The importance of MST in Football: motivation

07/01/2014 19:41

My last blog was about the importance of MST (Mental Skill Training) within football. This subject is really complex and interests me a lot. That’s why the upcoming weeks I will dig in some subjects about MST and write about it. This of course to share and improve my own vision. The first subject I will dig into will be: motivation.


First of all I want to get clear what I think motivation is and what it contains. My philosophy of motivation has many interfaces with success coaches Damon Burton and Thomas D. Raedeke. I read their book about sports psychology and find many things that made my view about psychology broader.
Motivation is the way an athlete acts. So not only at training sessions, but also in daily life. Motivation is in the choices athletes make, the effort they show and the persistence. These three words are leading when I talk about motivation. There are two types of motivation with athletes: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the need that give the athlete motivation to continue. Extrinsic motivation are for example rewards from the outside (like salary) that are given for the performance of the athlete. In my opinion, the intrinsic motivation is the strongest kind of motivation.

I’m convinced that not every player is motivated in the same way. But there are different levels of being motivated that will work for different players. Of course this is the principle of individuality. The basis of course is with every football player the same. They first started to play football because they thought it was a fun game to play. After some time, they discover that it is a great game to play and the love for the game is born. This is something all football players share, love for football. If this love dies and other activities become more fun, lack of motivation will appear and it will be almost impossible to perform 100% every single time.
After this love for the game players are getting into a team with other guys who love to play the game. Also the need of acceptance, autonomy and the need to feel competent and successful are basic needs that need to be accomplished.

The player and it’s motivation issues

Sometimes I watch a football match and I don’t see enough effort or the right choices. At my own training sessions these things occur also sometimes. I was wandering what I could do as a coach to cope with these kinds of situations. First of all, I want to know what is bothering the player that has this issues, and if something is bothering him at all. Then if I know what is bothering him I can try to handle this issue with the right tools. For example when a player doesn’t feel challenged anymore because he thinks he already learnt everything that he could, I could try to use some goal setting. Try to find something he wants to learn or wants to improve even more. This can always be found. Then set some goals for the short term and for the longer terms. Evaluate the goals to make the player feel he accomplished the goals. The other way around, what if the player thinks that the training sessions or the matches are too difficult he might lose motivation that will make place for anxiety. On this moment I would try to enlighten his strengths that he could use to fulfil his tasks. This can give him another vision on the moment.

The struggle of rewards

Of course the previous coping of issues was meant to raise the intrinsic motivation, because I think this is the strongest kind of motivation. But what if the intrinsic motivation can’t be raised properly. Then the next step will be to raise the motivation by extrinsic motivation, or rewards. This rewards has to be handled with great care though. When a coach uses the wrong rewards consistently, there might occur a wrong type of motivation. The extrinsic motivation kicks out the intrinsic motivation which you definitely need to perform 100%.

So be careful as a coach when you use extrinsic motivation. They don’t need to be big of size, but it’s about the meaning that’s behind it. Also try as a coach to learn players to objectively evaluate a match. This is important so they can interpret success and failure in the right way.

What my point is with this blog, it that coaches have to take into count whether they say about a player unjustified: he is not motivated, he will never make it. Try to dig deeper into it and find out tools that could help to raise the motivation (when this is the problem). Do not just look at mistakes from a player, but try to help him coping with this. There is a lot possible with the mental skill training, and this is something we are going to need more in the future.


I hope I explained a bit of my vision about motivation, and that it made you curious about the possibilities. There are of course more and more tools to use to raise motivation, and every person will react different on it. Try to play with it and try to find out which shoe fits best. Next time I will write about another difficult subject within sports psychology, keep in touch!



Lots of credit to Damon Burton and Thomas D. Raedeke. They made my view about sports psychology broader than it was, and made me like it in the way I do now!