Coach’s Log, Entry 9: Motivation and Small Victories
May 4, 2022
As I wrote on one of our social media posts yesterday, Yes, we need to know how to celebrate small victories so we can build on them and conquer greater challenges.
But too many of us are attached to definite outcomes, which are often too big to see clearly.
And as coaches, we know the importance of progression to skill development. We understand that breaking a skill into smaller parts makes learning it easier and safer. Why then do we not apply that logic to other aspects of life? At the very least, why don’t we use this tried and tested practice in other parts of our coaching?
I think the answer to that question lies in external motivations. Pressure to succeed within a limited timeframe, for example, can lead many to focus on the goal and ignore the process.
Most gyms and coaches operate as businesses having to make sense of their bottom line and provide progress reports to clients and investors.
Please know that I do not intend to judge these reasons. As a business owner in other sectors, I also have to balance the money side of things with my operations.
What I will say, however, is that we have to block out some of the outside noise for the benefit of our athletes. And we have to do this strategically to maintain order in all aspects of our sport.
But more on this later.
Why Should We Celebrate Small Victories Properly?
And I ask this question emphasising the properly part of it.
This idea is about motivation, more importantly, leading your athletes to find their own motivations.
Some Achievement goal theories explains that “an individual’s internal sense of ability can be conceived as high or low in relation to his or her past performance, or judged as a capacity relative to others.”
In other words, an athlete’s perception of their competence is heavily determined by their evaluation of how they did on a previous turn.
Here is some light reading on that.
Video game designers know this and use it to motivate longer and more involved playtime. They accomplish this by making the first level easy to complete and gradually increasing the difficulty of each subsequent level.
This slight and gradual increase in difficulty and reward makes each next level appear more achievable, motivating us to continue playing.
The University of Pittsburgh published a research paper pointing to video games as tools to boost motivation in educational settings.
You can read it here.
Now, and this is when the properly part comes into play, observing the principles of Achievement theories can also help you facilitate learning for your athletes.
For some of us, motivation is in our self-assessment of our skills and the utility we find in the behaviours associated with them.
Still, for others, motivation is relative to the rewards or recognition we receive from the behaviours associated with our development.
Take time to investigate and understand how small victories motivate your athletes and help them celebrate them accordingly.
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As I wrote in the post mentioned earlier, all we have are the small steps that lead us to glory. And that may read as hyperbole, but it’s true. In any area of learning and development, we need to trust the process before the outcome.
Confident steps will get us to our destination, but insecure people cannot walk confidently.
Knowing that we take the proper steps and in the right direction ensures that we walk safely and securely. And celebrating forward movement well makes us want to continue moving towards the goal set out before us. It makes the process more enjoyable.
Of course, and again, this is why we need to remember the properly caveat, all celebrations of small victories must be honest. Undeserved praise will have adverse effects and more often than not create dangerous circumstances for the athletes in your charge.
Thank you for reading.
— Coach José