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Fostering Athlete Motivation: Nurturing Supportive Environments within high performance Organisations

Motivation stands as a central theme for athletes, coaches, and sporting organizations, with sport psychology aiming to delineate and evaluate the concept of 'right motivation.' The self-determination theory is a significant attempt in this regard, proposing that more self-determined forms of motivation yield positive outcomes in sports.

A considerable body of literature delves into the role coaches play in motivation, with particular attention to whether a coach adopts an autonomy-supportive or controlling approach (Amorose, 2007). Autonomy-supportive coaches foster opportunities for choice, encourage decision-making, provide rationale, and consider athletes' feelings and opinions (Mageau & Vallerand, 2003). In contrast, controlling coaches employ authoritarian methods, utilizing criticism and punishment to manage athletes. Autonomy-supportive coaching correlates with favorable outcomes, including higher levels of self-determined motivation and objective performance (Gillet et al., 2010). Conversely, controlling environments link with diminished motivation, increased dropout rates, and reduced persistence (Pelletier et al., 2001). Despite the established connection between autonomy-supportive coaching and positive outcomes, controlling coaching behavior persists in sports. To address this persistence, researchers have expanded their focus to encompass the broader context within which coaches operate.

Research by Stebbings, Taylor, and Spray (2011) underscores the link between a coach's basic need satisfaction, increased well-being, and subsequent autonomy-supportive behavior. Their findings suggest that promoting coach well-being through need satisfaction could cultivate more autonomy-supportive coaching. The organizational context further plays a pivotal role. Drawing on the insights of Stebbings, Allen, and Shaw, the following recommendations could assist organizations in promoting basic need satisfaction among their coaches, thereby fostering more autonomy-supportive behavior. Recommendations for Organizations:

  1. Empower Coaching Independence: Trust your coaches to lead autonomously. Provide them the freedom to manage teams, design drills, and oversee match days and training in a way that aligns with their coaching style, fostering a sense of independence.

  2. Delegate Administrative Tasks: Allow coaches to focus on coaching by handling administrative responsibilities associated with running teams. This delegation enables coaches to dedicate their time and expertise to what they have been trained to do.

  3. Individualized Support: Recognize and cater to the unique needs of each coach. Understand the diverse demands coaches face, such as family commitments, jobs, or educational pursuits. Tailor your support, whether it's arranging childcare during coaching sessions or facilitating connections among coaches facing similar challenges.

  4. Promote Collaboration: Establish a feedback loop where coaches can provide insights, and organizations can offer constructive feedback. This collaborative approach fosters an open communication channel, benefiting both coaches and the organization.

  5. Continuous Learning Opportunities: Support coaches in pursuing ongoing formal training. Encourage a culture of continuous learning, ensuring coaches stay updated and feel a sense of competence, contributing to the overall growth of the coaching staff.

  6. Implement Mentorship Programs: Develop mentoring systems to facilitate connections and knowledge-sharing among coaches. This not only enhances their coaching skills but also creates a sense of belonging and relatedness within the organisation.

Coaches significantly influence the motivational climate through their behavior. While the recommendations above may promote autonomy-supportive behaviors through basic need satisfaction, ongoing research is essential to provide more definitive guidance for organizations in cultivating supportive coaching environments. Organisations nonetheless need to teach delayed gratificatiin and self discipline. Teaching self-discipline over solely relying on motivation is rooted in the understanding that discipline provides a more reliable and sustainable framework for achieving long-term goals. While motivation can be fleeting and influenced by external factors, self-discipline involves cultivating internal mechanisms that drive consistent effort and commitment. Here are some reasons and scientific evidence supporting the emphasis on self-discipline:

  1. Stability and Consistency:

  • Scientific Insight: Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Tangney et al., 2004) suggests that self-discipline is associated with more stable and consistent behaviors over time.

  1. Overcoming Procrastination:

  • Scientific Insight: Studies, such as one published in Psychological Science (Tice & Baumeister, 1997), indicate that individuals with higher levels of self-discipline are better equipped to overcome procrastination, a common obstacle in achieving goals.

  1. Resistance to Temptation:

  • Scientific Insight: The ability to resist immediate gratification, a key aspect of self-discipline, has been linked to better outcomes in various life domains, as demonstrated in the famous 'Marshmallow Experiment' conducted by Mischel et al. (1972).

  1. Neuroscience and Habit Formation:

  • Scientific Insight: Neuroscientific studies, like those outlined in the book "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg, emphasize the role of self-discipline in forming and sustaining habits, which play a crucial part in achieving long-term success.

  1. Goal Persistence:

  • Scientific Insight: Findings published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Bergman et al., 2018) suggest that self-discipline contributes significantly to goal persistence, ensuring individuals stay committed even in the face of challenges.

  1. Intrinsic Motivation:

  • Scientific Insight: Self-discipline is closely associated with intrinsic motivation, as reported in studies like the one published in the Journal of Personality (Tangney et al., 2004), indicating that individuals with higher self-discipline tend to be internally motivated to pursue their goals.

  1. Long-Term Success:

  • Scientific Insight: Longitudinal studies, including the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, have demonstrated that self-discipline in childhood is a predictor of adult success in various life domains (Moffitt et al., 2011).

In summary, scientific evidence suggests that while motivation can be a valuable initial impetus, it often wanes over time. In contrast, self-discipline provides a more reliable foundation for consistent effort, goal persistence, and resistance to distractions or temptations, ultimately contributing to long-term success and achievement.


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