Motivation: Fuel For Success. Find it, Keep it, Build it

October 15, 2019 0 Comments


          Athletes try to motivate teammates through their own hard work in the pool, on the field, court, or in the weight room by using encouraging “fire up” words, and/or pep talks. The idea of motivating others may work for the short-term but the affect tends to wear off especially when athletes are faced with situations where they are stretched outside their comfort zone or they fail. There is also the motivational impact that goal-setting makes to create an extrinsic reward which can help athletes create intrinsic meaning. Most of the time without appropriate goal setting practices that impact wears off after the goal has been reached.

The reality is that you cannot motivate anyone but yourself beyond a superficial level. Each person has their own basic psychological needs that need to be met (Self-Determination Theory, Deci and Ryan 2002). The ultimate target is to promote a sense of vitality and well-being through three areas:

The need for autonomy (choice):

The word choice means, in this context, that athletes understand they have a say in how they execute in their sport and in their role.

The need for relatedness (connection):

If the culture of the sport and team is one that provides a time and place for open and honest communication, every one thrives. Connection with others in an athletes support team also helps tremendously in continuous pursuit of goals.

The need for competence (knowledge): 

Gaining knowledge about one’s position on the team, their role, and how to play and compete in the game all lead to growth in ability, confidence, and intrinsic motivation. 

There is a difference between pursuing goals and living a mission. The mission drives athletes to train harder, focus longer, and beat all odds. The mission may take longer to reach than goals, so it is important to set goals that are actionable.


Starter guide to establishing the mission:

  • What values and qualities do you see in the most elite athletes?
  • How could you operate by those values and qualities on a daily basis?
  • In what ways could you interact with others?
  • What legacy would you like to leave in your sport for yourself and your team?
  • Combine your values, qualities, and legacy into a short statement or an acronym (example: R.A.I.D.E.R.S. Rise Above with Intensity, Determination, Endurance, Resilience, and Strength).

Actionable goals may include a long-term vision that is then broken down into short-term action steps that focus on the execution of improvement and competition. Sharing goals with an athlete support team can also improve the connection and relatedness an athlete feels with those involved around them to feed more internal drive. Finding the right balance of inclusion and collaboration is a huge boost to motivation since nothing can be achieved alone.


Author: Brian Alexander | Date Published: 10/15/2019

Brian Alexander, MA, CMPC is a mental coach and co-founder of WellU Mental Training. He works with the USA Men’s Water Polo team and in private practice with athletes, coaches, and teams at the youth, high school, collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels in sport. Please visit to download the WellU app and start your mental training program.

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