Sport Psychology – Motivation: How Do We Harness It?

London Life Coach & Sports Performance Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about motivation. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

After the London Olympics in 2012, the demand for sports psychology has dramatically increased enabling me to work with some fabulous individuals in this arena. I love the variety in my job and the fact that although I spend 75% of my time dealing with clinical issues and life coaching, I am also stretched to develop coaching talents in new areas. If you have read my first article for City Connect in this field you will know that I have been working in Sports psychology for a number of years now, triggered by my love of rowing and tennis which both tend to get a tad competitive. I have received a number of questions about this field, than you to the readers and your interest. I will endeavour to answer a few of them below.

Should I keep something in reserve?

I understand why you have asked this question as it could be seen as tactical advantage to pull out the stops at the end however the short answer is if I was your coach, I would say definitely not – give it your all from the very start.

There is a good scene in a film called “Gattica” where the protagonist was asked how he managed to defy his genetics and out swim his brother (who was genetically superior in every way) to a rock in the middle of the sea. His answer was simple. He stated he never saved any energy for the swim back. His mental concentration and commitment to getting to the rock first enabled him to give 110% because he was not saving himself for anything else.

It is commonly said in the Sport Psychology arena that results do not yield themselves to the person who refuses to give himself to the desired results.

In fact a person might be considered a ‘hold out’ if they are keeping something in reserve. Which in itself doesn’t seem so harsh but when evaluated, it has been said such ‘hold outs’ lack the motivation to invest themselves 100% in competition and therefore do not achieve their highest attainable goal or performance. With that definition to the label, you can now see why keeping something in reserve is not the aim of the game in high level competition, you really do have to give it your all.

What motivates people?

The component under analysis here is human potential and the inner motivation or drive to make productive use of  both one’s genetic potential (i.e stature, gender, IQ etc..) and one’s acquired potential (i.e knowledge, experience, skills etc.) As we saw above with the “Gattica” example inner motivation can override acquired potential if the will is strong enough.

Motivation itself comes in two forms – inner and outer.  Inner motivation is the natural inner drive or urge to use the talents and knowledge we possess to achieve far in excess of what others believe to be possible by utilising all the gifts we have been given, with the skills and knowledge acquired and an unshakeable believe and drive in oneself. Whereas outer motivation is where someone motivates someone else – perhaps a coach or cheerleaders or fans even agents/managers providing bonuses etc.  Motivation can also be based on fear or reward but this too is outer motivation as it is not coming from a place within but an external set of circumstances.

Three elements that make up a person’s potential are talent, information and self-motivation. If you have the know-how, and you have a good sports coach all you need is internal motivation and your goal will become easier to grasp.

I look forward to writing more about Sport Psychology as I have been asked to produce a series of articles for this category, but I would also like to add that Sport Psychology does also lend itself to daily life and the working world and can be adapted for every area that you desire to achieve a goal in even if not a sport.

If you wish to pose a question about your particular sport or an aspect of it then either put a comment below, contact me directly or submit an anonymous question through our Q+A page.

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