It's important to know the phases of motivation and how they typically change during the season. This is important for coaches and athlete to understand so they don't get burned out. You want to stay fresh and continue learning all season long. Obviously you may have days where you are low on motivation and dips in the season where you are tired and stressed out and may need a break. Talking to your coach and parents when this happens is important. Squash is the best sport, but is also very physically and mentally demanding so we need to have lots of fun and easy and relaxed times.
Okay, so here are the typical phases of motivation. They of course can vary from person to person and I feel the coach has a lot to do with this.
Phases of Motivation: Sustaining Motivation Across the Season
- Fresh Start: beginning of a season or fresh macrocycle, motivation is typically high.
- The Hard-Work: as training is adjusting, the fatigue and soreness can reduce motivation.
- The Second Wind: have adapted to the tough training so they feel a sense of accomplishment. Motivation is generally higher.
- The Quiet Determination: Increased self-worth and self-efficacy because of the mental toughness shown over their training (and physical exertion).
- The Last Kick to the Finish: motivation is high because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The tournament is fast approaching and increases their motivation.
Here are some tips for coaches. These are ways you can keep your athletes engaged and enjoying their squash.
A Coach's List: Sustaining Motivation Across the Season
- The athletes needs to understand what motivation is and what motivates them.
- The athletes needs to understand that motivation fluctuates.
- The athletes needs to prepare themselves to deal with fluctuations in motivation.
- Proper nutrition and rest (especially during low levels of motivation).
- Empower the athlete. Possibly have unscheduled “fun/activity days” or 1 wild card per month where they can pick what they want to do at practice.
- Plan rest days (or week) in each macrocycle.
- Avoid using too many (expected and contingent) external rewards.
- Have your athlete keep a journal to monitor their motivation levels.
- Mental training sessions, with some light technical work, video modeling, or other non-physically exerting training.
- Positive affirmations.
- Being able to read your athletes (body language).
- Use a variety of techniques in training/practice to keep things fresh.
- Use mini-games instead to increase the enjoyment of practices.
- Be positive and energizing as a coach.
- Proper use of goal setting (regular assessment and adjustment).
- Develop short term goals that build up to bigger, long term goals.
- Athletes will be more motivated if they can achieve a challenging goal.
- Individual scheduled meetings with athletes.
- And most important in my humble opinion is to focus on the process of performance (not the outcomes). Some people get motivated from a bad loss while others don't and want to avoid future competition. This is where you need to know how your athlete responds to competition and how you can keep them motivated regardless of their competitive performances.
I hope this list gives you some ideas on how you can increase your or your athletes motivation. It is so much more enjoyable to coach a motivated athlete. When the athlete is motivated being a squash coach is not really a job anymore. So learn how to motivate yourself and your athletes and you will love playing and/or coaching that much more!