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Motivation: Different Strokes for Different Folks

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Motivation: Different Strokes for Different Folks

By
Dr. Joe Massimo and Dr. Sue Massimo

“Stroking” is a concept often associated with the area of motivation and can be further defined as the feedback and rewards gymnasts receive for their efforts. In this way, strokes are already connected to positive or negative motivation that influences the gymnast’s mental attitude towards work. The coach-gymnast relationship is very much involved in this whole idea as is the effectiveness of various styles of coaching.

Stroking & Locus of Control

Every individual is different, and the kinds of strokes that influence their behavior are equally different. However, there are two common ways in which gymnasts get motivated. One is from outside influences, and the other is from factors that originate within the individual person. This is a psychological concept referred to as “locus of control” and there are two types: internal and external.

Gymnasts who exhibit an internal locus of control tend to believe that their actual, real behavior is what influences and determines what rewards they get. That is, what they do well in their opinion has a built-in payoff and reinforcement of its own.

 

External locus of control gymnasts believe that their strokes or reinforcements are controlled more or less by powerful others, such as the coach and may be influenced by fate, chance or coincidence.

Most of the research in locus of control indicates that internals are resistant and externals are conforming to attempts to influence them. The applied challenge here would be, once identified, how to best motivate the internally oriented locus of control gymnasts who tend to resist subtle verbal influence and surely turn away from an overt coercion from powerful others such as the coach. In many cases, of course, athletes respond to a combination of the two, rather than relying on pure external or internal strokes for motivation. Each gymnast develops a personal belief about what types of motivations work best for them.

Coaching Implications

The discussion of internal-external locus of control strongly suggests that the most effective coaching will utilize different approaches depending on the primary motivational system of an individual gymnast. To stroke or not to stroke and when and how are all connected to a true recognition and appreciation of the uniqueness of each athlete.

For example, perhaps the coach who has a “tough kid to reach” is dealing with an internal locus of control gymnast. Such a frustrating gymnast might be a strong individual personality who looks inwardly for his or her strokes and reinforcements and less so to the coach. The coach’s approach in such a case might be more successful if it was purely task-oriented with skill acquisition, the source of reward, rather than relying to any degree on outside schemes of influence. Feedback to this gymnast would avoid much “personal” content and would be, strictly in technical terms, focusing on what must be mechanically accomplished in order to gain mastery of the movement.

Generally speaking, to make training more effective, coaches should remember that:

They should try to determine if an individual gymnast is primarily an internal or external locus of control athlete. Elaborate testing is not needed. Careful observation of responses to motivational efforts over time will help identify the “style” most effective with each gymnast.

Each athlete responds differently to motivation strategies. Usually, this response involves both external and internal sources of inspiration.

Whatever the motivational preference is with a given gymnast, a positive approach is best for consistent and maximum learning.

Although it takes much time and effort for the coach to figure out what strokes are best for what folks, the effort will not only improve the interpersonal relationship but, in the long run, will increase productivity.

Get more insight into what motivates your gymnasts along with helpful guidelines with your Autographed Copy of “Gymnastics Psychology: The Ultimate Guide for Coaches, Gymnasts and Parents” at www.GymnasticsPsychology.com/usecabook .    ©2016 GymnasticsPsychology.com