MAYO have been regularly in All-Ireland finals for almost two decades, but they’ve never been classed as a successful team.
Tyrone and Monaghan have won provincial titles in the last decade, but under Mickey Harte and Malachy O’Rourke, the ‘public’ won’t see them as successful until they win an All-Ireland.
Arsenal and Tottenham will not be seen as successful until each win the Premier League.
But success is NOT winning. Over time, players have learnt from parents, coaches, team-mates, media, etc to gauge their self worth by whether they win or lose.
The result, (devastating at times as seen by ‘losers crying’), is that players can maintain their self worth only by making others feel unworthy, eg, Mayo.
Thus, in gaelic and indeed modern sport, a way must be found for every player to experience success in an environment where winners are few and losers are many.
Do we eliminate losing? Impossible, so failure orientated players will persist. But, learning to lose has positive aspects. The solution lives in changing the way players and coaches interpret losing, eg, accept it in the mantra, ‘EITHER I WIN or I LEARN’, thus for coaches to enhance the MOTIVATION of their players they must change the yardstick of success.
That great Olympian distance runner, Gebre Haile Selassie, said: ‘Winning is important, but PREPARATION is everything’.
Thus players must see success, as ‘ACHIEVING THEIR OWN GOALS’ rather than surpassing the performance of others’, ie, a principle for understanding motivation.
Easy to state – Yes!, difficult to achieve – Yes! But if coaches help players undertand and implement this principle, it will do more to help them become excellent players and successful people than by any other coaching action, eg Stephen Cusack was named ‘Club Player of the Year’ in Armagh this year, despite his club (Maghery) losing the county final a year after they won the county title for the first time.
How can personal goals help players achieve. Consider these:
1.SET REALISTIC PERFORMANCE GOALS – Not goals concerning winning or losing outcomes. Examples of personal goals – ‘My passes will be 100 per cent ‘advantageous’ to team mates’ or ‘I will practice the ‘two-ball’ approach to taking scores so that I become a high scoring player ‘off’ either foot’ or ‘my feet first, hand attacking the ball tackle will gain a high percentage of possession’. Placing emphasis on achieving personal goals, players gain control over their skills, their game sense and their own success. Realistic goals achieved ensures the player that they’ve had a reasonable degree of success. Have players keep a realistic perspective in setting suitable goals and also avoid competition/parental pressures.
2.HAVE PLAYERS SET APPROPRIATE TEAM GOALS – Not number of winning games goals or winning championship goals. Appropriate team goals, eg dealing with learning to play together as a unit, using a ‘team language, respecting each other and playing with good sportsmanship while having fun are more important than winning. By players achieving both individuals and team goals, winning usually takes care of itself as Slaughtneil have endorsed by playing to a sense of community.
3.MOTIVATION TO PRACTICE – When winning becomes secondary to achieving personal/team goals, players become more motivated to practice. ‘One-to-one’ clinics with the coach endorse this as the coach/player relationship grows stronger. In a sense, competitions are then not viewed as the ‘end-all’ but as periodic tests towards achieving personal goals. In time, players will judge themselves not on winning/losing but in terms of having achieved their specific performance/behavioural goals set.
4.DEVELOPING RESPONSIBILITY – If, guided by the coach, players are let set, their own goals (provided they are realistic), players become RESPONSIBLE for their own progress. They will feel in control and take credit for their successes and responsibility for their weaknesses – the first step in motiving players.
5.RECOGNISE PLAYERS LIMITATIONS – Poor performance doesn’t always mean a player lacks motivation. Rather, it’s more a measure of performing up to their ability. Coaches must identify when players are performing to their limits. Firstly, however, encourage players to learn/discover their limitations for themselves. Secondly, this done now, allows coach to help the player face their limitations without feeling devalued, ie, they ask you for help rather than coach telling them what they need helped with. This joint approach gives players a better chance to learn to maintain realistic goals. Avoid making players believe they have no limits, so to avoid the player seeking unrealistic goals which lead to failure, frustration or injury.
6.MAKING PLAYERS FEEL COMPETENT AND CONFIDENT – When helping players set realistic goals, they often experience more success and feel more competent. In being more competent, they gain confidence to tackle skills of moderate difficulty, (just beyond their limits), without fearing failure (baby steps). They find their EFFORTS result in move favourable outcomes and that any falling short is down more to insufficient effort. Thus failure here does not mean they are less worthy, failure indicates they must TRY HARDER.
7.DE-EMPHASISE WINNING AND RE-EMPHASISE ATTAINING PERSONAL GOALS – This is KEY to meeting players’ need to feel WORTHY, not only to maintain their self worth, but also to develop it further. In doing so, your players’ motivation is enhanced.
A coach’s decision to put the well-being of their players first and winning second, along with adopting a co-operative, rather than a command style of coaching are essential to enhancing their players motivation.
Jim Gavin and Mickey Moran are prime examples whose teams have succeeded by personal achievement rather than winning.