Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Motivation - an alternative to a carrot and stick...

Rewards - what works with adolecent athletes?

How important is success to young athletes?  When it comes motivating young athletes, how much does being on the podium really motivate them to continue on and pursue life as an athlete of their own passion and volition?  How many times have we seen young athletes with incredible talent and ability decide being an athlete is not really what works for them?  How is long term success linked to early success?  All great questions...
Some of my recent reading and watching have made me reconsider long held beliefs about the value of extrinsic motivators.  I've come to rethink why, when, how, and for whom we provide rewards.  As an Educator, Coach, Consultant, Facilitator and Learner, I 've begun to question the appropriate balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.  The culture we create in our classrooms and during our practices is affected by the motivation system we set up.  We can think carefully about what we're doing or not - I prefer to think carefully.
Dan Pink's Ted Talks presentation tells us that in case after case of business studies, environments that provide autonomy, mastery, and purpose outperform carrot and stick businesses by a huge margin.  According to Pink, its a question of compliance vs engagement  Autonomy refers to the urge to direct our own lives.  Mastery refers to the desire to get better and better at something that matters.  Purpose refers to the idea that we do something in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Dan Pink, speaking to the Puzzle of Motivation - Ted Talks Oxford
Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. Can we apply these ideas to our classroom or our practices? Ya, of course. Truly engaged athletes have ownership of their training program. They want input into what is happening with them. As adoloscents, are athletes ready to direct their own training program? probably not, but adolescents are very ready to make choices for themselves - its how they wired. They want and need increasing amounts of control over their lives - particularly from their family. As coaches can we provide them with autonomy - yes, we can. Autonomy means giving responsibility for doing the work and recognizing the effort that is shown. It means providing them with opportunities for self direction. Are adolescent athletes ready for mastery at 12 or 13 years of age? How do we give young athletes the opportunity to develop the desire to get better and better at something? Maybe by providing them a clear picture of what mastery looks like. Maybe by providing performance benchmarks for them to strive to achieve. How do create a space where kids get the idea that they are doing something that is in service of something larger than ourselves? Good question. In an individual sport where success is measured as individuals, maybe we can focus our energy on team outcomes, team culture, social engagement.
Motivation is central to long term success.  As Dan Pink points out, environments where autonomy, mastery, and purpose are supported, performance is greatly enhanced.  Can we do this in our coaching environments - oh ya.  We can. 
Roy Strum
Canmore, AB

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