A good coach needs to understand the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and weigh which type makes more sense for their athletes. Trophies, medals, money, praise, and travel to a tournament are examples of extrinsic rewards—that is, provided to athletes by others, or from outside. Intrinsic rewards are the feelings that are intrinsically satisfying when athletes play sports. Having fun and feeling competent and successful are intrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards such as recognition from others, from others, and trophies can be powerful motivators, but over time these rewards can lose value as the athlete may become accustomed to them. The beauty of intrinsic rewards is that, unlike extrinsic rewards, they are self-reinforcing; that is, a trainer/coach does not have to provide them. And a coach is not able to do that either, because the athlete has to independently develop and cultivate this motivation that burns from within in order to be a high-performing athlete.

Coaches who are great motivators know they are not motivating athletes. Instead, they create the conditions or climate in which athletes motivate themselves. And they cleverly use extrinsic rewards to build intrinsic motivation. When athletes fail to build intrinsic rewards like fun or self-esteem, they quickly lose motivation to train and are likely to give up. For this reason, intrinsic rewards are the best motivators in the long run. Now let's take a closer look at the two most important intrinsic rewards: fun and self-esteem.


Why do people exercise? I'm not just talking about strength training, fitness, martial arts, etc., but also about team sports of all kinds. The question of what motivates people to play has fascinated philosophers and scientists alike for centuries. We've only known why for about a decade. Each of us is born with the need for some level of stimulation and excitement - what most of us just call fun.


When our activity level is too low, we get bored and seek physical and/or mental stimulation. We call play when the primary purpose of stimulation is to have fun. However, sometimes when we find ourselves in stressful or challenging situations, it leads to a very high level of activity and we become anxious or nervous. Then we try to lower our activity level, however we choose to do it. In other words, people have a need for an optimal level of activity or stimulation—not too little and not too much. This optimal activity level differs from person to person. We all know people who seem to thrive on extremely high levels of stimulation and others who are happy with far less.


Why is an optimal level of activity so desirable?
The answer lies in how we feel when we experience that optimal level, what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi 1999) calls the “flow experience”. Flow occurs when we are totally immersed in an activity; we lose track of time and feel like everything is going just right because we are neither bored nor anxious. The flow experience is so enjoyable that it is intrinsically rewarding.
When we experience flow, our attention is so intensely focused on the activity that concentration, focus, comes automatically.When we are in the flow we are not self-critical because our thoughts are totally focused on the activity. Because we don't feel bored or threatened, we are in control of ourselves and our surroundings. A high-performance athlete I know explained this condition to me in her own words as follows:

"You're so involved in what you're doing that you don't see yourself as separate from the game."

The flow experience is so enjoyable it's intrinsically motivating. We will not engage in activities for any other reason than to experience flow. When sport energizes and stimulates athletes at an optimal level, they discover the joy of sport. When sport understimulates athletes, they become bored; when exercise overstimulates them, they feel threatened. If you have ever observed a team contracting, for example at a soccer game, when facing a strong opponent, it could be that that team has experienced too much activation.

At Tayfun Sports, we make it a principle to create conditions that neither bore our athletes (too little activation) nor threaten them to the point of feeling anxious (too much activation). Here are some ways our professional coaches do this:

  • We adjust the level of difficulty of the skills to be learned or performed based on the ability and performance level of our athletes. Our aim is that the task should be difficult enough to be challenging, but not so difficult that it doesn't give the athlete a chance of success. Because if the athletes' individual ability is high but the challenge is low, they will get bored. If the individual ability of the athletes is low and the challenge is high, they will feel fear or nervousness. However, if the athletes' skills are reasonably close to the challenge, they are more likely to flow and enjoy the execution.
  • We avoid constantly instructing our athletes while they are performing the exercises. We give our clients time when they don't have to pay attention to us as a coach, so that they can immerse themselves in the activity. If we, like unfortunately most of the run-of-the-mill coaches, constantly yelled at the athletes with instructions during training, the athletes wouldn't be able to experience flow.
  • We don't constantly evaluate our athletes. The flow experience cannot occur if athletes are constantly being evaluated or made to evaluate themselves - whether the evaluation is positive or negative. There is a time for evaluation, but not when training or competition is in progress.

Our focus is on increasing your individual athletic performance.
You will feel fitter, more powerful, more vital and happier.
That's what we stand for with our name!
Visit our shop now and choose from one of the three available training packages.
Your personal coach will then contact you promptly and plan the next steps with you.

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