What motivates athletes to be the best?

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These are 3 of the most important things successful athletes possess that help them strive for and reach goals.

  • Energy– the strength and vitality to be the best. Energy comes from eating well and getting enough sleep. Athletes need energy in order to perform well.
  • Spirit – the emotional and characteristic side to being an athlete. Spirit describes the behaviour of the athlete; it is the will to succeed.
  • Ambition– is purpose. It is a reason to be the best and to strive for success.

This drive for accomplishment comes from self-discipline and pushing and pushing that little bit harder until the athlete becomes the best in their field.

Whether it’s skiing, tennis, swimming or sprint, the formula for success is the same: dedication to the sport and the desire to be the best are key features to being number one.

male athlete on running track

Reasons to be the best athlete

Athletes’ aspirations to be the best are far and wide. A professional athlete may want to be the best for several reasons:

  • Love of the sport – an athlete will often push themselves to the limit to prove to themselves they can do it and because they are passionate about what they do. Just as some of us are driven by a job we love, an athlete who aspires to be number one is committed to their job.
  • Finance – a career as a professional athlete brings the promise of big money if you’re the best. Being number one can mean sponsorship or a contract.
  • Career – some athletes aspire to being Olympic champions, and some just want to earn a living from something they really enjoy. Athletes can go up the career ladder in the same way as business people. There’s always another achievement to be had, and another rung to climb.
  • Fame – some athletes want the celebrity status of being the best. They want to be recognised for their hard work as top player in their field. They may also wish to compete at international level, be an ‘elite’ athlete and be on TV and in the news.
  • Non-professional athletes may have these same reasons, but on a smaller scale. Both groups have a similar passion for their sport and need to love their game to want to be the best.

What is motivation?

Motivation is the desire to achieve something for yourself. It’s the ability to keep going when you´re having a bad day or don´t feel like training. Many athletes have a talent for their sport. Their motivation to be the best comes from their mental attitude towards:

  • Training sessions – planned and timed to achieve the most from their capabilities on a regular basis.
  • Long term goals – to keep in mind the reasons why training and competing is so important.
  • Their coach – to respect and listen to advice.
  • Team mates – to work with the team to reach common objectives.

There are two kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic

gymnast legs balancing on wooden plank
  • Intrinsic motivationis the athlete’s wish to succeed for their own purposes. It’s a craving for success that only comes with high standards of personal discipline. A top athlete’s life is likely to be centred round their sport and nothing else will compare to the success of winning.
  • Extrinsic motivation– is the desire to win when competing for material gain such as money, prizes and rewards.

A mix of both kinds of motivation can breed major accomplishments in the world of athletics. An athlete who has a positive mental attitude, combined with the desire to receive financial recognition in their sport has the right balance.

Successful athletes have the will to win and the ambition to make it happen. To be the best they have to put in the hard work to achieve their aims. It’s all about self-challenge: what is my best and can I do better?

Read more about motivation for athletes in this article from the BBC.

Who can inspire athletes to be the best?

man receiving diving lessons

Different athletes have different support methods.

Being a sole competitor, such as a runner, means self-discipline.

Striving for personal success can be enough, but often the background support of a coach encourages the sole athlete to push themselves harder.

Of course a coach is also the backbone of a team, no matter what sport is played, and is there not only to train techniques, such as stamina building, but to provide praise (where it´s due) and support for every team player.

The coach needs to understand each individual player, what ‘makes them tick’ and how to get the best out of them.

The coach’s role is also to ensure the athlete is psychologically fit, in terms of being mentally prepared for training sessions, keeping the overall goal in mind and knowing how to use the best approaches to win.

Learn more about the role of a sports coach here on the National Careers Service website

Self-belief is also a key factor in being a top athlete. They believe in their capabilities and are of the mind-set ‘I can and will do it’. They don´t entertain negative thoughts and are constantly thinking of ways to improve their performance.

To achieve their best, athletes should be set, or set themselves, realistic but challenging goals. The constant aim to go one step further can spur them on to reach those goals.

These goals should be reviewed regularly and noted when achieved. This achievement gives a sense of progress. Goals should not be too rigid or out of reach.

On the other hand, goals that are not challenging enough are worthless as they will be too easy and risk the athlete becoming bored and not achieving their full potential.

Any athlete can also benefit from working with a training partner: someone who competes at their level and trains with them. Working with a fellow sports player can:

people cycling on a road
  • Give training a competitive edge
  • Encourage positive thinking
  • Set joint milestones
  • Spur both on when motivation is lacking
  • Discover where improvements can be made

Talent = success = money

Is this true? Because so many sports today are highly paid, it’s a fact that some athletes are driven by the promise of big cash rewards, as opposed to a personal sense of achievement.

Being the best shouldn’t just be about money in the athletic world (or any other come to that). It should combine a competitive nature with the personal inspiration to succeed. Perhaps a better title would be: Talent = personal achievement = reward

To conclude:

Excellent support means excellent performance. Athletes strive to be the best. Coaches and sports psychologists are the supporting figures than help them get there. Motivation is as important for the athlete as it is for the people in the background who encourage and are the backbone behind a good athlete.

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