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soccer motivation

In soccer, nothing can affect performance as dramatically as a sudden loss of motivation. Without the motivation to succeed a player cannot survive the challenges soccer can throw up. If the team or player is going through a bad patch then motivating your players becomes especially important. However, an overly motivated player may be nervous and take risks. This article attempts to look at motivation and suggest ways to help improve the motivational capacities of players.

In general we distinguish between, personal self-motivation (intrinsic) and motivation from the outside (extrinsic) by the coach, teammates, friends etc. By looking at the process of motivation, we can see how this influences performance. Human beings are motivated to do sport for several reasons;
A need to move & to play: To be active, expend excess energy & aggression, for self-fulfilment, to take risks, to satisfy curiosity, make use of the hunting and adventurous spirit...

Ambition & Recognition: Various motives are ambition (win competitions), outside recognition (from fans, family, teammates...), playing in front of an audience, sociability and social standing...

Overall, the motives and needs of players are guided by two basic factors, the hope of success and fear of failure with experience generally showing that the former plays the major role in motivating players.

Every player has a dream in soccer and some players pursue their dreams and expect to achieve them through renewed hard work and dedication. Obstacles are seen as a challenge and each setback as a call for more effort to improve and overcome these problems. This type of player is intrinsically self-motivated as their desire to succeed comes from within themselves.

However, many players, often technically and physically good enough to succeed, fall by the wayside due to a lack of self-belief to fulfill their dreams or the willingness to spend the necessary time on the pitch or in the gym.

Generally, it is easier to work with highly motivated players, as they only need decent objectives, the environment and ability to concentrate as well as good technical, tactical and physical coaching. However, these players still need to be looked after as they may become frustrated and bored if they do not meet their goals or keep their performances up to expected standards.

For children who are under motivated, the football coach needs firstly to convince and motivate these athletes to believe they can succeed and secondly that only hard work will lead to success.
There is no perfect method for motivating players as this changes from individual to individual and can depend on the current situation, such as the team's position in the league. The following points suggest various ways to help motivate and sustain motivation in your players:

Balanced & interesting training: A disorganized and unbalanced training session can de-motivate players from giving their best. Plan well ahead and cater for the individual group's and team's needs. Remember variety is the spice of life! Training should be both mentally and physically stimulating. For players who are often substitutes, keeping them motivated is difficult. Try for example to have a weekly game in which the head coach works solely with the substitutes and an assistant coach works with the first-team but don't at any time put distance between the players.

Setting objectives (Goal setting): Is useful as it allows players to have something to aim at through a pre-defined plan to compare their progress at different steps over a period of time. However, the effect of motivation depends on how attractive the goal is. Also, objectives that are too easy will lead to players being either overconfident or careless or if too difficult, players will approach them with low confidence and hesitancy. Try developing a goal setting plan with daily, medium and long-term goals.
Be enthusiastic, positive, honest and supportive: Your enthusiasm and positivity will rub off on players. Mention the positive actions rather than the negative actions as often as possible. Be honest about performance and be firm when making a point about areas that need improvement. Offer suggestions on how to improve. Do not embarrass your players but do tell them what you think!

Encouragement: Encourage fun and hard work in the training or competition. Always encourage players when they are successful and unsuccessful and avoid complacency.

Be supportive, confident and respective: Remind them that they win as a team and lose as a team. Always be ready to listen to your player's worries and questions. Accept them for who they are and for what they give to the team. Respect your players and they will respect you. Give credit where it is due focusing mainly on the team as a whole and accept some responsibility for a loss. Remind them that we all make mistakes and will learn from them.

Get to know your players and speak to them individually on a regular basis. Compliment them on aspects of their game and mentioning areas they need to work in can help to further motivate them.

Change of face: Players can get bored of the same old faces! Try bringing in new coaches with fresh and different ideas, perhaps even on a short-term basis.

Imagery & Motivation: Players can use imagery to mentally rehearse a variety of aspects, like focusing on overcoming a technical weakness or mentally preparing for a match. Relaxation helps, as players are more motivated when they realize that they can control stress and anxiety.


During match preparation, the aim of the coach is to find the right motivational levels. This can be attained by watching the attitude of the players and providing a good pep talk. The coach can play up or play down the importance of a game in order to reduce or increase motivation. He can also take pressure off too keyed-up players by accepting responsibility for the result. The experience of the coach does often tell in these situations and will play a role in the resulting performance.

The position of the club in the league plays an important role in player motivation, as does the pre-match or half time team talk.

If your team is in the leading pack: The biggest problem can be over-confidence and complacency. The coach may use a short sharp shock to bring them back down to earth. Players can also show mental and physical staleness from the pressure of being at the top. Rest and recovery training work can help re-motivate the troops.

If your team is mid-table: A team facing neither the threat of relegation nor promotion has little incentive. Motivation may be low as is the sense of urgency and desire to win. Bringing in new players, changing playing systems or position roles may help.

If your team is low or in the relegation zone: Teams in the lower half can lose confidence and develop a negative attitude or a fear of losing. The coach must remove this fear by persuading players that if they keep doing what they are good at, things will come right. Concentrating on the simple things and not the results whilst giving precise instructions to individuals about their job will help along with much praise and encouragement.

As mentioned earlier, the pre-match and half time talk will play a role in determining motivational levels. The opposition like the league position of a team plays an important part in deciding the talk content. Playing a team lower than yourself can lead to overconfidence as the players automatically think they will win. Coaches must explain the importance of being serious and make sure that players are not complacent in their training and preparation, especially in Cup competitions against smaller clubs.

A highly motivated team can often prove the difference when playing against rivals of a similar calibre. Also, when meeting a more successful team coaches often play on the underdog, nothing to lose position. Although this may lead to a team feeling they have no chance. Several club managers in English football claim that teams when playing Manchester Utd just lie down and accept defeat. The coach must play on the weaknesses of the opposition (every team has them!) and motivate his players to believe they can take advantage of them.

The half time team talk will of course depend on the score and impressions of the coach. A team leading 2-0 will be instructed not to become complacent and concede an early goal whereas a tight goalless first-half may lead the coach to jolt his players and encourage them to try to break the deadlock through their ability.


Motivation is a key means to achieving success. It greatly depends on the coaches' personality, attitude and means of getting players interested in bettering themselves and accepting the means by which they can develop. Generally, the coach should try to understand what motivation is and the ways to turn under or extrinsically motivated players into intrinsically highly motivated successful players.
In the end, Bill Besick (sports psychologist for Manchester Utd) states that the strongest motivation must be because the player wants to win and in a team sport the motivation must be because the players want to win together.

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