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This blog post is taken from a short animation and accompanying support guide for coaches produced by UK Coaching (formerly sports coach UK) and Sport England.
To help you keep the young people you coach engaged in sport and activity, it is essential to:
This blog post and associated animation above aim to give you some initial ideas of what you can do as a coach linked to the three steps above.
So what is motivation?
Motivation can be described as the reason for our behaviour. There is always a reason why people do everything. Sometimes, when you ask people what motivates them, they may actually tell you what their goal is instead. Motivations and goals are sometimes confused with each other.
Here is an example to show the difference:
Goal is a person’s objective, ambition, aim or desired result (eg to run a half marathon or lose 20 pounds).
Motivation is the reason for acting or behaving in a particular way, a stimulus or inspiration (eg to be fitter or more active, or to feel good about themselves).
When asked why they take part in sport or activity, research shows young people often give the following reasons:
Everyone is different and will therefore have different reasons for taking part based on different experiences, personality, and lifestyle factors including family and friends. Young people can have more than one motivation at the same time.
Further research from Sport England shows that how active a young person is depends on how they either think or feel about sport. Deciding to take part is generally a mixture of emotional influences and thought out choices.Every young person thinks and feels differently about sport. Often, it can be a combination of both emotional and rational reasons that help them decide whether to take part.
Emotional – someone who loves doing sport – they have a more intrinsic and unconscious reaction to sport and exercise.
Rational – someone who recognises the benefits of doing sport – often, why they take part has been well considered and thought through.
Motivation can change or dip over time. A dip in motivation may mean the reason for taking part is less important than it may have been previously.
Another likely scenario is their reason for taking part might have changed. For example, a young person might have started coming to your session to meet new people, but after a while, when confidence builds, they might want to start getting better and learn new skills.
Steps to deliver a meaningful session
1 Find out why young people turn up to your session
Young people take part for lots of different reasons. The first important thing you can do as a coach is to understand the different motivations of the young people who come to your session. You need to understand what makes your session meaningful for those turning up.
Here are some questions you can use, to help you understand motivations:
Be wary about asking questions such as What do you want to achieve? This might come across as too goal-oriented and formal.
Don’t ask Why are you here? It might all too easily be heard as a judgement of Why are you here?, particularly if any other attributes such as anxiety or low confidence are present.
Consider how you ask the questions
The motivations for those you coach may change. Think about asking the above questions at different times throughout the year.
A young person’s current motivation might be triggered by something going on in their life. For example, they might have a prom or holiday approaching that they want to get in shape for.
When someone starts an activity for the first time, they often enter with high levels of enthusiasm and drive. As they come across difficulties, they can feel daunted, and their motivation fades. As a coach, you need to ensure you are building confidence to keep motivation and engagement high.
2 Plan and deliver sessions to meet motivations
Create a session plan, focusing on the reasons why young people turn up to your session. Below are some ideas you could try during your sessions.
Meet new people
Hang out with friends
– able to talk and hold a conversation
– breathing becomes quicker and body feels warmer
– heart rate will be quicker but not racing
The above table gives you some ideas to try during your session, but don't forget there is a lot you could do before or after your session.
During your session
Don’t forget to check in with your young people to see if their motivations are being met.
Give yourself time to notice and observe. Try to recognise mood state and body language. This might give you a clue to how the young people are feeling. For example, do you have someone standing apart from the others – has there been a falling-out in their social group?
Ask questions to see how they are finding the session. Find out if they are enjoying it or want any extra help.
Listen to the chat among the group to understand how they might be interacting. Actively listen when they are giving feedback.
3 Recognise when motivations have been fulfilled
Young people want to take part in activities that are worthwhile to them. As a coach, it is your role to help them understand the personal value they can get from taking part. It is more powerful if it relates to their reasons for taking part.
I like to invest time and dedication into things, it makes them seem worthwhile.
It is important to get feedback from young people about your session. Find out:
You could ask for feedback at the end of your session, but there might be other ways you could gain feedback. For example, you could send a group message asking for feedback, or generally monitor any chat on social media. If they are using wearable technology such as a Fitbit or GPS device, they might want to share this information with you.
It will also be important that you help the young person reflect on their own achievements, and be careful with offering external incentives or rewards based on motivations.
Motivations can be considered as internal or external:
Internal motivation actually leads to a ‘stickier’ habit. If the young person is motivated externally, they could lapse from activity as soon as the source of their motivation is removed.
It is also worth doing your own self-reflection. Consider from a young person’s point of view: Did the session meet their motivations?
Checking and refreshing young people’s motivations and goals for coming to your session makes it more likely that they will continue to be active and attend your session.
Download ‘What motivates young people to be active?’
If you found this helpful you might also like the other animations and guides in the series ‘What makes your session unmissable for young people’ and 'How do you coach young people when life changes'.
This blog post is just a starting point of some of our ideas. Join in the conversation and share your ideas by adding a comment below or on Twitter using #UnmissableSport.
Great post, thanks. I especially like the table of ideas to try in order to cater to different motivations
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