January 2010 Archives

Motivation Reflection

Upon embarking on the chapter about motivation, I was excited to understand "a formula" for how to best motivate my future athletes, only to realize that motivation is a complex interaction with internal and external factors that is specific to individuals. While reading I kept thinking of my own experience as an athlete and evaluated what has been the most influential in motivating me based on the result of my effort and persistence. Ultimately it does appear that I was most motivated by the three basic needs for a stimulating challenge, for acceptance and belonging, and to feel competent and worthy. Additionally I can identify both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, but ultimately that self determination is best achieved through intrinsic motivation and the most likely to affect a person long term.
I was born the fourth child and naturally attempted to keep up with my older siblings. While I believe I was always a competitive child, this was influenced by my need for acceptance and belonging. I wanted to fit in with my "cool" older brother and sisters and be accepted by them. In addition, my need for stimulation and a challenge was met because I loved competing with people who were better than me. Although I bawled plenty of times, I also was motivated to keep trying and practicing. It was fun for me. I wonder, however, if every child enjoys the challenge or if there is a variable amount of enjoyment. I have to believe that I must have had enough success to keep me motivated to keep trying. If a child is not naturally motivated how does a parent encourage a child without eliminating self determination and natural enjoyment? As Vealey suggests, there is a myth of "you have it or you don't have it," but I do think some people are more driven than others in specific areas of life.
I am now a competitive runner and looking back at what motivated me to continue running makes me feel a bit shallow. I remember my first "run" was with my mom for one mile when I was in kindergarten. I begged her to take me. I ended up getting tired and faked that I needed to tie my shoe so I could rest briefly, but in the end I was so proud. This simple experience reflects a variety of motivations. From one perspective, I could argue that I was intrinsically motivated; I wanted to do it for the sole purpose of accomplishing something that seemed difficult but fun. I also, however, was motivated to please my mom. I continued to run and found that I was actually sort of good at it in junior high. In retrospect, I can identify the positive cycle of motivation: If you enjoy something you do it more, if you do it more we get better at it. Then when we get better at it you enjoy it more (Vealey, 2005, p.32). I had success and therefore was more willing to continue to put work in to continue to improve. I would argue that I was motivated by success, but I also really did enjoy it. It met my needs of a challenge, I felt accepted on a team and I felt competent in my success and level of commitment. To this day I am committed to improving and working harder. I honestly do love it, and would say that the sacrifices are not even sacrifices because I believe it is rewarding and fulfilling, but I will admit that I am also extrinsically motivated. I cannot deny that both can be used effectively.
I have also been exclusively extrinsically motivated, and in retrospect see the challenge of letting the foundation of one's experience be exclusively based on extrinsic motivation. I decided to try dance so that I could have a shiny and beautiful recital costume like my cousin. In the end, I hated every day of dance. I cried often, but I couldn't quit. I got my costume, but never did dance again. To this day I remember my misery and going into the recital having no idea what I was supposed to do. Perhaps this was a good lesson that one shouldn't participate in something is exclusively motivated by extrinsic rewards!
As a future coach, it is reality that unlike Pat Summit, we don't get to pick our players. Each player has been motivated by a variety of factors: internal and external, positive and negative. I am most excited about the fact that each individual has a different story and background. Some may be more intrinsically motivated than others, but coaches can work individually and ask the question of what is my athlete's need? What is motivating this player's actions and creatively strive with the athlete to develop them to be the best that they want to be!
Based on the individuals of the team, a coach can structure the team dynamic based on the strengths of the individuals just as Jacques did with his hockey team (Anderson, 2006).

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