Sports Psychology, Part 3: Motivation

19 Sep

Motivation is an important component of athletic performance.  Intrinsic motivation has a profound impact on the athlete’s desire to train and compete.  Achievement motivation relates to the athlete’s competitiveness; his or her desire to engage in competition.  Positive and negative reinforcement in coaching can have a considerable influence on an athlete’s motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is important for any athlete.  The athlete who is intrinsically motivated is self-motivated because he or she loves the game.  Coaching team sports can be much more effective when athletes are self-motivated.

Achievement motivation is fueled by an athlete’s competitiveness.  All things being equal between two athletes, the one with greater achievement motivation will be the better athlete because of his or her “appetite” for competition.

Positive reinforcement involves the use of rewards – praise, helmet decals, prizes, and awards – to increase the probability that a particular behavior will be repeated.

Negative reinforcement also increases the probability that a behavior will be repeated, by removing an event that is perceived to be unappealing or undesirable.  For example, if a team has a productive practice, the coach could announce that no sprints will be run at the end of the session.

Positive punishment describes an action that is presented after a behavior, that could decrease the behavior’s recurrence.  Reprimanding a basketball player after a turnover is an example of positive punishment.

Negative punishment is the removal of something valued.  Loss of privileges or playing time (benching) are examples of negative punishment.

Coaches should generally subscribe to a reinforcement strategy that helps athletes to focus on what they do correctly.  Punishment should be used sparingly because it emphasizes what the athlete is doing wrong, thus focusing his or her attention on incorrect behavior.  Overall, positive reinforcement helps athletes focus on task-relevant cues, while punishment can overload the athlete’s focus with task-irrelevant cues.

Your thoughts?

Next: Psychological Management Strategies

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