Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ah Yes...Motivation

Whenever coaches get together to chat, pick each other's brains, the word motivation almost always comes up. It is the rare coaching clinic that doesn't have the topic of motivation as, of all things, a "carrot" to get you to sign up and attend.

Here at SwimCoachDirect we have often thought about the subject in both abstract terms - what will work for a particular training group this week - and concrete ones, how can we motivate Mary to get engaged in her aerobic training more?

Our coaching colleague Nort Thornton at UC Berkeley mentioned a new book by Daniel H. Pink entitled "Drive". We picked it up, began reading and cannot put it down. It is one of those books that comes along now and then and really challenges you to alter your perceptions. Without trying to sum it up, especially since we are only part way through it, Pink really wants us to think about the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The following are some of the morsels we found particularly tasty...

"Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one's sights and pushing toward the horizon."

When writing about extrinsic motivation (which does work in some select specific situations) he points of the downfalls.

"Carrots and Sticks: the Seven Deadly Flaws"
1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
2. They can diminish performance.
3. They can crush creativity.
4. They can crowd out good behavior.
5. They can encourage cheating, shortcuts and unethical behavior.
6. They can become additive.
7. They can foster short-term thinking.

"Self Determination Theory (SDT) begins with a notion of universal human needs. It argues that we have three innate psychological needs - competence, autonomy and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we're motivated, productive and happy. When they're thwarted, our motivations, productivity and happiness plummet."

Over the last three decades any numbers of scientific research projects in various places across the globe are delivering irrefutable evidence that in just about every field of endeavor we are led to the same conclusion. "Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives."

This is remarkable evidence that supports some of the most visible success stories in sports. When an athlete "owns" his/her career, the level of interest and thus achievement is much higher than when the coach is "in charge of motivation." Teams function at much higher levels when the various members are pulling in the harnesses together toward a self-determined outcome.

When you begin planning for your next training block, consider what makes you feel like you are making progress. Share that with your coach or team. Get those in the support positions to "buy in" and watch the fundamental change take place. Empowering yourself and those around you can be a very "motivating" step for all concerned.

Give it a try. Let us know how it goes for you!

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