Motivation: Considerations for Fitness and Coaching Professionals

Motivation: More than Don't Give up! Motivation is defined as direction and intensity of effort – does a person seek out, approach, have attraction to situations and how much effort they put forth in particular situations. There are three main views of motivation, trait-centered, situation-centered, and an interactional view. I like this definition – people often tell me I must be really motivated because of all the things I take on and accomplish, like working full-time, being in grad school, teaching dance, and competing in weightlifting all at the same time, but I don’t necessarily feel “motivated” I just want to do things so I do them, I think I thought of “motivated” as being passionate, and I am not always passionate about all the things I do all of the time, (I am passionate about all of the things but don’t feel that way every second of the journey) but I guess I am definitely motivated in that I approach the situation and put forth the effort to achieve in each scenario.

I really like the guidelines for building motivation, that we need to know that participants are motivated by both internal traits and by situations, that we need to understand their motives for involvement, that we must structure the situation to meet their needs, that as a coach I play a critical role in creating a motivational environment, and that we can use behavior modification to change undesirable participant motives. In my experience as a fitness instructor and rehab specialist it’s definitely true that people are motivated by different things and as a coach I have to tailor the environment to where people are at. For example, some people only want to feel like they got a ‘workout’ some want to focus on wellness and overall health, some only focus on their performance, some just want basic mobility and to not lose mobility as they age. It’s also important to have a realistic view of motivation and realize what other factors influence behavior so we know when motivational factors can readily be changed.

Some people have an achievement motivation and want to master the task, achieve excellence, overcome obstacles, and feel proud of themselves; others are competitive and strive for satisfaction against a standard of excellence in the presence of evaluative others. This is important for coaches to understand and to encourage people to have more of an achievement motivation.

There are different theories of achievement motivation, need achievement theory, attribution theory, achievement theory, and competence motivation theory and I think all have something to offer in terms of us helping to understand others and ourselves. Some people believe that their ability is fixed and doesn’t change with effort and others believe that with incremental goals they can change their ability – I think the second view is healthier; while we may have a limit to our potential, it’s probably more than we think and thinking that working hard will never change anything is pretty unhealthy. Social goal-orientation – that our competence is based on social acceptance is fascinating and I think it’s a huge factor. I find it such a different experience to lift weights with people who are less strong than me (where I am seen as an expert who is crazy strong) versus with people who are way stringer than me (where I feel like the newbie!)

There are differences between high achievers and low achievers in the types of goals and attribute successes and failures differently. I wonder how much of the attribution orientation influences success or how much being naturally talent affects the way one makes attributions etc. It seems to me that it likely works symbiotically and that a good attitude helps you achieve, which then keeps you attitude positive and focused, which helps you achieve more, etc.

Research suggests that achievement motivation develops over the lifespan from the autonomous stage, to social comparison, to an integrated stage. You can see this with kids for sure and definitely some adults are still working on the integrates stage and have a healthy balance in terms of knowing when comparison is appropriate.

Learned helplessness, or viewing failure as internal, stable, and having no control over it, is unfortunately something you see sometimes. It’s really sad because people basically think, ‘I suck, I will always suck, and there’s nothing I can do about it.’ With support, this view can be changed though, which is good.

Applications of the material in this chapter for coaches includes:

–       recognize interactional influences on achievement motivation

–       emphasize task goals over achievement goals

–       monitor and provide appropriate attributional feedback

–       teach participants to make appropriate attributions

–       discuss appropriately competition, social comparison, and self-reference

–       facilitate perceptions of competence and control

To learn more, review the following programs:

Spencer Institute Sports Psychology Coach Certification

Wexford University Masters Degree in Applies Sport & Fitness Psychology

Wexford University Doctoral Degree in Sport Psychology

by Martha Munroe