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What can we learn from sports teams?

August 4, 2010

Regardless of the team’s level – youth, high school, college, or the pros – players need to be consistently motivated to be successful, even winning teams.

Spain celebrating World Cup Win

How will Spain motivate themselves for the next tournament?

Teams that are not motivated are flat and, unless they can totally overpower their opponent, unlikely to succeed. Motivation is giving players a reason to perform to the best of their ability to achieve team goals. This responsibility falls on the coach and the players. It takes a team effort to be mentally and physically prepared to play and to maintain a level of interest that puts your team in a position to win.

Try these four ways to motivate your players:

1. Set realistic goals – goals are important because they give players something to strive for. Set both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are measurable steps on the way to achieving longer-term objectives, providing players and coaches a sense of achievement along the way. Make sure the goals are realistic. Teams with a realistic set of goals are more likely to succeed than those for whom the expectations are way too high.

2. Provide positive reinforcement – speaking directly to players about their performance can help to set standards that can motivate them. While many coaches rely on negative feedback, recognizing good effort and superior performance are much more effective techniques for motivating athletes. It is important to focus on what your players are doing well rather than always pointing out what they are not doing well. Focus on what your players are doing well in a moment and praise them for it. For example, catch your players working on specific skills and let them know you like the way they are performing and that they are making progress.

3. Give players a voice – and listen to it – players are more likely to follow a coach who listens to them and takes an interest in them. Some coaches believe they are the final word – the word of God – and do not always listen to the players on their teams. By giving players a voice, they become more motivated to perform at their peak for the coach’s and team’s benefit. Ask your players for their feedback.

4. Know what motivates each player – if you know what motivates each of your players, you will be in a better position to help them perform their best. What works for one player on your team may not necessarily work for another player. If you do not know what motivates a player, ask him or her.

Keep your team motivated by setting realistic goals, giving them positive feedback, listening to your players, and understanding what motivates them.

A blog by guest writer Anne Smith, Ph.D.

Anne Smith, Ph.D., the only tennis player in history who has won 10 Grand Slam championships and earned a doctorate, works with athletes, coaches, and parents who want to develop a prescription for how to win. Dr. Smith is the author of two books titled GRAND SLAM: Coach Your Mind to Win in Sports, Business, and Life and MACH 4TM Mental Training System: A Handbook for Athletes, Coaches, and Parents.  Visit her website at www.annesmithtennis.com.

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