22 Guidelines for Motivation and the Coach: A Sunday Read

Yesterday and today I have been reading William Warren’s Coaching and Motivation: A Practical Guide to Maximum Athletic Performance from 1984!  It amazes me how some books will never go out of date.  The book outlines various guidelines for coaching, motivation, discipline, rewards, & tough situations that may arise when coaching athletes.  Here are 22 guidelines that are described that hit home with me and can help understand various situations, even the ones that may be frustrating.

Guidelines for the Coach

1.  Be motivated yourself: you have no more right to expect much from your athletes to be self motivated without the example of coach’s motivation and hard work.  Coach George Allen stated how he has never known a coaching situation  in which  the assistant coaches outworked the head coach.

2.  Think positively: If you already have a thriving program you have every reason in the world to think positively.  If not, our thoughts & actions must be guided by a dream  of what we hope to accomplish, a belief in the ability to build.  Every coach (for a sport in this case) should have to go through a losing season because it can serve valuable purposes such as pointing out your weaknesses and will test your commitment.  If you intend to stay in coaching, you can’t give up.

3. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid  to use new or different approaches to motivation: Use whatever technique will reach your players.  Techniques for success: if it works use it.

4.  Control yourself: if you expect controlled performances from your players, you must retain enough self-control in pressure situations to deal with problems rationally.  If you feel compelled to use profanity – use it for its shock value not as a way of life.

*Coach Brian Kelly screamed at his players multiple times during that game.  He has since apologized and his players have responded by dominating Michigan State yesterday.  Let’s make it clear that I will never speak of Notre Dame on this blog again.  Go Blue!

5.  Don’t cheat or look for shortcuts to success in your coaching: If this is the example you set, expect your players to do the same. The level of performance is set by the coach.  Do not expect players to be as motivated as a coach is.

6.  Be organized: organization in itself is a form of motivation.  Young athletes especially need guidance, leadership, and professionalism that is evidenced in the coach’s efforts to be organized.

7.  Talk to swimming and track coaches about motivation: I never heard of this one before but he states that anyone who can motivate youngsters to get up at 5a.m. every morning to swim 5-7 miles must know something about motivation.

8.  Be consistent in your relations with your players:  Does not mean to treat all players alike but that all athletes have the right to fair treatment for whatever situation.  Be up front, open, and honest with all your athletes and do not show favoritism which will breakdown the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Abraham Lincoln’s advice: “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their confidence and esteem.  It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

9.  Avoid forming hasty (or permanent) negative opinions of players: enough said.

10.  Don’t treat all athletes alike. Find out who you can push and who requires some pulling:  Personalities and their motivations vary widely. Some thrive on praise while a compliment to another signals that it is alright to stop hustling.  Some need sharp criticism while others may collapse to criticism.

11.  Never be too busy to listen to your athletes.  Communication is two-way street:  if you expect 100 percent from athletes in the weightroom, court, or field then they deserve the same commitment from the coach.  Talk it out.

12.  Always be on the lookout for team leaders:  Especially with the off-ice training we have at Pennsauken, the team leaders are the ones that will eventually lead the warm-ups, hopefully gauge team mood, or let the coach know of problems. Good leaders can simplify the coaches tasks.  Everyone benefits.

13.  Regardless of how hard you drive your players, treat them with dignity and respect.  Don’t rob them of their pride.

14.  Appeal to players’ pride:  Pride grows out of a sense of accomplishment.  If athletes take pride in their performance the coach can motivate them more toward achieving that optimal performance

15.  The best motivator is love: Not that kind of love you sicko!  But seriously this time, young athletes need guidance and a sense of belonging that grows from a coach’s personal and professional behavior.  Do not treat athletes like merchandise or a means to an end.  We owe our athletes to be there for them.

16.  Never offer athletes money, gifts, or material incentive for performances:  It is one thing to take an athlete or group of athletes out to food after a long off-season of training hard.  However, in the college setting this is obviously illegal and may come off as a bribe to work hard.

17.  Start your motivational program early: you cannot just turn on your motivation when you want to. Be consistent from the start

18.  Build your program around players you can motivate–that is, around players who are loyal to their teammates, program, and coach:  This applies to our in-season off-ice training.  You want athletes who are going to contribute to the team’s success whether by their skills or their positive attitudes.  It is all about their attitude.

19.  Stress total effort and striving for excellence in everything you do.  Motivate on a short-term basis for physical effort and mental concentration.

20.  Set high, but realistic, expectations for yourself and your athletes:  Every athlete should be exposed to the thought of “you can do more than you think you can.”  I can’t and I’ll try are comments that make a world of difference.

21.  Outline goals clearly:  If your goals are unclear, the athletes will not know what they are being motivated to do.  Set expectations.

22.  Don’t take all of the fun our of playing the game or training: Fun is a sense of enjoyment and personal satisfaction derived from improving skills, indulging in competitive drills, and accomplishing team goals.  Fun is not necessarily messing around without rules or unstructured training sessions/practices.

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3 replies

  1. Matt,
    I love this! I just resent it to a bunch a people—along with Conor. I think it’s great for athletes to read as well. It lets them know what it takes to be a leader and how to help themselves and their teammates.
    Great stuff!
    Cristi Landrigan


  1. Articles. « Killsession Musings

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