Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation For Athletes

What are the factors that motivate an athlete to perform? And not just perform, but consistently perform to the best of their capabilities? Every athlete has different internal and external motivations that push them to dedicate their time to improving themselves. If one wants to excel in the sporting world, the acknowledgment of these motivations is essential to one’s success. 

Intrinsic motivations are driven firmly to the fundamental desire to learn and develop new skills. The need to be in control of one’s behavior, the need to feel efficient and develop meaningful relations with others are some of the psychological factors underlying intrinsic motivation. Such motivation encourages athletes to push themselves harder to become the best in their sports, even if it is while training. 

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is driven by external sources such as the prospect of receiving college scholarships, financial incentives, or in some cases, not wanting to disappoint your parents. Extrinsic motivation majorly focuses on performance outcomes by winning the game or performing at exceptional levels. Although, in some cases, these external motivators can decrease the internal determination due to their extensive amount used in sports today. For example, an athlete’s thought process returning from injury as early as possible may be affected by the quality of the team they are playing next or the media coverage scheduled for that particular game.

But, how does the relationship between these internal and external factors affect an athlete’s performance? 

The importance of these factors is relative to different athletes. While Intrinsic motivation is crucial for young athletes who are learning a sport, it might not be the case with some professional and elite ones. Research has shown that athletes who have been majorly motivated by extrinsic factors are more likely to become discouraged if they do not perform to expectations, sometimes highly unrealistic. 

These elements can affect each other too. For instance, if an athlete sets a goal of achieving some aim (extrinsic motivation) such as receiving a scholarship to play their sport, but fails to achieve this goal, the motivation to continue in the sport lowers significantly. Conversely, if extrinsic rewards are a confirmation of the athlete’s ability, it can have positive effects on intrinsic motivation. 

A healthy combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is essential to get the best of an athlete. It is the responsibility of trainers and athletes themselves to recognize and develop both these motivations. This allows athletes to perform at the highest level.

Successful Characteristics of Top Athletes That You Can Replicate

When you think of the best of the best athletes in the world across different sports, it’s easy to imagine them having very different ways of achieving success. All of those athletes are at the top of their game, not just because they put themselves through an extraneous amount of training while excelling in completely different sporting disciplines but also because they have certain surprisingly consistent similarities. 

There are important characteristics that are common amongst great athletes and several prominent business leaders. These characteristics aren’t specific to any sport but are character traits that help in almost any environment. We’ve listed certain distinguishing personality traits that seem to set apart the most successful high-performing athletes: 


Developing holistically as a person, not just as an athlete 

An athlete can be at the peak of their game, but if they do not evolve holistically as a person, it can still be extremely hard to execute to the best of their potential. In order to understand the parallels between personality development and athletic performance, they evaluate each skill that they master and implement its effect on different parts of your life.  


Having a strong sense of motivation

High-performing athletes usually have a high sense of self-motivation. Though their teammates, coaches, friends, and family will provide plenty of support along the way, they ultimately turn out to be their own primary motivators. This is important to embrace a healthy, positive frame of mind as it provides them with a new perspective in all areas of their life.


Holding themselves accountable

No athlete makes it to the top on their own. Top-tier athletes understand the importance of being accountable, taking criticism at every opportunity, and learning from it. They are aware that they have to be willing to make mistakes in order to grow and ultimately succeed. Holding themselves accountable for any win or loss creates a sense of responsibility, which leads to the overall development as a human. 


Practicing Humility

Top-tier athletes also believe in practicing humility because a humble athlete neither underestimates nor overestimates his abilities. There is always room for improvement, and that improvement will come only with more training and being consistent. 


Trusting and committing to Teamwork 

Have you ever seen any sport where Teamwork isn’t at the top of the mind of players? High-performing athletes exhibit a high level of appreciation for Teamwork because they understand that a team may have better individual players, but could still fall short in the pursuit of a championship because the team members are only playing for themselves and not for the common good. In a strong team environment, players want to win for each other, and they can celebrate as a team. Ultimately, this way of thinking has an extremely positive impact on their lives. 


Appreciating the journey

This mindset elevates the people around athletes as well. If an athlete doesn’t appreciate the journey he or she may have had, it is bound to turn the other way around. A lot of athletes keep on dwelling on the past, therefore letting the events that have already happened hinder their current mindset. Hence it is essential always to remember how far you have come and how much is left to discover. 

Athletes cannot find themselves amongst the best unless they possess a strong sense of commitment. This commitment allows the top athlete to remain in the moment, regardless of who is in the stands or what occurred that morning. It also means staying focused on achieving each goal as it comes, without ever forgetting the big picture.