice for that matter). By focusing on the right things – in the process of performing – you will optimize the opportunity for successful and desired results.

What do process oriented comments that look like?

In practices isolate skills and techniques without making comparisons:

Joanne, could you demonstrate this drill for us. (To someone who has the right technique.)

Before competition stick to tactics and efforts:

During competition do not instruct on form (that is for practice) instead stick to simple, brief, direct competition related statements.

Stick to it.

Stay tough.

Keep working.

Deep breath.

One at a time.

After competition, be specific and stick to the individual:

Your game went well for the first half. We’ll work in finishing stronger.

That last play you made was fantastic.

You had a tremendous at-bat against a very good pitcher

You were competitive through the toughest part of the game.

If the performance is truly sub-par the first step is to ask questions (Seek first to understand):

Tell me about your game.

How do you see that last half of your game going?

What happened after you (made an error, missed the shot, etc) ?

Where did you lose your focus?

The key is for parents and coaches to make comments that keep the athlete focused on the immediate process (the “now”) and not the outcome. And comments that keep an athlete owning their own performance and effort, not someone else’s.

The only way you will be most effective in establishing a motivational atmosphere is to know what motivates your athletes. You will not reach everyone with one approach. However, we also know that coaches and parents will demotivate most youth athletes with comparison-type comments. So, stick to what is controllable and decreases emphasis on peer comparison.

Dean Hebert M.Ed. MGCP is a certified mental games coach specializing in youth athletes and youth coaches. He has authored several books and hundreds of articles. He works with individuals, teams and coaches in all sports as well as performs guest speaking engagements on mental toughness.

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