Kolby Johnson of Oklahoma works as a Superintendent, Secondary Principal, and physical education teacher for grades K-12. Mr. Johnson also is a Girls Basketball Head Coach with a record of 353-149, who made 5 State Tournament appearances. In the following article, Kolby Johnson discusses motivational techniques and the psychology behind motivational climate theory in coaching, and the ways coaches can develop task-driven techniques for the benefit of the player.
As the saying goes, legends are not born, but made. The same applies to basketball greats like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. It takes countless hours of practice to develop that level of skill. Sometimes, the best motivation stems from the right coaching technique.
Coaches who wish to inspire their athletes must create the right fervent environment. While attempting to push players with personal aspirations, Kolby Johnson Superintendent explains that ego-driven praise can lead to severe stress and self-doubt in the face of setbacks. Task-driven coaches help players stay motivated by teaching them that setbacks are merely part of the development process, and an opportunity to learn.
These two techniques fall into what sports psychologists know as motivational climate theory, and it’s an important theory to understand when assessing the impact of each approach to coaching basketball.
The Basics of Motivational Climate Theory
Kolby Johnson Superintendent explains that basketball coaches can create one of two climates for their teams. The first, which some psychologists believe potentially harmful to players’ mentality, is the ego-driven climate. In this environment, players learn that:
- Winning is the only goal that matters
- Skill is defined by comparing their own abilities to those of others
- They must not only play better than others, but skills should come naturally
- Achievement is defined by public evaluation and praise
- A player should strive to outperform teammates as well as rivals
- Real winners should have no limits
By contrast, Johnson says that a task-driven, motivational climate teaches players to assess their progress by measures other than social comparison or interpersonal competition. In this team environment, coaches teach players that:
- The quality of a performance is defined by more than winning or losing
- Skill and progress are defined by self-referenced criteria
- Exerting oneself is a positive quality, not a negative one
- Achievement is measured by continued progress and improvement
- Knowledge and appreciation of teammates’ strengths is part of development
- Successful athletes know their own limits
Why Ego-Driven Motivation Often Fails
Because ego-involved climates thrive on social comparisons, players in these toxic environments typically derive enthusiasm from the ambitions of winning games, receiving awards, and proving they can play better than the other athletes on the court. While this approach can work to a degree, its potential strengths as a coaching technique diminish with the fragility of a player’s sense of self.
For instance, Kolby Johnson of Oklahoma says that the concept that truly skilled players can excel effortlessly plays right into the notion of mental toughness—players who think they must have no limits are less likely to rest properly when injured. They hold the belief that a better athlete would play through the pain, and win. As a result, their injuries may worsen and take them out of the game for the season – or worse, can end promising careers.
Under the right circumstances, ego-driven motivation could theoretically work explains Kolby Johnson of Oklahoma. After being outperformed by another athlete or being jeered by the crowd for a blunder on the court, an athlete with the right mindset might become inspired to improve themselves further. However, even this hypothetical relies on said athlete defining their improvement through a task-driven lens.
Developing Task-Driven Motivational Techniques
Kolby Johnson of Oklahoma says that some modern coaches may not like the previous description of task-involved motivational techniques. The concept of self-defined skill assessment will inevitably sound to some like the sort of thing a coach lectures his team about just before handing out a box of participation trophies. In reality, “self-referenced” assessments aren’t as pandering as they sound.
Coaches striving to develop a task-driven environment do not simply teach players to pat themselves on the back whether they deserve it or not, but rather, to always keep learning about the game itself and identifying areas in which they can strive toward personal progress and technical improvement. Instead of competing with each other, players compete primarily with their past selves, striving for excellence each time they step onto the court.
When a task-driven player suffers an injury or makes multiple errors on the court, they are less likely to feel dejected over negative public valuation because their primary goal lies in figuring out how to play better tomorrow than they did today. This means they always have something to work toward, giving them an endless well of inspiration to continue striving for progress.
Although ego-driven motivational techniques could, in theory, create superstars, the best coaches motivate their players in such a way that they won’t lose enthusiasm to keep playing when their star does begin to fade. By creating a task-driven motivational climate, basketball coaches can teach players to stay driven through any setback they might face.