CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter
Hi, Paul here,

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

Self-Determination Theory

We are going to switch things up today and begin with the CARVER Insight. The piece on the Self-Determination Theory, a beautifully simple theory of motivation, will follow below.
CARVER Insight
A biteen of a story…

‘Once you’re open to learning, you are on the right path.’ That’s something ‘I know for sure’ about coaching. I got that one from a friend called Dave Morris (I’d imagine he doesn’t know I got it from him; maybe he’ll read this and smile). He’s always been good to me, and is a top coach; some call him ‘Drills’ (all ye ‘Ecological Dynamics Warriors’ out there are just gonna have to deal with that one). He dropped that line to me in passing one day, as we were putting out cones ahead of practice; it resonated and stuck. Words are powerful! He is a man that can land a message.

Last week I was welcomed into the Faculty of the Gambetta Athletic Improvement Network (GAIN) ahead of its annual conference in Houston, Texas this June. This is a truly unique coaching conference with many of the sharpest, most authentic minds in world coaching. The conference is hosted by the famed athletic development coach Vern Gambetta. You will find out more about it here. If you are interested in athletic development and coaching, I highly recommend this powerful learning experience. It is a five-day, live-in, full- board, dawn to dusk, learning rollercoaster. It will change you as a coach… that is of course if you are open to learning.

It’s pretty cool for me to ‘join the team’ and get to share my work on such a stage. What’s even cooler, is that also joining me on the GAIN Faculty this year will be Donie Fox, a young man I first coached when he was 10 or 11 years old, and I was 17 or 18. I coached him (often badly I must confess) throughout much of his (and my) youth into his early adulthood. He was a determined and feisty boy, and has gone on to be an exceptional physiotherapist and athletic development coach. His openness and drive for learning is unique. He is constantly seeking the truth when it comes to his craft.

Above you will see Donie and I doing our thing, back in the day!
So back to what I know for sure about coaching: “Once you’re open to learning, you are on the right path.”

I feel I have always been open to learning, and it sure has led me down many paths. My openness to learning brought me and a friend of mine, David Hanly (some call him ‘Chopper’) to Houston, Texas about six years ago to the GAIN conference. Donie also attended, but he travelled separately due to work commitments. When we arrived in Houston, David and I, being open to all learning opportunities, decided to learn a bit about the Houston nightlife. We went from bar to bar, and eventually settled in quite a distinctive loft bar, with a skyline view and a straw roof. We had a great night, although I’m not sure if we learned much. The conference began a couple of days later and it was a great learning experience. The mornings started at 6:30 with ‘Movement Madness’, followed by formal lecturers, case study presentation, structured break outs and informal chats. The day’s learning would formally come to an end about 8 pm but some would stay up late talking coaching and performance. I had never experienced anything like it.

Fast forward two years, and Donie and I returned to Houston for the conference for some more learning. ‘The Paddy’ came out in me once more, and I decided we should learn more about the Houston nightlife. As we walked down the street in our best clothes, I looked up and noticed the loft bar myself and Chopper had frequented a couple of years previously. Being a creature of habit, I led Donie to the bar promising a good night. As we settled at the bar, I noticed a girl standing beside me who caught my eye; she was uniquely beautiful. Nature called for Donie, and he hit for the bathroom, leaving me alone at the bar. I can vividly remember summoning up the courage to say hello to the girl. Her name was Lauren and she was from Houston. We chatted for a while; I got her number and a few years later we got married; we are going strong😊.

That year’s conference went well, although I missed all the evening sessions due to my interest in learning more about this Lauren girl. I returned to the conference again last year, and this year both Donie and I have been welcomed into the Faculty to present and share our work to lots of smart people. I will be sharing how the CARVER Framework can be utilised to build a coaching world and practice continuous improvement in coaching, as well as how athlete journaling is a powerful tool that can be used to develop autonomy, self-management, clear and critical thinking and so forth, in the athlete. A place I first went to learn, is now giving me the opportunity to teach, and to quote the Stoic Philosopher Seneca, “While we teach, we learn.”

And so, being open to learning has brought me down many paths and continues to do so. One thing leads to another and you never know where it will bring you, or indeed how it will change you. Learning is an infinite game, an ongoing process. It requires the fortitude to continually accept new challenges, and the resolve to experience failure, and overcome it.

My question to you is: How open to learning are you? To adapt a quote from Mark Twain,

“The person who won’t learn, has no advantage over the person who can’t learn.”

Self-Determination Theory

The process by which a person controls their own life is known as self-determination. Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was proposed by Deci & Ryan (1985, 2000), and centred around the idea that an individual’s degree of self-determination was determined by three psychological needs – autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to the feeling that one has a choice, behaviour is endorsed, and the degree to which we have control over our outcomes. The skill and ability that one possesses to effectively complete tasks and activities is known as competence. Relatedness is associated with our innate desire to connect with others and develop relationships. The three needs each influence our tendency to grow and manage our own lives. The higher degree of autonomy, competence, and relatedness is believed to foster a more self-determined and intrinsically motivated individual.
The different types of motivation can be presented on a spectrum. SDT is useful in assisting us in predicting what motivates us, and where we lie on the continuum. The theory espouses that the more self-determined an individual is, the more intrinsically motivated they will be. On the other hand, an individual with a low degree of self- determination would be more likely to be extrinsically motivated, or in an extreme case amotivated. In reality, we are influenced by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors, but the degree to which each extrinsic factor influences our behaviour and outcomes is seen as a product of our autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
The middle ground between amotivation and intrinsic motivation is expressed in many ways. Extrinsic motivation is typically centred around external reward or punishment. This can be conveyed in a variety of ways, each with a varying degree of influence on behaviour. An example of extrinsically motivated behaviour is the avoidance of disapproval and seeking approval. SDT interestingly highlights how extrinsic motivators such as greater rewards can serve to decrease intrinsic motivation, and in turn self-determination. This is due to the extrinsic motivator exerting a degree of control over the individual’s behaviour, undermining the individual’s autonomy or control over their behaviour.
The application of SDT spans across varies aspects of life from exercise to parenting to education and work. Self-Determination Theory (SDT) assists us in predicting behaviour based on the satisfaction of our psychological needs. The degree to which our psychological needs are met influences our motivation, and more precisely the type of motivation that influences our behaviour. The degree of self-determination influences our motivation; our motivation influences our behaviour.
Do your coaching practices create an environment that fosters self- determination? What can you do to increase the autonomy, competence, and relatedness of your athletes?

Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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