An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Derrek Falor, girls soccer program head

Girls soccer program head Derrek Falor is the owner of Thrive: Excellence in Sport Performance, a sports-psychology practice that aims to provide “functional mental training tools for athletes, teams and coaches who desire to achieve consistent optimal performances.” This blog is reposted with permission from Thrive.

In a nod to the The Last Dance: The Untold Story of Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls (which premiered this past Sunday, see the trailer here), I have been thinking about motivation in the last few days. Michael Jordan is widely considered one of, if not the best, player to ever play the game of basketball. With six championship titles and a bevy of other amazing accomplishments, he was the master of finding different sources of motivation during his career.  He would use comments from opponents, goals he was chasing, and areas of growth in his game to drive himself forward. His ability to play every game like it was his last was unparalleled.

We are living in a unique time for athletics. While those of us that are healthy are fortunate compared to those in the world who are ill, finding ways to move ourselves forward as an athlete is certainly challenging. Especially when considering that we don’t really know how long this quarantine environment will force us to be on our own. So, how to stay motivated? Intrinsic motivation? External motivation? I actually think a combo of both might be the ideal state for athletes right now.

In conversations with a variety of my clients this past week, one thing has become clear: We all must find and lock onto the best source of motivation we can to keep progressing as an athlete when we don’t know how long we will have to drive ourselves to improve. Intrinsic motivation is almost always the most powerful fuel in the long run, as you are not relying on an external factor to get you going. That said, often we start our hard work based on some kind of external motivator/goal that is important to us. Here are two articles about how Olympians use certain mental skills like self-talk and goal setting to get through the training grind.

How Olympians Stay Motivated

5 Olympic Athletes Reveal What Motivates Them Most & Their Answers Will Inspire You

Why the articles about Olympians? Well, they have a 4-year cycle to overcome before they have a chance to compete on that elite stage. That certainly takes an amazing amount of motivation to work purposefully each day. Why the lead in about Michael Jordan? Because he found ways to drive himself no matter what. Right now we are having to spend a few months finding ways to improve, push ourselves to new levels, and make specific gains in our sport. Jordan and Olympians are excellent at working through these types of challenges for extended periods of time! We can learn from them.

Here are some examples of various motivation concepts came up in my work this week. 

One athlete shared that she was motivated to repeatedly run up a hill near her house to improve her power and explosion work while thinking about having to sprint down the length of the field to finish across from a fast teammate. In this case she chose to tap into some external motivation (keeping up with her teammate in transition) to prompt her hill running work. 

Another external motivation example came up when talking to a soccer goalkeeper who is working to earn a starting spot next fall. He is using the reward of earning a starting spot to help him focus his daily footwork through cones, ladders, and dot drills. These types of footwork exercises can get repetitive, that an athlete might move through the drills at far less than her/his fastest. Using the external motivator to keep one’s work rate high could encourage a higher rate of work for longer, which could in turn help him be much more explosive than the other keepers he will be competing with in August.

Another athlete I was talking with was focusing to improve her core strength as that would help her rotate herself faster through the aerial portion of her vault.  Here she was using an internal motivation focus to drive her daily work because she knew she had to get stronger to vault more effectively. Vaulting more effectively will then allow her to make the team’s Vault line up next season.

So, these are just three examples. It’s time for you to come up with your own.

Step 1. Think about an externally motivating thing that is important for you to accomplish. This should be both challenging and within your power to accomplish. 

Step 2. Use that external motivator to then come up with a few areas of your game where when you make improvements will drive you toward that goal. This is where the intrinsic motivation comes in.

Step 3. Make sure to use your debriefing system each week to note your progress. Create a feedback loop to drive and guide your work.

Step 4. Come up with some effective self-talk cues and phrases that will help you keep your focus and energy up while you are actually working on your intrinsically motivated growth points.

Step 5. Plan on 5 minutes a day where you will use your imagery skills to see yourself doing two things:

a). Accomplishing your externally motivating goal.

b). Performing the smaller parts of your game we defined in Step 2.

Step 6. Complete your success log at the end of the week to note progress toward your internal and external goals.


Success Log

Post-Training Session Debrief


Follow Lakeside Lions girls soccer on Twitter at @LakesideLionsFC.

Follow Lakeside Athletics on Twitter at @LakesideLions.