CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi, Paul here,

I hope this finds you well. This week’s theme is…


Motivation helps us to explain the ‘why’ behind behaviour; it allows us to develop an understanding of why we act in a certain manner. An understanding of our own motivation, and those around us, can help us to understand why we or others act the way they do, and assist in improving our coaching practices. Everyone is unique, and individual motivation can vary widely. If we take a community sports team as an example, each player will take part and engage for different reasons. The spectrum of motivations can range from fun and enjoyment, to achieving fitness and health goals, right through to the development of skills and the opportunity to express a competitive spirit. The key message is that not everybody will be there for the same reasons as you. It is critically important to understand this as both a coach and an athlete, in order to build a strong connection and team spirit.

The spectrum of motivation ranges from amotivation i.e. a lack of or no motivation, to a high level of intrinsic (or internal) motivation. Intrinsic motivation is internally driven and typified by a strong direct relationship between the individual and their behaviour. Extrinsic (or external) motivation stems from external sources like a reward for behaviour, or to impress somebody. Intrinsic motivation is typically driven by enjoyment of the process, while extrinsic motivation is guided by the pursuit of reward or outcome. An expression of intrinsic motivation involves seeking novelty and challenges regardless of external recognition or reward. An intrinsically motivated athlete is engaged purely for satisfaction rather than reward.

Self-Determination Theory espouses that in order to develop intrinsic motivation, one must be afforded autonomy, be competent with the given behaviour, and feel a sense of connection and belonging. Motivation is determined by our belief and value1 systems and is key to understanding how our behaviour is derived. Those who demonstrate a high level of intrinsic motivation are shown to be more in control of their actions and are more effective in self-regulating. Habit tracking and journaling can help in establishing and maintaining intrinsically motivated behaviours. Intrinsically derived behaviours are more likely to develop into lasting habits and behaviours, as they are not linked to any external system of reward. An extrinsically motivated habit is less likely to be maintained, as the removal of the reward, or a decreasing probability of obtaining the reward, can have a negative impact on behaviour.

Motivations can evolve and develop over time. The evolution of motivation can be impacted by a change of circumstance or need. For example, an individual may initially engage in sporting activity to make friends. On making friends, he/she may then be driven to improve their ability and skill level, which may then evolve into a winning mindset and sporting achievement. A coach should seek to understand each of their players’ needs and desires. The coaching design should strive to optimally accommodate the motivation of those involved. A buddy system or energiser activities that encourage socialisation can satisfy those who seek friendship. Decreasing time spent explaining and standing still can encourage activity and movement. Where the focus is on developing new skills, feedback and demonstration can help to inspire.

What motivates you to engage in your chosen sport as a coach or athlete? How well do you understand the motivation of your players or teammates?

1. Deci and Ryan (2000)


CARVER Insight

Through my work I help coaches and leaders across multiple sports and many working environments. Frequent readers of this newsletter will have repeatedly heard me elude to the fact that: wherever there are people, there is coaching and performance.

One exercise I like to complete, and continually revisit with all coaches I work with is the… “What do you know for sure about coaching?” It’s a simple question, but then again…. simplicity yields complexity… I know that for sure😊

I picked up this question from the Queen of the Talk Show, Oprah Winfrey. I guess she was good at her job because she asked good questions. ‘What do you know for sure’ was a question she posed to countless of her interviewees. She also wrote a weekly column and then a book entitled ‘What I Know for Sure’.

‘What do I know for sure’ is a powerful question Oprah believed everyone should be asking of themselves. She credits the source of the question as the late, great Chicago Sun-Times film critic, Gene Siskel who asked her the question in an interview after the release of a film she starred in called Beloved back in 1998. She says the question left her lost for words and stopped her in her tracks.

Questions are a powerful coaching tool. This is one of my favourite questions to pose when I work with coaches: What do you know for sure about coaching? Often it draws blank responses, but can lead to deep introspection. For me, building a coaching world around personal truths or ‘what you know for sure’ is a good idea.

Poor coaching performance usually comes about when we have deviated from a fundamental…. i.e. something we know for sure. As mere humans we are designed to drift; human nature is always working against us. I find Oprah’s favourite question to be a mighty anchor.

I have been gathering my list of ‘what I know for sure about coaching’ for many years now. I used to share my Top 20 at the beginning of one of my keynote talks. I now share 10 of them at the end. As they say in Love Island …… ‘in no particular order’… here are 3 of them without any real future comment. Someday I might explore this topic more deeply here and I also might look at the same question as it pertains to the athlete and their performance. I use the very same question when working with athletes i.e. What do you know for sure about performance? Helping both the coach and athlete develop personal truths is powerful stuff.

What I Know for Sure About Coaching

•‘When coaching players, I don’t have to like them all but I have to love them all.’ (I took this one from the great John Wooden.)

•‘Environment is the silent hand of behaviour.’

•‘The most important thing, is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.’

What do you know for sure about coaching?

Go figure,


Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
Website by Grafton Digital.