How Does Motivation Affect Sports Performance?

When you are looking for peak performance in your chosen sport, you have to consider the mental factors as well as the physical ones. Even the most physically capable of people will find that their impressive physiques will do them no good without a mind and a will to drive them. In this article, we are going to take a closer look at motivation and how it can affect physical activity at every level.

How Does Motivation Affect Sports Performance?

Motivation is simply the willpower that makes a person get up and get active. Without motivation, nothing gets done. When we think of it this way, it is obvious how motivation (or a lack thereof) can affect your performance.

A person who is not motivated will not be inclined to show up for training sessions, and will not train hard. An athlete cannot expect to win if they do not push themselves, and so motivation becomes one of the main things that separate the winners from the losers.

But how much difference does motivation really make? It might surprise you to learn that there is a scale by which motivation can be measured. Although it is difficult to measure an attitude, this test seems to give pretty consistent results.

Using this kind of measurement, researchers have conducted more than a few studies on this subject. The one linked above is particularly interesting.

In this study, we can see that athletes obtained superior results when they felt motivated to succeed, rather than merely being motivated not to fail. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it; A person who is motivated to win takes a positive view of their goal. By contrast, a person who is merely trying to avoid failure takes a negative view, dreading failure rather than seeking victory. This may be due in part to the anxiety that accompanies the negative-side view in most individuals.

Three Theories About Motivation

Since we are dealing with something that is a little bit hard to study and quantify, we should discuss several different theories about motivation.

Mayo’s Theory Of Human Relations

This theory, advanced by a social scientist named Elton Mayo, holds that the social needs of an individual are the most important motivating factor.

While most other theories of Mayo’s time concentrated on the material needs and desires of the average worker, Mayo recommended that employers should strive to treat their employees as individuals rather than dealing with them as a collective. The idea could be summed up in this way: People do their best work when they are happy.

Maslow And Herzberg’s Theory Of Human Needs

This is a broad theory, which states that motivation is not determined by any single factor. In essence, this theory boils everything down to a range of psychological motivations that are broken down in order from the most important to the least important. The only real problem with this theory is the fact that people will never completely agree on how each human need should be ranked.

Taylor’s Theory Of Scientific Management

This theory is definitely the simplest of the three. Proponents of Taylor’s theory say that the prime motivating factor for a worker is money, and very little else. To apply this logic in a sports setting, we would have to say that winning is the motivating factor. Either way, a person is motivated by the thing for which they are directly striving.

This theory is no longer as respected as it once was because the implementation of higher pay has usually failed to quell dissent among dissatisfied workers. To be fair, working conditions at that time were so bad that it’s easy to see why a slight pay raise didn’t do much good.

Ways To Help Improve Your Motivation

There are a few things you can do that will help to improve your motivation and (hopefully) allow you to achieve the results about which you dream. We have already mentioned the importance of thinking positively, so let’s look at some other concepts.

Train With A Partner

Whether we admit it or not, we all want to impress others. In fact, that is probably part of the reason that you started training in the first place. Instead of denying this fact, use it to your advantage. Get a partner to train with you so that you can push each other to reach greater and greater heights.

Science has confirmed the importance of this factor. Consider this study, for instance. Two groups of people were put on a weight-loss regimen, one group with partners and one group without partners. The group with partners had a 95% success rate while those working alone had a success rate of 76%.

Focus On Your Strongest Rival

Whenever you think about slacking off, think about the person against whom you will be competing. You should assume that they are training their hardest and that you need to do the same. Don’t expect your rival to slack off even a little bit.

Set Smaller Goals

It’s a good idea to set a series of small training goals rather than doing everything at once. The human mind likes the feeling of success, even if it’s only one stage of the whole regimen.

Find Your Start Buttons

Everyone has things that make them feel motivated. It might be a good song, or maybe your favorite movie. It might be nothing more than a catchphrase, or a quote from someone you really admire. Whatever it is, harness it and use it to your advantage.


Motivation is something that cannot truly be taught. Although we can provide you with some tips and ideas, only you can dig down and find something within yourself that will sustain you when the going gets rough. Once you hit the point where your training is really difficult, you have reached the gut-check that most people fail. If you want to be one of the chosen few who do not, be sure to follow us on Facebook for more educational articles like this one.

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