Number: 78. Year: 4.  Place of edition: Barcelona, España Publisher: Juan Pablo Cervigni

(ISSN 2696-5151)

Numero de Visitas: 86

Author: Marta Tutić, sport psychologist (Serbia)

Motivation is a key determinant of behavior in any sport. It is a complex construct, with athletes having diverse and dynamic motives for initiating, directing, sustaining, and terminating effort. Athletes can be motivated by internal or external factors, or a combination of both, which may vary by context and time.

Achieving goals can become a powerful motivator in athete’s life. A lot of people live for reaching their goals. That need is their motivation to accomplish different challenging tasks effectively and quickly. Those athletes with a high need of achievement tend to work harder than their teammates without it and they are also more future oriented. Their plans include numerous goals and because of that they are able to delay gratification longer than others. As David McClelland, american psychologist, said achievement-based people tend to make sacrifices and make their goal their “life,” so they work around the things that may not be related to their sport, academia, or whatever they are motivated to do. They spend their time learning how to get better and be effective. Learning is a life-time process and it takes a lot of time and effort.

Psychology of motivation offers two types of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity for the pleasure and satisfaction derived from participation. Extrinsic motivation encompasses behaviors that are linked to a separable outcome, and comprises four behavioral regulations: integrated regulation includes behaviors that are congruent with an individual’s self and value system (for example basketball player who participates because sport involvement aligns with his values); identified regulation represents actions that are performed out of choice, though they are not attractive in and of themselves (for example football player who does strength work because, even though he does not like it, he understands it contributes to his performance); introjected regulation exists when a person internalizes, but does not endorse, external forces (for example gymnast who competes to avoid feeling guilty or ashamed); and lastly external regulation refers to behaviors that are regulated by external sources (for example swimmer who engages in training in order to get recognition from parents or coaches).

Extrinsic rewards are a elementary component in competitive sports. Extrinsic rewards, when used correctly, can be beneficial to athletes. However, overuse of extrinsic rewards can actually de-motivate athletes and negatively affect their performance. We can recognize athlete who has extrinsic motivation by seeing him or her competing because of trophies, medals or money.

Both coaches and parents should be aware of this fact and not to mix support with extrinsic rewards. Great tip for coaches, especially if they work with young athletes, is to make small competitions on every training session. For example, they can prepare exercises where kids will get „medals“ if they finish successfully 5 tasks in a row. What is also important for motivation of young athletes is to say out loud, in front of other kids, who won the medal today, to motivate others to be praised next time.

If athletes work on their intrinsic motivation, they will be better in focusing in the present moment, to be aware of what is happening „here and now“. It will allow athletes to maintain a consistent level of motivation through the season and they will be more focused during practise. It is important to mention that by working on athletes motivation, they will experience less stress when difficult times come and mistakes are made. Also they will stay in contact with their body and follow signs that their body is giving.

In sport psychology, social-environmental factors are of a high importance and they are called the motivational climate. Those factors are innumerable in the sport context, for example teammates, audience, sport structures… Following the logical sequence, the coach is considered to be one of the most important figures who builds motivational climate in the team. The coach is tasked to offer support and consider the perspectives of the athlete. Both helps athletes to be self-determined and adaptive.

The motivational climate has a strong influence on motivation, through its impact on the basic psychological needs of autonomy and competence. These needs are essential for psychological growth, integrity and well-being of athletes. While the competence is known as a belief that an individual can successfully accomplish a task, autonomy involves freely choosing an action that aligns with individual’s values and their connection with others.

It is not enough to be a good person and not good teammate. This is important for every athlete to be aware of. Being in a good relationship with teammates could help athletes both while ups and downs. Teammates are there to support and motivate eachother to be better then yesterday.

There is much evidence about associations between motivation and important outcomes in a range of life domains and aspects. Motivation is related to interest in performance, productivity and persistence in sport. Nowadays, there is a mainstream interest in athlete mental health, particularly at the elite level. Elite atheletes have privileged position is society and they experience huge amount of pressure on and off the field – from their family and friends and also from coaching staff and audience. Involvement in sport does not imply immunity from poor mental health and lack of resilience. Resilience is not something all of us are born with. It is something we have to develop through life. If athletes lack resilience, they might dwell on problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed with popularity and turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or substance use. Having all that in mind, we are sure that athletes are surely losing their motivation for sport and achievement.

The good news is that athletes could practise resilience on a daily basis. When coaches are preparing practice, they tend to make it interesting and a bit more difficult then the previous ones. Sport psychologist are there to help coaches be aware of space for improvement of every athlete and their level of frustration they can deal with. Every practice should be a little bit more frustrating for the athlete, in order to make it resilient.

It can be difficult to stay motivated throughout the competitive season. Depending on the sport, training session can be long, exhausting and monotonous. As season is lengthy, there are ups and downs through the year. Athletes invest a lot of time and energy to overcome different obstacles on the path to achieving their own and goals of the team. Most common obstacles are injuries, which increase pressure and discomfort. The basic goal for athletes is to challenge itself to the high level, so the pressure and discomfort of competition become a known entity. Elite athletes push in training to the point that competitions seem easier mentally and physically. By doing that, they are developing the mental toughness.

The most common question sport psychologist get from athletes, no matter which sport they are in, is how to stay motivated during the challenging periods. Some of the most important things are having a purpose and maintaining and improving concentration.

A purpose or a goal kept in athletes mind can give athletes a reason to put additional effort in practice, despite the challenges they face. It is important to find your „why“ and it can help you endure difficult circumstances.

Concentration and the ability to focus under pressure is what elite athletes do best. Pro athletes cannot afford to let distraction take over their mind and to make errors at critical times during the game or match.

One of the most important things for athlete is to create personally meaningful goals. Idea is to challenge yourself to improve one aspect of performance each practice or training session (technique, conditioning, physical skill or mental skill). Laddering or „chunking“ is a technique where we break down certain tasks into smaller units and try to fit them into the yearly plan. Smaller steps make it easy for athletes to see their progress, and seeing progress makes athletes want to keep going.

Their goals should be SMART, which means specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

When athletes set a goal, they should visualize it down to the details. Visualization helps people(athletes) to see the goal, feel it, hear the sounds that accompany the end result and success. Many researches shown that elite athletes visualize their performance ahead of time — right down to the smell of the sweat dripping down their face as they cross the finish line or when they score a goal. This is helpful because that’s the way to prepare for many possible scenarios that can happend at the field. Being mentally prepared helps athletes to stay focused on the game. In this way different obstacles cannot impact their performance.

Having all this said, here is an important take home messages for all the athletes(and their coaches): Work on your mental health, improve mental skills and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel you need it. Using the services of sport psychologists can significantly affect your performance. It is a life-time investment. Be aware of how you feel and what you feel and don’t be ashamed of your weeknesses, pay attention which signals your brain and body send you. Step by step and you will become more confident and you will enjoy playing your sport more. Confident player is a successful player, and vice versa.

Marta Tutić is a Sport Psychologist from Belgrade, Serbia under education in Gestalt psychotherapy. She implements knowledge from studies in psychology and Gestalt psychotherapy into work with athletes and coaches. She attended practise in the field of psychology in Italy and Spain.

“I see sport psychology as a challenge, because this segment of psychology is not developed enough in Serbia and I would like to make a positive change.”

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