Sports Psychology and Motivation

Everyone has those moments where they feel like they aren’t performing their best or lack the motivation to perform successfully. This can derive from stress, amotivation, or even an injury. As a dancer who has torn her hamstring, I can confidently say that I know what it’s like to feel as though you can’t accomplish something. 

I know what it’s like to have mental blocks not allowing me to reach my full potential. But I also know what it’s like to overcome that; I want to help others do the same. 

Organic Rainbow Moment: I would still dance even if no one ever saw me perform. I have an intrinsic motivation for dance. It’s what makes me feel good inside. Kayla McCargo

Through realizing my passion for helping others and my knack for athletics, I decided to go into Sports Psychology. According to the American Psychological Association, Sports Psychology is “A proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations”(2008). Or, as I would like to call it, motivation of the light within. Sports Psychology is highly motivating. In my experience learning about Sports Psychology, I noticed it’s not about anyone else; it’s about you. What you want to do and how you want to achieve your goals. It has nothing to do with comparing yourself to others or not meeting expectations people have set for you; it’s about how you feel inside and bringing that greatness out within you. 

Types of motivation

There are multiple types of motivation, but the three commonly known motivations are:

  • Intrinsic motivation
    • Doing something for the satisfaction of doing it instead of a reward of sorts. So, for example, when someone is intrinsically motivated, they usually move or do something for the fun of it, for the challenge; either way, it’s for some internal purpose rather than for an external product or because of external pressures.
  • Extrinsic motivation
    • The behavior or action of doing something for an external purpose. These external purposes can be tangible rewards, like money, or intangible rewards like praise. Extrinsic motivation is derived only from external forces, and intrinsic motivation only comes from within the individual. 
  • Amotivation
    • Amotivation can also be called avolition, is a reduction in the motivation to initiate or persist in goal-directed behavior (Lee et al., 2015). 

As a dancer, my motivation comes from an internal root. I feel as though it has to because of how demanding it is. If your heart isn’t in it, you’ll want to quit within the first couple of days. But, I have a burning passion for dance. It’s as if my soul longs for it. Yes, praise is excellent, but I would still dance even if no one ever saw me perform. I have an intrinsic motivation for dance. It’s what makes me feel good inside. It allows me to express myself and explore how I feel that day; it enables me to challenge myself while getting a good workout! 

How does wellness show up in sports Psychology?

Sports psychologists help professional and amateur athletes overcome problems, enhance their performance, and achieve their goals (2012). 

Sports psychologists are all about enhancing wellness so that people can get their heads back in the game. Whether that’s on the field or in the office. Sports Psychologists help improve performance, cope with the pressures of competition, recover from injuries, keep up an exercise program, and enjoy the sport for athletes. I recently learned that Sports Psychologists use many mental strategies like self-talk, visualization, and relaxation techniques to enhance performance. In addition, Sports Psychologists can help people deal with pressure from parents, coaches, or even themselves. There are people out there who attempt to exercise regularly but find it to be an unattainable feat. Sports psychologists can help increase people’s motivation to want to exercise and eliminate any concerns, as you can see that this is not directly tailored to athletes but people in general. 

The directly correlated athlete aspect would be recovering from injuries. After an athlete gets injured, they may need assistance in tolerating their pain, keeping up with physical therapy, and adjusting to getting put on the bench. As well as teaching coaches how to genuinely get kids to enjoy the sports they are playing while helping to promote healthy self-esteem in their athletes. But, even then, promoting healthy self-esteem is not only directed to athletes. 

Sports Psychology plays hand in hand with one another, but neither is directly geared just for athletes. Anyone can benefit from either. We’ve all been in a place of stress or just feeling unmotivated; we can all use an opportunity to be a little more motivated.

With Intention, Kayla McCargo – Intentional Simplicity Intern

American Psychological Association. (2008). Sport psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/sports. 

American Psychological Association. (2012). Sport psychologists help professional and amateur athletes. American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/sport-rehabilitation/psychologists. 

Lee, J. S., Jung, S., Park, I. H., & Kim, J.-J. (2015, December 13). Neural basis of anhedonia and amotivation in patients with schizophrenia: The role of reward system. Current neuropharmacology. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759314/.