Motivation In Soccer – The Soccer Virus

During this past few soccer seasons barely a week has gone by without questions being raised against the motivation of professional footballers. This issue came to a head with the poor performance of England’s football team in Denmark, and was re-affirmed by the lacklustre performance against Northern Ireland. My interest in motivational malaise is primarily focused upon Premiership players for two reasons. Firstly, and not surprisingly, the Premiership attracts more interest from the media and secondly because, believe it or not, the issue of motivation is more paramount amongst Premiership players. So who is it that is asking these questions? xem bong da truc tuyen kenh There are many sources of such commentary. Premiership players themselves comment openly upon the motivation and professionalism of fellow players. Ex-professional footballers express surprise and disappointment with the motivation of today’s crop of stars. Managers and coaches seek to justify an apparent lack of motivation because players are physically and psychologically drained. The media continually challenge the motivation and professionalism of players. As for the fans, whether it is in the stadium on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, or on evening phone-ins, the players are often castigated as overpaid, overweight and uninterested. This seems to be a little unfair and even paradoxical considering footballers are heroes to many. It is also worrying because the possibility is that football will marginalise itself from the very fan base that supports it.

Symptoms: Motivational Malaise is easy to identify – Players can’t raise their game on a consistent week in-week out basis – Lacklustre performances against mediocre opposition – Players not performing to standard -Confusion amongst coaches, players and crowd as to how such highly paid players can’t seem to be bothered and hungry enough to win.

The Mistake: Looking for another explanation. Whilst injuries, tiredness, training facilities, international disruption, ‘lack of two or three players’ etc may play a minimal part – a highly motivated team will wipe the floor with a team lacking hunger and motivation. Obviously there is a limit to this, but the exceptions are few and probably short lived!

So what is going on? Why are these questions being raised, particularly against Premiership players who ostensibly should be very highly motivated, especially as they receive thousands of pounds every week in return for their services? However, that is where the problem lies! A virus, the ‘Soccer Virus’©, is attacking soccer. A highly active and aggressive pathogen that is getting as far into professional football as it can. The outcome…it is slowly but surely damaging the motivation of professional footballers to perform a sport they initially turned to because they loved it. The Soccer Virus is a major problem and only those clubs and players who successfully deal with it will be able to reap success in the coming years!

I remember years ago as an undergraduate studying social psychology, being fascinated by a few lectures on motivation. A distinction was drawn between ‘intrinsic motivation‘ and ‘extrinsic motivation’. Intrinsic motivation refers to the stimulation, drive and curiosity to do things, which comes from within. Younger children are engrossed in biology classes because they are intrinsically curious and want to understand what frogs are made of; people learn to cook because they are fascinated by the smells and flavours that result from putting various ingredients together; and children love playing football in the park because they want to control a ball, see how far they can kick it, place the ball in the top corner of the net, see how many times they can keep it up in the air, live a fantasy of being a great footballer. I remember I wanted to study psychology because people fascinated me and I needed to understand why people did the things they did. This is what we call intrinsic motivation. It is that natural curiosity, drive and passion to discover something, do something and do it well.

On the other hand extrinsic motivation comes from the outside. People are also motivated to do things because they expect to receive rewards – money, praise, status, promotion etc. Children are rewarded in school by gaining good grades and by passing examinations; cooks and chefs get jobs and can earn excellent salaries, many footballers get paid very highly and get contracts or contract extensions. However, the problem arises when we realise that there is a link between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and performance.

The more extrinsic reward we receive for our performance at whatever task, the more we are vulnerable to lose our intrinsic motivation“.

The more children are rewarded for passing examinations the more their fundamental curiosity to learn, and enjoy the learning process is threatened. Similarly, the more footballers are paid for performing on the football field the more their basic passion, curiosity for learning and improving is threatened, and the more difficult it becomes for them to hold onto their inherent desire and passion to play football. Let us remember also, before we all get sanctimonious and take the moral high ground, footballers are no different to the rest of the population in that the way they think, act and behave is determined by an interaction of personal factors (their personality, attitudes, beliefs, values etc) and contextual factors (the environment they live in, the people they live and work with, the situations they find themselves in etc). Personal history, friends, culture, the media etc mould individual desire and ability. This is not to say professional footballers are victims, but also they are no more guilty than the rest of us faced with the same opportunities and social forces.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *