Let’s get them motivated

How does a teacher/school coach motivate kids who are disinterested in sport/physical activity to get involved? This is a hard one…..as one cannot force individuals to doing something that they don’t want to do as it can work against you in the long run….Sport is not necessarily enjoyed by every child and it is therefore also important to drive home the health benefit of sport to individuals.

What is motivated behaviour?

The area of motivation is very complex but recognising motivated behaviour is also not that complicated. Many coaches have had players who were dreams to coach: the ones who were willing to push themselves to the limit; the ones who never missed a training session and who would do extra practice without being told to do so.

According to Rushall (1991), motivated behaviour:

  • is specific;
  • occurs frequently;
  • is consistent;
  • appears to need few rewards

It is critical that a coach understands what motivates each of his/her players, especially young children, to be involved in sport. This knowledge will help the coach provide a fun, enjoyable and supportive training environment where learning and performance improvements occur easily.

What motivates children to play sport?

Children are motivated to participate in sport for a variety of reasons. These include ego, pride, fear of failure, the challenge of competition, a desire and determination to succeed, the feeling of achievement from perfecting a skill and acknowledgement from peers, coaches and family.

Research has shown that children highly value the intrinsic rewards gained from participating in sport. Rewards such as the enjoyment in throwing a ball, learning a new skill, or merely being involved in sport with their friends, mean more for young athletes than the extrinsic rewards of receiving trophies or prizes.
Making an effort to motivate and encourage young people in sport has numerous advantages:

  • their skills, self-esteem and confidence will develop
  • they will remain involved in sport rather than dropping out
  • they will want to come to training sessions
  • participation will be fun and enjoyable

Ways to motivate your players

* Recognise achievement
The majority of young athletes will develop self-confidence and the motivation to try harder upon receiving recognition for their efforts, especially when it comes from someone they respect, such as a coach or parent. Recognise athletes’ achievements in a variety of areas in addition to those related to performance or skill development. These might include:

  • positive social behaviour
  • regular attendance
  • caring for equipment
  • assisting the coach or teammates

This ensures that not only the superior performers receive recognition. Strategies can include a simple well done or a pat on the back.

* Set goals
Provide opportunities for all your athletes to experience success by setting goals in both the short term and long term. Goal setting can have a dramatic positive effect on both motivation and skill development. Set achievable and specific goals for both the individual player as well as the team. This will go a long way to addressing motivation.

* Make it fun

As a school coach ensuring that the practices are fun is essential. Children who lack motivation may require a smaller group to work with allowing him to enjoy activity in a non-threatening environment.

* Encourage Mastery

Success or failure should not be determined by the scoreboard, nor by the number of matches won. Children will become motivated when they notice themselves improving at a skill.

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