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Six Keys For Motivating Athletes

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Austin Volleyball

First to motivate athletes, just telling them what to do will work with some, but it will not work with a gymful. We, as coaches, must always teach athletes how to perform their skills. Also we must tell them how well they are performing their skills at the present time. In addition, we must show our athletes precisely how we want the skills to be done in the future. These steps take time and, for some, individualized instruction. But they are vital when it comes to initiating motivation. If we simply instruct, correct, or evaluate without taking these actions, we may actually decrease some athlets' interest and motivation.

Second, motivating athletes includes refusing to accept poor performance as "the best they can do." Once we allow ourselves to accept poor performance, motivating becomes twice as difficult. We don't have to rant and rave about poor performance. Neither do we have to act disgusted. But we don't have to react in silence either. To motivate, we must say something--directly to the athlete. Fortunately, there are many ways and means of accomplishing this task. These techniques range from mentoring to giving a formal reprimand. Regardless of the approach we use, we are relating to the athlete that standards are important. We are teaching the athlete that standards count. Above all, we are communicating that the athlete is capable of performing at a higher level-- and this kind of communication is motivating.

Third, if we want to motivate all athletes most of the time, we must never take good work for granted--or let it go unnoticed. Rather we must recognize the effort given. We should glorify the work, when it is done in satisfactory as well as superior ways. Coaches may think "Everyone knows what is a great effort." That is not true. If we want to motivate athletes to higher levels of athletic achievement, we must explain what we exactly want from the athlete in terms of observable and measurable levels of performance. Then explain why that superior level of effort is important.

Fourth, a basic key to motivating is giving positive reinforcement extensively to ALL athletes to promote and encourage improvement. To be the most effective, however, we must personalize positive reinforcement. We must be specific in our praise. Our athletes must know precisely what the coaches are talking about. The athletes must know that we are honest and sincere. And, we must thank the athletes for showing improvement. In the process, we must remember that what motivates one athlete may turn another athlete off. Therefore, we must find the type of praise and recognition which is motivational to the individual--and use it.

Fifth, a basic key to motivating includes working to build a personal relationship with each athlete-on the level at which the athlete is ready to begin. This means treating each individual as real, live human beings who are unique. When your motivational approach recognizes, appreciates, and respects each athlete's individuality, then the athletes are most apt to respond positively to both your words and actions. When you develop a personal relationship with your team, you will be the first to notice that you praise, correct and motivate differently-and with more success.

Sixth, to motivate athletes remember that you can't separate your respect for the task at hand from your athletes' point of view. You can't talk before you listen. And you can't offer advise and give directions until you have listened and gathered information. That is, you can't make these mistakes and motivate students. If you listen first, you will motivate much more effectively. We know that people cooperate with those who listen to them. And we know people aren't as likely to follow those who don't listen to them.

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