Mind Over Sports

The myth of the motivating coach

Posted on: October 5, 2007

rick-lavoieA few years ago I appeared on a call-in sports talk radio show and made the comment that there really isn’t any such thing as a motivating coach since no coach can motivate his or her players. Inspire, yes. But not motivate. One coach who was listening called in and read me the riot act insisting that he was a great motivator. Once he calmed down I explained to him that motivation must come from within, and what I’ve found over the years is that the higher an athlete’s feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) the more motivated he or she is. Athletes with low self-esteem are not motivated. But what a coach can do is create an environment on his or her team that fosters high self-esteem. This often involves turning teams into support groups so that team members can discuss their personal issues with each other. Once they’ve aired their feelings and issues, they will then begin to feel better about themselves and will automatically become more motivated. This can also be accomplished when coaches have an open door policy and are always available to listen to their athletes’ issues and problems without being judgmental. Once I explained this to my “call-in coach” he agreed and told me that he fell into the latter category; that his door was always open to his athletes. And of course, these are the coaches who are most successful with their teams, assuming their teams have the skill level to be successful.

Which brings me to a discussion of a new book that has just been published entitled: “The Motivational Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for Turning On the Tuned-Out Child” and unfortunately, I couldn’t disagree with the author, Rick Lavoie, more. Mr. Lavoie maintains that if you want to motivate kids in school, you need to use the six P’s: Praise, Power, Projects, People, Prizes and Prestige. From my perspective, if you want to motivate kids in school, especially those who are highly unmotivated, you need to do what I’ve described above as applied to sports teams. That is, put them into support groups and allow them to talk about issues in their personal lives and what is going on at home. Once they open up and discuss their feelings and emotions in a support group setting with their peers, they will enhance their own feelings of self-worth and will automatically become more motivated. There’s a correlation between High Self-Esteem and High Motivation and Low Self-Esteem and Low Motivation. You have to work from the inside out, not the outside in. And the same goes for so-called “Motivational Speakers” who I believe are a hoax.

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