Athletes Motivation

Motivation is a very difficult concept to understand as a coach, especially coming from a background of plenty of playing experience. Every individual functions differently and what motivates one athlete may leave another athlete completely unaffected. As a coach I often find this as a troubling issue. It can be difficult to understand why players do, or more importantly don't, behave the way we desire them too. Understanding this and attempting to address how your athletes are motivated is an important step towards getting the most out of your team.
With coaching many people would assume extrinsic motivation is a coach's primary job. However, I would argue, a quality coach would attempt to find a way to increase levels of motivation in their athletes intrinsically. Understanding how to do this will help both the coach focus on coaching and less on motivating while helping the players achieve a higher level of performance that is self initiated. It may take some time for the coach to find out how their team is motivated and what methods work most efficiently. Each team brings new and different challenges varying by factors such as age, ability and level of play. While we are nearly two thirds of the way through the season I am still working on improving my athlete's levels of motivation.
At the beginning of our season it was very clear who the more skilled players were and who had little to no experience playing. This was only made more evident by the players themselves. Often times the less skilled players would not put out the effort required to compete with the skilled players. They felt they had no control over how they would perform in drills. The skilled players were going to win so why even try? This also created little motivation for the skilled athletes because they didn't need to try very hard to be successful. I attempted to fix this by running the same drill to start practice at about ninety percent of our practices. The drill was directly related to our offensive philosophies which I intentionally showed and explained to them. I did this to help them understand why we were doing it and to give them confidence and familiarity with our offense. Players started to become more comfortable and competent and confidence grew. I used similar ideas in other drills, some team and some individual, to make players compete or go "game speed." I still struggled to get maximum effort out of my top two or three guys until recently. Eventually the less skilled players caught up, and in some ways passed the more skilled, forcing the more skilled to put out a better effort more consistently.
While I still often use extrinsic methods to motivate player's short term I have had some success raising player's intrinsic levels using a more long term plan. It took longer than I had hoped but am still pleased with the results and I am excited to see how much of it sticks with them through the off season.