Game day success starts with a player’s attitude and motivation to win. Researchers found that most high school students are motivated by their intrinsic goals. However, college athletes are extrinsically motivated by their physicality or external goals.
Dr. Melissa Terlecki, psychology department chair, said, “Part of [game day motivation] is the psychological arousal. When you are motivated, you tend to be optimally aroused. When you are not motivated, you’re just kind of half asleep and psychologically not ready to perform. The main part of game day performance is the mental game.”
Whether an athlete is competing in an Olympic match or a kindergarten soccer game, motivation is the key. Even if the motivation is there, players need other attributes for success. These include the drive to get better, the will to overcome obstacles, preparation for games and matches, and a desire to help the school or team to be successful.
Zach Donlen, sophomore cross country runner, said, “I’m never running for myself. Whenever I start falling behind or getting tired, I always think, I have to keep going or I can’t let down my team. Being given the opportunity to run at a college is a big deal that constantly keeps me motivated.”
Heading into the game
If a player is not expecting to do well or becomes indifferent during a match, they are not setting themselves up for success. If a player feels confident about their game and ready to give it their all, they will prosper. Ultimately, the win can be determined by which player wants it more.
Natalie Bell, senior tennis player, said, “Everyone hits a wall at some point. But mentally, if you break in the first game, the rest of the day is going to be tough because you aren’t there to see your game through.”
One of the lessons that athletes learn is how losses can affect their motivation, in a good or bad way. Some players will reflect on their failures and work to improve their overall game while others will agonize over their errors without working toward advancement. Whether it is a missed goal, strike out, or loss on game day, there are motivational and educational lessons within all failures.
A loss can be tough, but it can also be an opportunity to learn how to overcome adversity and grow from it.
Staying motivated on and off the field
Bell said that her experience with Cabrini tennis impacts her outlook on school and her potential career.
“Being an accounting major, it is a lot of trial and error. You’ll do a tax return and think, ‘This is great, I did it perfectly,’ and then you get it back and there are 10 markups on it. You can’t have a negative attitude once you get those comments back. You’re just learning and trying. Staying motivated after a negative experience is a super important lesson to learn in all areas.”
Learning and trying will help athletes and non-athletes stay motivated, no matter what, on or off the field. There may be losses in between, but keep that drive and focus and a win will follow.