How to motivate a team effectively is a skill critical for anyone working with sporting teams. Achieving excellence in sport requires more than technical ability. You need to cultivate the right attitude – a winning mindset – and the first step is to boost self-awareness.
No two people are motivated (or discouraged) by exactly the same combination of factors, so we cannot assume that one engagement strategy will resonate with all team members.
Whilst individual athletes may have their own unique preparation strategies, support staff play a central role in identifying and managing relationships between the different personal styles presented within teams and must work collectively to adapt training styles to suit everyone's needs.
Knowledge is power
Beyond discipline, commitment and innate ability, the key to high performance in sport lies in mental strength and yet for some, there is still a lack of understanding of exactly how their mind can affect their route to success. How can our unique psychological traits make the difference between showing up for a race and winning it?
Knowledge is power, especially if you need to tackle underperformance or low morale. The more you know and understand your team, the more chance you have of making improvements which could be the difference between gold and silver medal performances.
Being able to accurately identify strengths and how to nurture them could give someone the edge. Identifying specific behavioural limitations that might be preventing someone from achieving their potential could transform their performance. Understanding an athlete's preferred communication style could help you to communicate your corrective requirements in the style that each person understands and reacts positively to.
Dual-ownership of performance
If you work alongside your athletes to identify their own personal characteristics and establish how they're likely to behave under pressure, you can empower them to self-manage and even self-motivate, because they will truly understand what can help or hinder them.
Many people have a tendency to dictate what is right or wrong with someone's attitude, behaviour or performance, guiding someone to the point of telling them what to do. While this approach may work for some, it certainly doesn't satisfy everyone. The answer? Dual-ownership of performance.
The feeling of trust that is created when athletes are given control over their own performance is one of the most powerful drivers of motivation for both individual athletes and teams.
We are strong believers in the power of trust. If an athlete or team feels trusted by those around them, it is likely that they will feel empowered to prove that this trust is well placed. It’s a simple equation; the more trust there is in a relationship, the higher the motivation levels.
The process of building trust again leads back to an understanding. This is where digging deeper is essential, as it can uncover emotional traits within individuals that could give you critical information about how they may respond to you as a coach, leader or captain.
Put simply, a coach that can relate to their team and understand what drives and motivates them has all the tools they need to take a team from good to great.