Monday, November 3, 2008

The psychology of intrinsic motivation

In the last 21 games, the University of Reno football team is 3-7 in games decided by eight points or less, including four straight.

So the question is, why can't Reno win close games? Is it a "mental" thing?

Not according to coach Chris Ault:

"Psychology (comes into play) when you don't know why you're losing. We know why. We know why we're getting beat. Like I told the kids. We know the enemy. It's us. Nobody's forcing us. They're not doing things to put us in these spots. It's us."

Further, Coach Ault takes full responsibility for his team's woes:

"When you're still making the same mistakes, you're not getting any better, and that comes down to coaching. It's got to get better, and it's got to get better fast. It's just that simple. The bottom line is somewhere along the line these kids don't understand. When it consistently happened, and those players don't realize their obligation and responsibility and accountability for that particular play, that is coaching. It's that simple. And it starts right here and works its way on down."

According to one psychologist, in situations when teams repeatedly lose close games, they cn begin to feel the pressure. His suggestion?

"Don't worry about winning. Worry about having fun. The solution is intrinsic motivation: 'I want to be the best player I can be. On this next play I'm going to play the best I can play it.'

Coaches are the ones who have to be worried about winning. Players just need to get into a flow. A lot of it has to do with enjoying it. That's how it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you're losing it's not fun, the coaches are yelling, the students are booing. It's less and less fun. That's what pushes you to extrinsic motivation."