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Motivation: Key factor in athletic performance

Published:Tuesday | August 2, 2016 | 11:17 PM

To become the best athlete you can be, you must be motivated to do what it takes to maximise your energy and ability to achieve your goals.

Simply defined, motivation is the ability to initiate and persist at a task. Motivation in sport is so important because one must be willing to work hard in the face of fatigue, pain, boredom and the desire to do other things.

Staying motivated impacts everything that influences sport performance: physical conditioning, technical and tactical training, mental preparation and general lifestyle, including sleep, diet, school or work and relationships.

Motivation is the only contributor to sport performance that the athlete controls. In other words, there are three things that affect the level of performance.

1. Ability - which includes physical, technical, tactical and mental capabilities. These are born with and cannot be changed.

2. The difficulty of the competition - contributes to difficulty which includes the ability of the opponent and other external factors, such as game crowd and weather, such as, temperature, wind and sun, over which the athlete has no control.

3. Motivation - will impact performance. It is also the only factor over which the athlete has control.


If the athlete is highly motivated to improve performance, then he/she will put in the time and effort necessary to improve their game. Motivation will also influence the level of performance during a competition.

If the athlete is competing against an opponent with equal skill, ability will not be the factor to determine the outcome. Rather, it will be the athlete who works the hardest, who doesn't give up and who performs best when it matters most. In other words, the athlete who is most motivated to win.

There is a point during training or competition where there is no fun, when it gets tiring, painful and tedious. This is also the point at which it really matters. This is called the grind.

Many psychologists will say "you have to love the grind". It is what separates successful and unsuccessful athletes. Many athletes either ease up or give up when they reach this point, but truly motivated athletes reach the grind and keep on going.

How the athlete responds to the grind lies along a continuum. At one point is loving the grind and the other is hating the grind. At the latter end, the athlete is not likely to stay motivated. Therefore, it is suggested not to love nor hate the grind, but to accept it as a part of the deal in striving towards goals.

Goals like going to the Olympics need hard, persevering work and effort. It is easy to say you want to be a successful athlete, but it is much more difficult to make it happen. However, if you are truly motivated to be successful, you have to do what is necessary to achieve your goal.

Motivation means putting 100 per cent of time, effort, energy and focus into all aspects of the sport chosen and doing everything possible to be the best athlete.

Once a decision is made to be successful at a sport, this will dictate the amount of time and effort you put in and how good you will ultimately become through dedication, which determines whether you are motivated to do your best.

Dedication to the sport must be top priority. Only by being dedicated to direction and decision shows that the athlete is motivated.

Tips to staying motivated

n Focus on long-term goals

n Remind yourself why you are working hard

n Imagine exactly what you want to accomplish

n Generate feelings of inspiration and pride that you will experience when you reach your goal

n Generate positive thoughts and emotions during the grind

n Have a training partner (you will work harder)

n Focus on the greatest competitor

Signs of low motivation

n A lack of desire to practise as much as you should

n Less than 100 per cent effort in training

n Skipping or shortening training

n Effort inconsistent with goal

Motivation is truly a key factor to successful athletic performance.