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MOTIVATION & SOCCER PERFORMANCE
 
INTRODUCTION
 

In soccer, nothing can affect performance as dramatically as a sudden loss of motivation. Without the motivation to succeed a player cannot survive the challenges soccer can throw up. If the team or player is going through a bad patch then motivating your players becomes especially important. However, an overly motivated player may be nervous and take risks. This article attempts to look at motivation and suggest ways to help improve the motivational capacities of players.

 
THE MOTIVATIONAL PROCESS
 

In general we distinguish between, personal self-motivation (intrinsic) and motivation from the outside (extrinsic) by the coach, teammates, friends etc. By looking at the process of motivation, we can see how this influences performance. Human beings are motivated to do sport for several reasons;

A need to move & to play: To be active, expend excess energy & aggression, for self-fulfillment, to take risks, to satisfy curiosity, make use of the hunting and adventurous spirit...

Ambition & Recognition: Various motives are ambition (win competitions), outside recognition (from fans, family, teammates...), playing in front of an audience, sociability and social standing...

Overall, the motives and needs of players are guided by two basic factors, the hope of success and fear of failure with experience generally showing that the former plays the major role in motivating players.

Every player has a dream in soccer and some players pursue their dreams and expect to achieve them through renewed hard work and dedication. Obstacles are seen as a challenge and each setback as a call for more effort to improve and overcome these problems. This type of player is intrinsically self-motivated as their desire to succeed comes from within themselves.

However, many players, often technically and physically good enough to succeed, fall by the wayside due to a lack of self-belief to fulfill their dreams or the willingness to spend the necessary time on the pitch or in the gym.

Generally, it is easier to work with highly motivated players as they only need decent objectives, the environment and ability to concentrate as well as good technical, tactical and physical coaching. However, these players still need to be looked after as they may become frustrated and bored if they do not meet their goals or keep their performances up to expected standards.

For players who are under motivated, the coach needs firstly to convince and motivate these athletes to believe they can succeed and secondly that only hard work will lead to success.

 
MOTIVATING THE TEAM/PLAYER
 

There is no perfect method for motivating players as this changes from individual to individual and can depend on the current situation, such as the team's position in the league. The following points suggest various ways to help motivate and sustain motivation in your players:

Balanced & interesting training: A disorganised and unbalanced training session can demotivate players from giving their best. Plan well ahead and cater for the individual groups' and team's needs. Remember variety is the spice of life ! Training should be both mentally and physically stimulating. For players who are often substitutes, keeping them motivated is difficult. Try for example to have a weekly game in which the head coach works solely with the substitutes and an assistant coach works with the first-team but don't at any time put distance between the players.

Setting objectives (Goal setting): Is useful as it allows players to have something to aim at through a pre-defined plan to compare their progress at different steps over a period of time. However, the effects of motivation depends on how attractive the goal is. Also objectives that are too easy will lead to players being either overconfident and careless or if too difficult, players will approach them with low confidence and hesitancy. Try developing a goal setting plan with daily, medium and long-term goals.

Be enthusiastic, positive, honest and supportive: Your enthusiasm and positivity will rub off on players. Mention the positive actions rather than the negative actions as often as possible. Be honest about performance and be firm when making a point about areas that need improvement. Offer suggestions on how to improve. Do not embarrass your players but do tell them what you think !

Encouragement: Encourage fun and hard work in the training or competition. Always encourage players when they are successful and unsuccessful and avoid complacency.

Be supportive, confident and respective: Remind them that they win as a team and lose as a team. Always be ready to listen to your players worries and questions. Accept them for who they are and for what they give to the team. Respect your players and they will respect you. Give credit where it is due focusing mainly on the team as a whole and accept some responsibility for a loss. Remind them that we all make mistakes and will learn from them.

Get to know your players and speak to them individually on a regular basis. Compliment them on aspects of their game and mentioning areas they need to work in can help to further motivate them.

Change of face: Players can get bored of the same old faces! Try bringing in new coaches with fresh and different ideas, perhaps even on a short term basis.

Imagery & Motivation: Players can use imagery to mentally rehearse a variety of aspects, like focusing on overcoming a technical weakness or mentally preparing for a match. Relaxation helps as players are more motivated when they realise that they can control stress and anxiety.

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