The “old school” style of coaching is well known in the world of sport– coaches who “light a fire under” their athletes by being strict and unforgiving. Some coaches use punishments such as running when their athletes make mistakes or suffer a loss. Others use immediate scare tactics such as yelling criticisms at their athletes in the middle of their competition. Sure, these tactics have proven successful in some situations, but the real question that has not been answered is: how much do those athletes love their sport after all is said and done? Do they truly love competing? Or do they compete to win and avoid negative consequences?

Research suggests a different kind of motivation to be much more beneficial in athletes’ careers and beyond– teaching them how to motivate themselves. At the highest levels of self-motivation, athletes play simply for the one of a kind feeling of satisfaction that playing their sport gives them. They play for no one other than themselves. Though this is what we all should strive for, it isn’t always that simple.

There are many tasks in sport development that are simply not enjoyable to most– weight training, monotonous drills, travel, long practices etc. During these challenging times, coaches can use a few tactics to help build that inner drive in their athletes. The goal is to help athletes realize the importance and benefits of such tasks. One might not be excited about waking up at 6am to lift weights and run on a treadmill, but knowing that the extra work can help them reach a championship might help inspire them. Coaches can also foster this by acknowledging feelings of dislike or boredom, checking in with athletes when they seem to be losing their fire, and acknowledging progress and effort as often as possible. With this focus on the end product and appreciation for the small things we put into sport, coaches can help athletes build the fire within.

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