Athletes do not always perform poorly because they lack motivation. Poor performance may be a signal that personal limits have been reached, that athletes are performing up to their ability. Neither increased effort nor all the confidence in the world will improve their ability to perform. One of your more difficult tasks as a coach is to determine whether an athlete is performing at her or his limits.
Many athletes need help in learning to face their limitations without devaluing themselves. Rather than conveying the nonsense that every athlete can become a superstar or a professional, you should encourage your athletes to learn their limits for themselves. Only in this way can they learn to maintain realistic goals. But if coaches make athletes believe that they have no limits, that to accept limits is loathsome, then athletes may push themselves to seek unrealistic goals, leading to eventual failure, and perhaps even to personal injury.
When coaches help athletes set realistic goals, athletes inevitably experience more success and feel more competent. By becoming more competent, they gain confidence and can tackle skills of moderate difficulty without fearing failure. They discover that their efforts do result in more favorable outcomes and that falling short is most likely caused by insufficient effort. Realistic goals rob failure of its threat. Rather than indicating that athletes are not worthy, failure indicates that they should try harder.
De-emphasize winning and reemphasize attaining personal goals. This principle is the key to meeting athletes’ needs to feel worthy—not only to maintain their self-worth but also to develop it further. This principle is essential to enhancing the motivation of your athletes.
To this point we’ve been concerned exclusively with maintaining and increasing motivation because we know that being motivated is essential to performing well and enjoying participation. Be wary of the belief that more motivation is always better, however; athletes can be too motivated or aroused. Let me explain.
Just as there is an optimal level of arousal for having fun, there is an optimal level of arousal for performing well as shown in figure 7.4. When athletes are aroused too little or too much, they do not perform as well as they might; but if they are aroused just the right amount, their performance will be better.
This excerpt was taken from Successful Coaching Third Edition, written by Rainer Martens, PhD.