What is motivation? Motivation is the driving force behind actions. For example a car will not move without gasoline and humans will not act without motivation. There are many different levels of motivation and ideally we want to teach our gymnasts how to self motivate. As coaches we want the best for our athletes but at the end of the day they need to want it for themselves.
Understanding the different levels of motivation will help with your coaching approach.
Progression is a great motivator; athletes want to see they are progressing in the sport they love. Sit down with your gymnasts, measure progress and access goals. You want to help them see their growth. The better they get the more enjoyable the sport becomes. Visual training aids are great tools. I worked with a young gymnast who was nervous about connecting her round off back handspring on floor but she could complete the connection on tumble track. Each time she made the connection on the tumble track she would have to add a marble into a jar. At the end of a few weeks she had over 100 marbles in the jar, which made her feel confident in her abilities. A week later she had her connection on floor.
Control is also a big factor in motivation. When athletes feel a sense of control their motivation is enhanced. The moment they feel a loss, motivation is diminished. As coaches we need to help our athletes with what they can control such as attitude and effort in practice. Helping them understand the whys behind each activity will also help them feel more in control. Have your gymnasts create a list with two columns: “Love to do” and “Have to do”.
Teaching these mental skills will help gymnasts succeed in school, sports, and life. The more opportunities they have to practice self motivation the easier it will be for them to stay positive and determined when faced with different obstacles. We have to remember, each gymnast is unique in what motivates him or her. As coaches, we want to identify how we can encourage and bring out the best in each of gymnasts so he or she can reach their fullest potential.
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