Coaches kill motivation and confidence in sports

Coaches dream of working with highly driven, talented athletes. Motivation and confidence in sports doesn’t automatically happen; it’s nurtured. The best coaches can skillfully transform a group of individual athletes into a working, functional team. Unfortunately, some coaches mistakenly take team development for granted. They fail to realize coaching is a craft. When used correctly, it has the potential to transform an athlete into a champion.

Coaches don’t control an athlete’s level of motivation and confidence in sports. Coaches do, however, influence the team culture. They encourage certain qualities which help set the stage for greatness. Exceptional coaches are masterful at bringing out the best in their athletes.

Mixed messages are confusing

Cues are constantly sent by coaches telling the team what’s okay and what’s not. You’d be surprised at how frequently the spoken and unspoken messages conflict. When that happens, the unspoken messages become dominant. It’s a survival mechanism for our brains to naturally notice when something’s not aligned.

I’ve worked with many coaches who are confused about why their athletes aren’t more engaged. These coaches strongly believe they’re motivating the team. In reality those coaches are unknowingly killing team spirit.

Motivation and Confidence Killers

Coaches are expected to deliver results. They get frustrated when athletes aren’t highly engaged. Then they form conclusions about “athletes today.” Finding fault with someone else doesn’t resolve the issue; it only magnifies the problem.

Which motivation and confidence killers are interfering with your team’s performance?

Here are 7 ways coaches kill motivation and confidence in sports

  1. Poor communication. Is there a communication breakdown? Athletes become highly frustrated when the coach tells them what to change, but not how to get it done. When change fails to happen fast enough, the coach mistakenly concludes that athlete is not paying attention.  Quieter athletes will avoid asking for further instruction from intimidating coaches.
  2. Emphasis on negativity. Constantly focusing on all that’s wrong kills motivation and confidence in sports. Negativity spreads like a disease. Think about when you’re sick. You’re body is using lots of energy to fight the germs so you can quickly return to wellness. Negativity has that same impact on the team.
  3. Reality. Athletes are less motivated when no one is asking them what they want. Get your athletes together to create a team vision. Defining the big picture as a team gives them something to rally around together.
  4. Fluff. Don’t add in drills and techniques just to fill time. Your athletes are busy people. Value their time. Build efficient and stimulating skill development exercises into your training program.
  5. Old school. After awhile repetition loses effectiveness. The way we learn has changed. Learning is now faster paced with plenty of stimulation. Traditional coaching, with minimal variety and engagement, is old school.  Discouraging problem solving, avoiding risk and punishing failure is a mistake.
  6. Risk adverse. Alienating athletes for any reason sends a strong message to your team not to take risks or step outside the box. Close minded coaches don’t want to hear your ideas. This kills motivation, confidence and initiative. On the other hand, engagement soars when the coach encourages collaboration and innovation.
  7. Minimal recognition. No one likes being taken for granted. It causes apathy. Athletes want to know their coach genuinely cares about them. Each athlete wants to know they matter. Acknowledge each athletes hard work and effort (and remember to call them by their name.)
Good coaches inspire motivation and confidence in sports Photo by Thomson200

Good coaches inspire motivation and confidence in sports
Photo by Thomson200

Good coach / bad coach

Good coaches take their job seriously, while never taking their athletes for granted. The years dedicated to mastering their craft cause motivation and confidence building to appear easy. Too often coach is the only positive person some of their athletes know.

Bad coaches who constantly criticize, ridicule and humiliate fail to realize the long term scars they’re creating. Their harsh words and off-hand comments can have a life-long lasting impact. Coaching is not a license for abuse.

Your best choice

If you recognized any of these team spirit killers with your coach, you have three choices.

  1. Acceptance. Recognize all you have control over is your actions and your attitude. You can’t control anyone else. If you’re unable to change the situation, then you can decide to accept things as they are.
  2. Expectations. Another option is to lower your expectations to reduce disappointment.
  3. Leave. Great athletes do not stick around long in unhealthy, restrictive situations.

Coaches have a responsibility to their athletes. Teaching plays and technical skills is not enough. That information is now freely found on the internet. The human touch is what continues to matter. The ability to listen, guide and inspire is priceless. Athletes will dig deep once they know how much you care. Motivation and confidence in sports multiplies when athletes trust their coach.

Challenge: Do you recognize some of these destructive behaviors? If so, then what are you willing to do? How can you impact change?

People can lead from any position on the team. You may be in a difficult situation, but you still have options. Decide how you can be part of the solution.

What has helped you build motivation and confidence in sports? Interested in hearing your experience.

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