There are many correct answers. There are also incorrect answers. Such as, you should never do something because someone told you to. And you should never do something in order to impress someone.
As I coach, I want athletes to say and think “I can and will do it because she believes in me” rather than “I will do it because I fear what she may say or do if I don’t.”
While they are both external motivations, there’s a BIG difference between the two.
The first one teaches the athlete to believe in their own abilities because someone else genuinely and positively believes they can do it. This teaches the athlete to learn more about themselves in a positive manner. It builds self-confidence, independence, and takes the athlete to new levels.
The second one teaches the athlete to do something strictly out of fear. Fear is not a positive motivator, and it rarely builds self-confidence and independence.
I began my athletic career in middle school on a competitive swim team. In high school and college, I ran both cross-country and track, and was also on the swim team. From then until now, I have had 12 different coaches. Most of those coaches motivated me with fear. I feared they may call me out if I didn’t perform to their standards; that they would be disappointed if I had a poor performance; and that they would only be happy if I trained and competed well. Why did I think those things? Because they were true. I had a coach once tell me I needed to lose weight in order to run faster (that makes any woman feel great about themselves). I had another coach tell me after a poor performance at a track meet, “you ran like shit!” And another coach tells me I wasn’t swimming fast or hard enough if I had enough energy to laugh and talk to my teammates during rest sets (even though I was the lead swimmer in the lane). I also had a coach tell me he was disappointed in my performance. The list goes on.
I was an accomplished athlete, but for all the wrong reasons. I did it to prove something to others. I could never grow and cultivate the joy and love of training and racing when I had a coach that demanded something from me.
What I have learned along the way is that, ultimately, you need to learn how to motivate yourself. What are you going to tell yourself during a race when you’re all alone, miles from the finish? What are you going to do when the alarm goes off in the morning, and all you really want to do is go back to bed. If your answer is “I better do it or coach will get mad at me”, that’s not going to cut it. That’s not a positive motivator. What are you going to do if your coach is no longer present? Quit? You can’t become dependent on your coach. Your coach should guide you, and then you take the lead.
Initially when you begin any new program, you need someone motivating you and telling you what to do, but over time, you will need to learn how do it for yourself. That’s where the real growth comes in. That’s where you learn to love and live the active lifestyle. That’s where you begin to “sweat from the heart.”
All those years as an athlete, I swore I would never become a coach – and here I am now – I own my own coaching business. Ha! In fact, I love being a coach. Mostly because I get a chance to “make it right”. I never want someone to feel bad about themselves. I never want someone to do something just to make me proud. I am proud of my athletes regardless of how they perform. In truth, I am grateful to be given an opportunity to coach someone.