Introduction on motivation for rugby

Why are people playing rugby? Always a good questions to ask, you will be amazed by the answers. What motivates players? Even better question you have to ask yourself! If you want to get the most out of your players you have to sure that you can give them what they want out of the game. This is where this gets interesting: what do want of your players?

If what you want of the team "overlaps" what the players want you have a good basis to work on. Once you mapped out why your players are involved with the game, you can motivate them better. If what you wants is too far away from the teams ideas it is also clear: do not bother.

"Rugby should be fun". "We are competitive team". Is both possible? I believe it can be. How to create a competitive edge AND fun sport environment? Answer: by creating a positive coaching environment.

The teambuilding process is based on four important factors:

An important factor in developing your team is thinking about a motivational plan. With this page I will try to introduce you to this topic. At the bottom you will find some interesting links.

What are motivational components?

I found an article on the CANCoach website that describes these as:

Biological Motivators:

Psychological Motivations:

Interesting to translate this to rugby: the bottom line is that your opponent is coming towards you to score a try; do you stand in front of him and tackle? How badly do you want to win? Rugby can hurt!

Motivational Climate

I was at this workshop in the Dutch National Sports-center Papendal for a lecture on sport- psychology. On of the presentations was on the subject of motivation. Why do players enjoy sports and what is the role of the coach? Some important notes:

One of the most interesting presentations was by Joan Duda, who was involved with the US Gymnastics team. Following are some points from her lecture. Joan described two different sport-climates, which connect to the way athletes think. With this categorization the motivation of an athlete can be understood better and response as a coached better targeted. The two categories are: Task oriented or Ego oriented. You can distinguish these categories by the following:

  Task oriented

  Ego oriented

  • Reward hard work
  • Success is improve yourself
  • Goals and values based on social environment
  • Sets own goals and values
  • Success is demonstrating superior ability
  • Only success matters

Research has shown that the task oriented sport environment is the most successful in bringing out the best in players, also in players who are highly ego oriented. This means that the role of the coach is to create the 'task' climate by doing and saying the correct things. Its important for coaches to understand what motivates his players and create the right climate for his players to flourish. This is reflected by a list of responses for coaches:

Skill-builder Responses which emphasize:

  Effort / Improvement / Skill mastery 

  Ability / Winning / Losing

  • "How did you play?" or "Did you have fun?"
  • "You're really following through well on your kick."
  • "You and your teammates are working well together in the scrum."
  • "You really stayed positive when the rest was getting frustrated and down on them self."
  • "It sure helps to have your support when things aren't going well."
  • "I was proud of the way you hustled all the way through the game."
  • "Did you win?"
  • "It's to bad you didn't get to score today."
  • "You're better than Sam/Sue. I don't know why the coach isn't starting you at that position."
  • "You probably would have won today if your teammates had played better."
  • "Your opponents cheated / were lucky."

This table helps you to communicate with players. You address a player on his poor tackle but he will point out that "George" also missed tackles (ego responds). You job is to focus on his individual skill and how it will be great if improves! Re-focus on task orientation.

Positive Coaching Alliance

This Alliance has a website with lots of information regarding positive coaching and creating an Task Oriented environment. Below is a copy from their website.

Honoring the Game Guidelines

The key to preventing adult misbehavior in youth sports is a youth sports culture in which all involved "Honor the Game." Honoring the Game gets to the ROOTS of the matter and involves respect for the Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and one's Self. You don't bend the rules to win. You understand that a worthy opponent is a gift that forces you to play to your highest potential. You show respect for officials even when you disagree. You refuse to do anything that embarrasses your team. You live up to your own standards even if others don't. Here are ways that coaches can create a positive youth sports culture so that children will have fun and learn positive character traits to last a lifetime.

In the Netherlands the government runs a similar program called Kanjers in the Sport. In workshops clubs get to understand the different characters (a Rooster, a Monkey, a Rabbit and how all to become Tigers.

Money and Rugby

Nowadays players seem to go where the money goes, sad really. Rewards such as praise, publicity and increased self-esteem are often more powerful than the tangible rewards of money. As a club you can help to provide these! The effects of rewards are dependent on the orientation of the player - some are very financially motivated while others are more intrinsically motivated. Players with high levels of intrinsic motivation are those who reach high levels in rugby and are more likely to be absolutely committed. This is a good opportunity for a club: built an "infrastructure" that will attract those kinds of players. Positive motivation is the preferred approach and moves players towards a positive experience, and towards something they want to happen, while a negative approach aims to drive players away from a negative experience.

Related documents

Joan Duda published her views on these matters. This article gives some background information on the subject. Its main focus is the motivation of kids and why a positive sport experience when young is important for future life. A little test for players to see what their orientation is also included. The article ends with tips for players, coaches and parents. Good Stuff!