Why Does Your Athlete Play the Game?

Why does your athlete play the game?

Seems like a simple question, doesn't it? And yet my guess is that few teenaged athletes ever ask themselves that question today, yet they sweat and toil 10-12 months each year to master their sport with hopes of glory.

It all starts with an honest assessment of your athlete's motivation and desire  for playing their game. For without the proper motivation your athlete will not possess the burning desire necessary to do what it takes to elevate their game so he or she can dominate on game day and stand out from the crowd.

Your athlete's sport is likely a difficult game that will only get more competitive the older he or she gets.

As a coach it baffles me when kids have been taught to do something a certain way in practice again and again, yet come game day they completely forget how to do it. How can that be?

I have come to the realization that it all comes down to an athlete's motivation and desire. How bad do they want the success they work so hard for?

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Today's adolescent athlete is different than I and my peers were a few decades ago. Our motivation for playing was all ours, it was pure, and we worked our butts off to be the very best because we had a burning desire to succeed, to play in college or the pros. We didn't know any other way.

Girls Softball All Star GameToday's athlete needs to find out why he or she plays the game, hopefully for more than just pleasing mom or dad, and it all starts with determining, specifically, what motivates them.

So let's start with understanding a little about motivation. There are two types of motivation:

Intrinsic Motivation - a personal interest or enjoyment in performing an activity or task (internal).

Extrinsic Motivation - the performance of an activity for the sake of attaining a specific result or incentive (external).  

If your athlete loves the game and would play it 24/7 if they could he or she has sufficient "intrinsic" motivation to be great.

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If your athlete doesn't really love the game he or she needs to attach their daily sports effort to specific "extrinsic" motivations, whether it's an iPhone, professional contract or just the drive to be the best.

I used the example in my team training of "what if your parent offered you a new iPhone if you got an "A" in Geometry? Would that motivate you to get an "A" in the class?"

Most all of the 35 teenaged softball players I was speaking to agreed that a new iPhone was sufficient motivation to work hard to get the "A."

The great connector between motivation and achievement are goals. Goals quantify the desired outcome or incentive and create a specific calculable process for their attainment.

Without clearly defined intrinsic or extrinsic motivations and a clearly defined path to get there (goals) your athlete will not possess the desire and overall blueprint to get where he or she wants to go with their sport.  

On those long, hot, exhausting days when your athlete wonders if it's all worth it remind them of their goals, the incentives and rewards they decided they wanted out of playing the game. 

Their constant connection as to why they play the game will serve to get them through the toughest of times and propel them forward to truly being the very best they can be. 

My suggestion is to take the time to sit down and have a discussion about motivation, desire and goals with your athlete and get them laser focused on why they play the game.

It might just make all the difference in the world!

Thanks for reading!

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