It has long been discussed in the training industry that part of our job is to motivate people.  It is proposed that people pay us to provide them with the motivation to achieve their goals.  I am going on record right here to say that I don’t motivate people.  In fact, I stopped trying to do so for a few years now.  Does that make me a bad coach?  Does that make me less valuable?  That’s not for me to decide, rather that’s a decision for my clients (or prospective ones).

What is motivation?  Motivation can be defined as “providing with a reason to act in a certain way.”  In practical terms, motivation is desire.  It is the fire that fuels great performances, outstanding victories, persistence, perseverance, drive, determination.  Motivation is the strength and character that allows people to overcome adversity, setbacks, and disappointments.  Motivation is the cornerstone of success for every great athlete and athletic achievement.

What most people think is motivation is usually inspiration.  Motivation comes from within, whereas inspirations is an external source.  Everyone has their own motivations.  They have an internal reason for all that they want to achieve.  In athletics it may be because they felt bullied or made to feel less than in their youth.  It may be to prove others wrong, the proverbial chip on the shoulder.  Sometimes it is to thank a family member for their unending support.  For others it is simply the money and lifestyle.  As a coach, we must understand that everyone already has their own motivations to achieve their goals, so it is not about providing motivation, rather than activating them to tap into those motivations.

In my previous blogs I have spoken about the human element to coaching, and I will re-inforce this again today.  We are not teaching machines, we are teaching people.  To help activate your clients/players, you have to find out who they are and where they are coming from.  What have they seen in the past?  What do they respect?  What don’t they respect?  When we truly understand where the client/player is coming from, we can gain insight on what truly motivates them, and then come up with a plan on how best to activate that motivation.

I have found that external rewards only work in the very short term (if at all) for inspiring people.  Deep down, people don’t want “things” or “stuff” as rewards.  For many, a simple acknowledgement of their effort or praise is what truly inspires them.  Other focus on goals and are numbers oriented.  How you coach these two individuals is very different.  Within a team setting, using a one size fits all approach simply will not work.  The coach must work to know how to reach each and every one of his players.  There must be a strategy specific to each.  That is a lot of effort, but it is the best way to get extract the most out of each person.

You cannot motivate anyone, only create a context in which they can display their motivation.  The coach’s role is to create the environment and provide the opportunity for the athlete to express their motivation.  The coach’s role is to unleash the fire.

So this is why I have bucked the motivation trend.  Trying to provide it and using your valuable energy on it is a waste of time.  Don’t spend your time swimming upstream.  Learn how to unleash the inner desires or your charges and you will reap the rewards.


Shane Pizzey