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Coaches Sports Philosophy Network

My high school soccer coach tried to motivate us to play better by telling us a story about his neighbor’s son who lost part of his finger while playing with a fire cracker. “Let’s win this one for Bobby!” We looked at each other in amazement and wondered why we would play harder for this unfortunate boy that we did not know.

Knute Rockne’s “Win One for the Gipper” speech is said to have motivated Notre Dame to a come-from-behind 12-6 win over Army. (For the record: my great-grandfather delivered all of Knute Rockne’s children.)

What do you do to motivate your players? Tell sad stories; inspiring stories; threatening stories? I believe motivation must be firmly established in the daily practice routine. Our players must be reminded for Whom they are playing. They need to buy into the philosophy that God is their audience. They are playing for His glory. They practice hard because they believe Col. 3:17, 23 can apply to athletics. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him… And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;”

We do not need to rely on “revenge games” as a motivator. We do not have to put articles and quotes on the bulletin board to work our players into a frothy lather. Preparing, practicing and playing to the best of our ability is all we should need when we desire to please God in our athletic endeavors.

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Comment by Dennis Scott on April 3, 2014 at 9:15pm

Don, 

Great thoughts on motivation. I've always believed that for every emotional "high" that a coach hypes his players up to, there is a corresponding "low" that they fall to.  This leads to inconsistency.  Christian players should not be motivated by fear, revenge, emotions, or guilt, but by a love for the game (the true meaning of the word amateur), a love for their teammates/coaches, and a love of Christ (II Cor. 5:14).  As far as the "win one for the Gipper" goes, I really like what Rockne once said when asked about how a particular season had gone.  He replied, "Ask me again in 15 years. Only then will we know what kind of leaders these young men have become as a result of the experiences of this season."  Coaches need to have the "big picture" and "long term" perspective when evaluating their seasons and motivating their athletes.  Thanks for the reminders!

Dennis

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