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The other half of coaching: motivation

Motivation has always fascinated me. I have books on the topic; wrote papers about it in grad school.

Any coach that’s worth anything knows that motivating players is just as important as teaching them skills. You can tell when a coach knows how to do this, because their players play hard, and they give it their all, every time they step on the court.

This week I asked three West Coast coaches to give me their philosophies on motivating athletes. The coaches I chose each have teams that are experiencing a bit of adversity this season. Yet, players on these squads leave everything on the floor and often win despite their circumstances – and over teams that were expected to beat them.

Coach Lindsay Gottlieb just took over the Cal program this year. She has four freshman on her roster, four sophomores, four juniors, and no seniors. The Bears are in second place in the Pac-12 Conference, and two of the freshmen – Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd – are second and third on the team, respectively, in scoring.

Coach Greg McCall took the helm of the Cal State Bakersfield program this year, and the Roadrunners have been decimated by injuries – five, to be exact. This has left them with six suited-up players for most games. Yet they harass and suffocate other teams, coming very close to beating many of them. They never give up.

The situation at UCLA is very similar. New Coach Cori Close saw her leading rebounder out for the season in September, and four more key players have followed, leaving the Bruins with a very thin bench. Yet they are relentless and have won some key match ups. Improbably, they are tied for third in the Pac-12 Conference.

I asked them:

What do you do to motivate your team to play hard and win? As a coach, what do you think is important to impart to a team?

Here are their responses:

At the most foundational level, I believe strongly that the best motivational factor for female athletes to play hard and win is to let them know you care about them as people and athletes. I have found that my players will run through a wall for me when they truly believe that I have their back in all situations.

Secondly, I believe in empowering players to see how good they could be…to believe in their potential. If a coach can successfully impart a belief in self, then that coach will also be able to reach players on technical and tactical corrections.

– Lindsay Gottlieb

To get them to play hard, I want them to know that we have to get better each time we set foot on the floor for practice and games. In order for them to do that we have to give 100% effort each drill in practice or each possession is games.

– Greg McCall

I try to get to know them as best I can and build relationships so you know the character of your team. If you don’t build relationships and you don’t know who they are collectively and individually, it’s really hard to pick the right mode of motivation. After that, you choose, whether you need to be harder on them or to praise them more, you’re doing that as a response to knowing who they are as young women and as a collective unit.

Giving them a greater yes, and what I mean by that is instead of harping on them about what they aren’t doing to motivate them, to give them a stronger sense of your goal and vision. The more their eyes are strictly focused on what they want to accomplish, the more willing they are to overcome the hurdles or the obstacles to get around to that goal. It’s intensifying what the goal is so there is more motivation to minimize the distractions.

– Cori Close

Amazing responses.

Reader thoughts on motivation?

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