Highly motivated athletes are said to have a personality that reflects that motivation, much like an athlete that is not highly motivated. A softball player for example who enjoys the challenge of tough opponents and continually wants to improve on his/her skills is highly externally as well as intrinsically motivated. External athlete motivation might be a college scholarship, winning a championship or the approval of someone they look up to. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to simply improve and play well, not relating specifically to anything outside of themselves but for themselves.
Players who are not intrinsically motivated may be susceptible to Social loafing, wanting to play lesser opponents to ensure success and “not trying” so that if they don’t do well, there is a valid reason.
The difference between quality of motivation and quantity is that the quantity of motivation is the amount of time spent on the activity and how the athlete is performing. The quality is directly related to what the athlete is getting out of softball and how long they stay involved in a positive manner. Our hope is that all softball players remain in this game well into their adulthood.
One of the motivating factors is Self-efficacy or perceived abilities. Self-efficacy is the self-judgement of an athlete’s ability to perform a task or a skill. This is generally related to past and recent performance, and can have an effect on the athlete’s perception of ability to sustain and control their mastery of the skill. If they feel good about their skills they are likely to be more motivated than a softball player who has low self confidence and feels unable to achieve the desired results during competition or at practices. If they feel that they have control of their abilities to improve, they will be much more likely to be self directed in their participation,
- past performance – how did the athlete perform the task previously, this will have some influence on their perceived ability to perform it again.
- vicarious experience – if she can do it, then I must be able to do it; watching someone else perform a task that looks relatively easy can give an immediate feeling of self-efficacy.
- verbal persuasion – “I believe in you”, or “do it this way” says the coach; having someone who is knowledgeable say verbally that the athlete is capable will generally add confidence to the attempt.
- physiological state – the athletes perception of their physiological condition will have a physical effect on their self-efficacy; “am I ready for this?”, “I am nervous”, “I have had lots of rest”
- emotional state – ideally, a positive mood state is felt before and during competition, if however a negative mood state is felt, learning strategies such as negative thought stopping can be helpful. If an athlete is in a positive mood, he/she will likely have a higher self-efficacy and if he/she has a negative mood state such as frustration, a lower mood state may result.
- Imaginable experiences – this can be very useful in skill acquisition, or for example if an athlete is unsure about her/his ability to perform a skill or perform in the competition, they can use imagery as a sort of rehearsal to gain confidence.
Weiner’s attribution theory includes internal-external attributions in which the cause of the performance was a result of an internal ability where pride and personal satisfaction may be felt, or external attribute may cause disappointment, frustration and anger. The unstable-stable attribution suggests that the performance was a result of an unstable attribution such as umpires or stable attributes such as skill level of the athlete. The uncontrollable-controllable attribution is an emotional response. If the athlete feels that they are in control of the performance, they will be more motivated and accountable for their development. If the athlete feels that the performance and their environment is uncontrollable, they may develop a form of learned helpless. They feel that they are simply not good and will not be good so it is no use.
A motivated athlete will typically attribute their good or bad performances to controllable, internal and unstable factors. An athlete who has motivational difficulties will generally attribute their performance to uncontrollable, stable and external factors.
Where does this leave you as a coach? Provide as much information for your softball athletes as you can. The more they know and the more they can control the more motivated they are likely to be. It is common for coaches to simply lay out the rules and the way the season will go and then say leave it to me. Just show up at practices, do what I plan and we will be good. This approach although may be easier for you to control, takes away from the ability of the athlete to self-direct. A self directed athlete is your best tool for success in your season weather it is at the beginning or during the final tournament.