Motivation & rugby

What motivates players? Why are people playing rugby? Always a good questions to ask, you will be amazed by the answers.

If you want to get the most out of your players then you have to make 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 want 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.

How is motivation part of teambuilding?

The teambuilding process is based on four important factors:

  • Identity
  • Goals
  • Structure
  • Motivation

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?

Biological Motivators:

  • Life Force – the natural desire of humans to pit themselves against their environment in a struggle of survival;
  • A secondary fulfillment is maximum stimulation;

Psychological Motivations:

  • Aggression – athletes are stimulated to perform if there is a possibility of: gaining a feeling of power by  outperforming others or obtaining a reward;
  • Conflict – athletes attempt to resolve internal conflicts by transferring their energy to athletic pursuits;
  • Competence – athletes experience feelings of joy and pleasure by interacting purposefully with their environment;

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? Were do you find the motivation to do this? 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:

  • Sport-psychology is useless without the aid of coaches.
  • Even more: the coach should do himself the first mental training.
  • Specific things can be handled by you, if necessary by a sport-psychologist.
  • Coaches should take genuine interest in the motivation of their players.

One of the most interesting presentations was by Joan Duda. Following are some points from her lecture. Joan described two different sport-climates, which connect to the way athletes think. With this categorisation the motivation of an athlete can be understood better and response by the coach 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 too 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.”
  • “The referee / teammates made too many mistakes.”

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). Your 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.

  • Model Honoring the Game in behavior and language, especially when the official makes a “bad” call against your team.
  • Tell your players you expect them to Honor the Game regardless of what the other team does.
  • Recognize that you are the leader of the team, which includes the players AND their parents. Set and reinforce expectations for parent behavior in
    • A pre-season letter to parents (download from the PCA website)
    • A parent meeting at the beginning of season
  • Pre-game conversations at every game
  • Support the officials, especially if your parents yell at them. Tell parents they are to Honor the Game even if the official makes a bad call.
  • Appoint a team parent as “Culture Keeper” to gently remind other parents on the sideline to Honour the Game.
  • Make sure they have Honour cards, buttons, and stickers to distribute.