Happy Athletes Are Motivated Athletes
I recently watched a 20/20 special on Mike Rice, the former Rutgers Basketball coach who was filmed throwing basketballs at his players’ heads, kicking and pushing them, screaming profanities, and beating them with foam pads, and that got me thinking…Are coaches still going with the Motivation by Intimidation routine? Are people still under the impression that screaming and yelling is the best way to get the most out of athletes? Most of us know (as Mike Rice now knows) that is not the way to do it, but what IS the best way to push athletes?
You gotta get behind them.
I’m talking about showing your athletes you care. Let them know you are there support them. Many coaches think motivation comes from intimidation or the ability to give movie-worthy speeches in the locker room before the big game. In reality, motivation starts well before games, practices, and training sessions begin by establishing a supportive relationship with each athlete. This can be done simply by asking them what they learned in school today, how is their family, or something that shows you see them as a valuable person rather than just a player. A genuine interest in your athletes can go a long way in helping coaches (and teachers and parents) motivate. As a coach, showing your athletes you care about them can create one of the most positive and motivating training environments, and will lead to improved performance. This improved performance comes from the athlete’s shift in mindset from the “don’t screw up” mentality they get from being around a coach that tries to drive athletes with intimidation, to a more positively tinted “I can do this” mentality. In the “don’t screw up” mindset, the athlete is constantly focused on the negatives of his game. The more negatives you see, the more negative you feel, and the less productive you are. On the other hand if an athlete is happy with the team, he is more likely to see the positive side of each game or practice. Each positive point gives him more ammo to attack challenges, which gives him a better shot at being successful.
The emerging field of positive psychology is shedding light on the effectiveness of positive coaching by proving just how productive, hardworking, and successful happy people are. In Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, the author describes the how happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Based on this new observation, it seems that happy athletes are more likely to achieve success. If your athletes enjoy going to practice and games, they will be more productive on the field, court, or ice. Coaches, respect your athletes and you will likely get the same in return. If screaming and yelling aren’t getting it done, try motivating by getting behind your athletes. Show them you care and see how productive happy athletes can be.