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I’ve long been of the opinion that intrinsic motivation is the most important form of motivation in professional (or any other kind of) sport.  This is based on my personal experience and observations of working in professional clubs.  Professional clubs use varying forms of extrinsic motivation to inspire their players to great deeds.  Obviously paying salaries is one, but the most common form of extrinsic motivation used is the big stick.  Players are most often threatened with loss of salary but shortened Christmas holidays and extra trainings are other common threats.  One big club this season famously made their players train on their ‘free’ day after losing a set in their first playoff match.  Not losing the match, mind you, losing one set!  In the wake of these threats, I have seen players roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, smirk to themselves, give up and very occasionally get angry.  I’ve seen coaches being genuinely surprised that a player got angry and subsequently played worse.  I’ve seen club presidents and managers (and sadly coaches)  say to themselves ‘I’ve done all I can do. It’s the players’ fault’.  What I have NEVER seen is threats working.  I have never once seen or even heard of a team responding to threats.  What I have seen is no response at all.  Or a continuing spiral of ever worsening performance.  Or player’s/team’s pride pushing them to break out of a tough cycle (and presidents/managers/coaches taking credit for it).  My favourite quote from a player in that situation ‘We just got sick of losing’.  But responding to threats, never.  I have used this principle in my coaching a lot.

So obviously it was with great interest that I picked up the book ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink.  Despite the subtitle, I was not surprised but excited and inspired about what really motivates us.  I was planning to write a review of the book here, but someone sent me a much better review than I could ever write. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The second video is a TED talk that Daniel Pink gave that gives a pretty clear explanation of one of the key stories around which the premise of the book is based.


  1. I would like to add two things to your post: Nobody ever learned anything out of fear. All that fear does is forcing you to find a way to survive. Which brings me to my second remark: the school system. What you described for sport teams is from my point of view only a continuation of what we “learned” and experienced at school. Taking away from athletes as much autonomy as possible just seems to be the right way. This is what teachers did with us. And everybody told us: that’s the way it has to be. I would like to add a link to a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson. It is illustrated just the same way then the one you posted here.


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