This article originally published on Bridge Athletic.
To make motivation stick, athletes doing the work need to own their reasons why they choose to show up every day and compete. A lot of athletes struggle with motivation when they’re perspective on success is only winning especially when there isn’t anything to win in the near term. Long-term goal setting can be motivating but the lack of knowledge some athletes have about how much training they need to be put in can lead to procrastination.
The offseason time gap is a great challenge for sports organizations and their athletes. Time off can seem like “free” time because of the lack of team training opportunities. Individual athlete’s motivation to train in the offseason on their own time changes because distractions have the opportunity to enter their focus.
The question becomes how can coaches and athletes develop the optimal form of motivation to push themselves during the offseason when there isn’t an opportunity to accomplish goals of winning in the near future? Here are some ideas and strategies:
Create an offseason training plan with the athlete
Take time to map out the amount of time the athlete has in the offseason in a one on one meeting before they leave. Help them consider all the elements to a successful offseason training plan (including: down time/recovery, strength training, sport conditioning, sport skill training, other goals etc…). In the plan, create training blocks that can break apart the total time they have into chunks of time with a clear process oriented emphasis so they understand the purpose and potential gains. As their knowledge of what to do as well as how it is going to help them improves, their motivation and drive to do it has the opportunity to increase.
Review all potential obstacles both mentally and logistically that could interfere with the athletes plan
This is critical. Every athlete is a person first and athlete second. People like to naturally find a comfortable balance with the least amount of stress on their mind and body. During the offseason without the structure of the team training, athletes want to disengage from their sport. Their families will also want to spend time with them and the desire to please their family can become an emotional and logistical challenge to offseason training. Previewing and creating a solution focused plan for these obstacles as well as open communication with your athlete helps them work through any uncertainty and worrying. Taking the time with the athlete to create a safe and collaborative discussion will also help them be honest in what they have coming up that can interfere with the offseason training plan. Their motivation to train will have less working against it.
Create an accountability process with partners that is consistent throughout the offseason
Coaches can check in with consistent communication during the offseason easily with technology such as the BridgeAthletic app. Before the team leaves, accountability partners can also be organized to track progress made in offseason training. Training partners are also a great way to maintain the motivation to push through the offseason by having someone to train and develop with. One key to the accountability process is making it facilitative and constructive. The facilitative, constructive focus of the check-ins should be centered on how to improve or enhance what they are doing rather than attempt to discipline at a distance what they haven’t done or why they did it a certain way.
These strategies are just a start to fulfilling motivational needs every athlete and person has to create their own structure and desire to make progress. Athletes convinced they need to feel “motivated” to go train need to shift their beliefs. A fundamental shift in belief can help them take the first step toward progress on any given day. The label of feeling “motivated” might prohibit them from putting in the right work. It’s a reality that training is challenging and hard and not always fun. The satisfaction and reward occurs right after successful positive work has been completed which leads to more drive to come back the next day. There isn’t a greater feeling in the world than knowing that something was completed the best way it could have been. Each training session as part of a larger offseason training plan can be approached in a way that enhances athlete’s motivation. To learn more about sport psychology check out this article about goal planning and this article about planning for success.