3 Motivation Techniques for Coaches, from Coaches

Articles | Online Master of Coaching Education


Coaches are not only responsible for training, managing and leading their team—they are also responsible for providing motivation. A major aspect of successful coaching is the ability to encourage and motivate players effectively, even when the challenges almost seem insurmountable. Motivation is the drive to work harder, and exceed previous goals in a never-ending effort to better oneself. Coaches must motivate their teams when they falter, and inspire individual athletes to find their own inner-motivation. It can be challenging and tiring to repeatedly evoke motivation within athletes on a consistent basis—that’s why it’s important for coaches to stoke their own motivational fires too. Fortunately, there are coaches who have dedicated their lives to the craft, perfecting the art of motivation. Coaches in search of motivation techniques can discover them through these celebrated coaches’ experiences, knowledge, and famous quotes.

Practice Makes Perfect

“I’m someone who will push you beyond all reasonable limits. Someone who will ask you not to just fulfill your potential but to exceed it. Someone who will expect more from you than you may believe you are capable of.” – Patricia Sue “Pat” Summitt

Pat Summitt was the head coach for the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team for 38 years, and she is held in high regard both on and off the court. She has won the most NCAA Division I games out of both male and female coaches as well as led the Lady Volunteers to eight national championships. She believed in a powerful work ethic and the importance of self-improvement. On and off the court, Pat Summitt was an inspiration to athletes and coaches. Since her passing on June 28, 2016, her legacy continues to impact the world of sports.

Practice is a great opportunity for coaches to try new motivational techniques. Dedication to practice, developing new skills and honing old ones not only benefits the team during game time, but it also serves as an excellent showcase for individual progress. When a coach pushes their athletes beyond their limits, the athlete may personally adopt the same strategy and vie to be the best.

Praise Effort, Not Outcome

“Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.” – Mike Ditka

A member of both the college and pro football Hall of Fame, Mike Ditka is a famous football icon. NFL Coach of the Year in 1985 and in 1988, Ditka coached the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. Ditka had dedicated himself to football, and though he pushed his players to win, he often stressed the importance of simply enjoying the game.

Defining success through victories and numbers may not inspire athletes to find their own motivation. Athletes should seek to achieve their own goals instead of just winning for the team and the coach. A coach who praises an athlete’s effort and dedication will nurture growth and improvement on a personal level. Nurturing effort and commitment can help to bring about the desired outcomes in an organic fashion. Ditka understands that success isn’t defined by awards and wins—it’s defined by an individual’s effort and discipline.

Build Relationships

“Winning and championships are memorable but they come from the strength of the relationships.” – Jim Calhoun

A Hall of Fame coach, Jim Calhoun is a renowned college basketball coach and analyst. He brought the University of Connecticut three NCAA championships over 26 years of coaching, and is one of only eight Division I coaches with over 800 wins. His ability to foster relationships with his players was one of his motivation techniques.

Jim believed winning and success came from relationships among the team and with his players. Strong relationships are a sign of a team’s investment within itself. Proactive and interested teammates don’t want to lose or play poorly, so they find the motivation to step up and try harder. Coaches who want to motivate their players and build their personal motivation can start by investing in individual relationships with players. People naturally want to work harder when they have a stake in a common goal. Motivation starts with a relationship.

Never Stop Trying

These coaches are famous for their dedication and ability to consistently push their teams to accomplish their goals. A coach may be able to motivate their players for important games and critical moments, but inspiring athletes to push themselves can help the team to achieve success.

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