Motivation? What is it? How do you do it?

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst IOctober 28, 2009

This has been a debate for quite some time.  How do our coaches motivate the players?  Or how can they better motivate the players?  Or should the players just motivate themselves?  I will do my best to answer, but keep in mind, all people/athletes are different.

I have been talking with a lot of folks around the BYU Football Program about this exact question and the answer really is that they mentality of the current players is just different from when I was there.

When I was at BYU we were hungry to change to the program and we would do ANYTHING Coach Mendenhall asked us to do.  That doesn’t mean that we did it with a smile all the time, but if he asked us to run from the school to the Y and back, we would do it.  We did a lot of things that seemed impossible or absurd, but the fact is that we had a Rocky mentality of just getting better through hard work and toughness.

The players are not getting pushed as much or maybe a better way to say it is that they are not getting pushed in the same way as we did.  At the end of last year the players told Coach Mendenhall that they were not having fun with all the pressure and expectations and work.  They wanted to get back to having fun.  It is a different mentality.  And I can’t necessarily say that it is the wrong mentality, just one I don’t personally understand.

So here is the tricky part, (and I don’t think I fully understood this until I became a coach at my alma mater this year) every person/player reacts differently to different types of motivation.  Some people are self (internally) motivated and others what motivation placed on them.  Some react to negative or threatening motivation, some only react to positive reinforcement.  The trick is to know who you are dealing with and motivate them accordingly.

My personal profile is that I am only truly motivated when…

  1. I know others are relying on me to win
  2. I receive positive motivation/confidence
  3. I am faced with a challenge that I want to be the first to accomplish in the group

I did not perform as well when I was motivated by, “Get the job done or I am putting someone else in!”  In fact that was always counter productive with me and I played even worse.

My favorite story comes from the old baseball coach and former AD, Glen Tuckett.  He had a certain freshman shortstop on the baseball team who had a tendency of overthrowing the first basemen.  He sat him down in the dugout one day and said, “Mike, you are my starting shortstop whether you throw it into the stands or not, so you might as well just throw it to the first basemen.”  That took all the pressure off.  Mike started for 4 years and went on to play professionally.

In working with kids on our team this year I was trying to motivate them through putting them in pressure situations where they would have to perform in head to head competition and the loser and a running punishment.  One of the kids totally shut down and walked away to go sit against the fence.  I could have gotten mad at him for quitting on the drill and on his team, but I knew that I was in the wrong because he is motivated more like I am in that he needed positive reinforcement.  I failed him, not the other way around.

So how this all relates to BYU and Bronco and what is happening is that the coaches are faced with a tough task.  I know there are guys on this team who are cut from the 2005-2007 cloth, Jan, Brett, Manase, Terrance Brown, Scott Johnson, Matt Bauman…to name a few.  I think that they are hungry to get back to Coach asking a lot of them and pushing them to the limits.  Then there are others who don’t want to be pushed in that way and the coaches are having to find new ways to motivate those guys while still giving them an edge.

To be sure it is a job that is easier said that done.

In a round about way, I guess my answer is that I don’t know the answer and I am glad that I am not the one who has to come up with it.