The motivation at football players, an underestimated issue

30/10/2013 22:33


I was watching the match of my hometown club PSV Eindhoven against Roda JC last Wednesday. The game wasn’t as bad as the score line suggested. The match ended up in a 1-3 win for Roda JC. The fans at the Philips stadium went home, disappointed of course. It was the second time that PSV lost its match against Roda in a week. It wasn’t the bad field play which I wanted to discuss. Also I don’t want to discuss the coach or individual players, I want to discuss the ideal motivation within the football world at this moment.

A nice anecdotic story which is quoted in ‘Sports psychology for coaches’ by Damon Burton and Thomas D. Raedeke:

A man wanted to stop a group of children from playing noisily in the vacant lot next to this house each afternoon. The more he hollered, the noisier the children got and the longer they played. One day, he called them to his house and told them that he liked watching them play and that he wanted to pay them to continue playing. He offered to pay each of them a dollar for each day they played on the vacant lot after school. The next day, the kids played enthusiastically and collected their money. The second day, the old man apologetically explained he could pay them only 75 cents, and on the following two days he reduced his payment to 50 and then 25 cents. By day 5, the old man told them he had run out of money but certainly hoped they would continue to play. Indignant, the children declared they were not going to play for nothing! Problem solved.

This is one of the most clear explanations of how extrinsic motivation expels intrinsic motivation. At first, the children play because they like to play over there. But when they earn money for playing, the motivation shifts from the playing and the fun, to the reward. So the extrinsic motivation expels intrinsic motivation.

My opinion is that this phenomenon also appears by football players these days. At first, when the players are young, they play football for fun. They love to play with friends, family, at the streets, on the field, in the living room, etc. The ball is their life. But as they are getting older, they learn at the club that they must stick to the team, and if they obey all the rules that are schooled them, if they work hard and play well, then one day they will be part of the first team. In the first team they can earn a lot of money, get an expensive car and a nice villa just outside the city. The salaries are getting higher and higher and de limits of money with good football players are gone. They can buy anything they want, at any moment they want. But of course, not anyone can make it to the top of Europe. But the other football players at lower European teams see what they can get if they play good enough.
It is never enough, the players want more and more. But what more do they want? Is it money, is it fame, or is it playing at a bigger stadium, against better opponents? What motivation do these players have these days, and what will this motivation bring us in the future? Do these players still love the game, or did they play for the money and the fame? Are they intrinsically, or extrinsically motivated?

My opinion is to be aware for now, but even more in the future. A giant task for coaches to keep the players intrinsically motivated. Not only focus on the outcome (winning, money and fame) but focus on the process and progress. This gives a better feeling of accomplishment.
If we only motivate the players with money, expensive cars and huge villa’s, then this motivation will expel the love of the game, the main reason why this players began with football in the first place.

So coaches be aware of the motivation of the player, it is an important issue right now, but it will be even more in the future..