Why motivation is over-rated. Build habits instead!
Very often I speak with fellow coaches and parents about a variety of different topics. One that comes up either directly or in-directly is the topic of motivation. It always seems to me that nearly everyone I speak to has the contention that "a coach must motivate a player". Well, after years of experience as a coach, in my mind, I think these parents and coaches have things a little bit confused. I think that parents and coaches alike are mistaking our role as a coach. I believe it's a coaches responsibility to INSPIRE a player to want to do well, by showing them the correct path and what is possible if they stick to that path. I also believe that it's a coaches responsibility to discipline a player if need be, to make sure they stay on the right path. When I say discipline here I'm not talking about scolding a player. I'm simply meaning that it should be up to the coach to pull a player up and ask them the kind of questions that will make a player question any poor decisions they've made, regarding their training or practice.
You see, I believe that motivation is something intrinsic(meaning it comes from within). I believe that motivation is what draws a player to do a certain thing or activity. It's an inner calling. In the case of the players that come to me for coaching, they have shown at one time or another that they had the inner calling(motivation), to begin playing tennis. The motivation is what has gotten the player interested. And everyone might have initially been motivated for different reasons. However, once a player is interested, it's the coaches role to show(inspire) that player to want to continue to get better by helping them improve and showing them what's possible if they continue to improve.
Motivation comes and goes. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. If you were to base your actions on motivation alone, you would not be successful long-term. Take for example, when you watch a motivational movie or clip on YouTube. In the moment you'll want to take action, but hours later after you've forgotten about it, you'll no longer have that driving force to take action. Another good example is when someone decides to starts to go to the gym to get into really good shape. The person decides to hit the gym really hard. They're highly motivated for maybe a week, two weeks? Maybe even a month? But after that month, that person slowly starts going less and less and before you know it they have given up on going to the gym all together. I'm sure we've all experienced this at one time or another right? I know I definitely have!
So motivation gets you started, then it's up to you to discipline yourself to keep going long enough until the action you want becomes a habit. This is the key to long term success and why most people usually don't achieve it. You have to discipline yourself long enough for the action you want to become a habit. This is where a coach, maybe even a parent is great, because they keep track of your progress. They know how to nudge you back in the right direction to keep you on course. A great book on this topic is called "the one thing" by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Once the habit is formed, it no longer takes as much energy physically and mentally to maintain. Allowing you to focus more creatively on another action/habit. In the book they say it takes on average 66 days to form most habits. But some more difficult habits can take longer while others can be mastered a lot sooner. This is what will ultimately lead to long-term success and not the highs/lows of motivation.
Where to go from here?
Read the book that I mentioned "the one thing" and then understand that motivation will come and go. It's not sustainable and reliable. If you're a player reading this, realize that you can have the best coach(es) in the world, but you if don't do the work that they recommend, you will not achieve the results you want.
I hope this helps shed some light on the motivation topic.