Motivation Blog

As athletes and/coaches we will all have experienced the lack of will to train weather that’s getting out In the rain to jog for hours on end or getting someone in your sessions to push them selves

Motivation can be split into two main forms; one intrinsic and one extrinsic. Both can help a sports person get out of the door and go training and both can help them win competitions but which, if either, is better?

Intrinsic – “Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence” (Ryan and Deci, 2000). This basically means doing an activity for the joys of doing it. For example, if an artist drew a picture because they simply enjoyed the act of drawing.

Extrinsic – “Extrinsic motivation is a construct that pertains whenever an activity is done in order to attain some separable outcome” (Ryan and Deci, 2000).   Now it is important to mention there are two types of extrinsic motivation, self-determined and non-self-determined external motivation. Self-determined would be when someone’s doesn’t enjoy practising a certain try of painting technique yet they decide to do it because they appreciate that it will help them become a better painter. They are now doing this for the external factor of getting better. However if they were pressured to do it by a teacher at school they may do it but won’t see the benefit and are only doing so to keep their teacher happy. This is non-self-determined external motivation. (Mageau and Vallerand, 2003)

Looking at the research in the field my interpretation is that a good mix of internal and self-determined external motivation along with non-self-determined extrinsic motivation is required for athletes to get to the top of their game. The work of Vallerand (1996) supports this conclusion. My interpretation of this would be that most athletes have a large amount of intrinsic and self-determined motivations else they would have dropped out of the sport long ago. However the athletes who make it to the very top, who have higher levels of non-self-determined motivation, got there because this motivation got them out training even when the internal motivation and self-determined motivation didn’t. For example on a rainy day at the end of a training block when the athlete is tired and wants nothing more than to sit at home and rest for the day their internal motivation for participating in their sport will be low as they just won’t enjoy it. On this particular day this athlete is so tired that even their self-determined motivation isn’t enough to get them out. However they do have high non-self-determined motivation which could be the pressure to not let family and friends who have financially supported them to get where they are today and this will get them out and training when the other motivation types failed. All these days will add up until they are simply fitter faster and better than their opponents who have less non-self-determined motivation.

Knowing what the better psychological is good but how can coaches install these traits into their athletes? The work of Mageau and Vallerand refer to autonomy-supportive coaching styles to be the best way. According to them “An autonomy-supportive style implies that coaches provide opportunities for choices, emphasize task relevance, explain reasons underlying rules and limits, acknowledge athletes’ feelings and perspective, give athletes opportunities to take initiatives, provide non-controlling competence feedback, avoid using controlling motivational strategies, and prevent egoinvolvement in their athletes” (Mageau and Vallerand, 2003). In a real world setting this would look like a coach giving their athletes options on what they would like to work on. This edges towards the democratic style of coaching and gives players the feeling of control over their own coaching. This is important and also involves giving feedback that is going to be constructive to the athlete, giving them the ability that if they think that say two sessions could be swopped round in order of completion they have the power to do that. It also involves coaches explaining the reasons for different tasks with emphasis on the ones the players don’t necessarily want to do. For example if a football player doesn’t enjoy sprint sessions then the coach would explain the benefits of it and explain how it will help the player in the long run and in doing this will develop the players self-determined motivation. The coach must also work to keep the athlete


Ryan, R. and Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), pp.54-67.

Ryan, R. and Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), pp.54-67.

Mageau, G. and Vallerand, R. (2003). The coach–athlete relationship: a motivational model. Journal of Sports Sciences, 21(11), pp.883-904.

Vallerand, R. (1996). Motivation and Elite Performance: An Exploratory Investigation with Bulgarian Athletes. Journal of Sports Phycology, 27, pp.173-182.

Mageau, G. and Vallerand, R. (2003). The coach–athlete relationship: a motivational model. Journal of Sports Sciences, 21(11), pp.883-904.


2 thoughts on “Motivation Blog

  1. Really interesting post, Jack. You are integrating literature and theory well. Where do you feel your general coaching style/approach sits with regards to creating that climate of autonomy for players? Any recent examples of how you have done this and how it went?


    1. Thanks John!

      As I have only learnt of this approach since doing the blog I can’t say I have actively tried to create it for the people I coach. However I believe I have been creating some of the conditions for autonomy anyway with my coaching approach as it was. I do try to explain what and especially why I get people to do what they are doing as I believe that a coach should coach themselves out of the job. So say after 4 years of coaching by the same coach if a player couldn’t go out and coach themselves or other people even a little then I would say that the coach hasn’t used the sessions to their full potential. This would link in to the “give athletes opportunities to take initiative” condition of autonomy for example if there was a rider I was giving training plans too and they had two four hour rides to do on a weekend. One was a mountain bike ride and one was a road ride and It was mother’s day on the Sunday which is when the mountain bike ride was scheduled for; they would have the knowledge that those sessions could be switched with minimal impact on the training week so that they could spend more time at home with their mum.

      As for an example of when I had tried to create this climate or parts of it in a coaching session It would be what I was coaching an after school club. It was a deprived area and the children who turned up in some cases where very disruptive. So I decided to offer the option of what they wanted to do each week so that they were taking control of the session instead of being dictated what to do and it went really well. They engaged more with the sessions and over the weeks this allowed me to encourage more good behaviors in them from eating a piece of fruit and veg a day to not giving up when they didn’t win or complete something.


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