Q. Coaching: Autonomy
A. According to the self-determination theory of motivation, one of the key elements to motivation is autonomy. What in the world is that?
The capacity to make an uncoerced decision. It turns out, we are most motivated to do something when it is our decision to do it. That makes complete sense to me. When I was a teacher they would tell us to lead the students in a discussion where they got to choose the classroom rules. The idea is that kids are more motivated to follow the rules if they decided what the rules are.
Here's what it might look like on the baseball field. Here is how I get the team to "buy in" to a high level of accountability. I am naming this trick: Coercing them to make an uncoerced decision.
Example - Team Meeting: "Hey guys, my name is Coach Brian and I'm going to be your coach for the next few months. I've played a lot of baseball, and I've coached a lot of teams. I've seen what works and what doesn't. I've seen teams that have had rotten seasons and I've seen teams have unbelievable seasons. I want to help you guys have a great season this year. First, I need you guys to decide what a "great season" is. Does a "great season" mean we just have a good time, we laugh a lot, do a little goofing around, and we don't make practices too tough on anyone. We probably won't win many games, but at least we get to goof off. ...or is a "great season" working real hard to get better? I can show you guys some great drills that are going to help you hit the ball harder, strike out less, and score more runs. I'll show our pitchers how to make the other teams' batters look silly. The practices aren't always going to be easy, but it sure is going to be fun when we start to get better and beat up on those other teams. What do you guys want me to do for you? Do you want me to take it easy and let you guys just do whatever you want, or do you guys want me to help you guys get better and see if we can win the championship this year?"
I wouldn't recommend this for a T-ball team. They might choose the first option. Most kids will decide "on their own" to have coach work them harder. Now when the team starts to goof off or they are complaining about practice being too hard you call the kids into a hudle and remind them of their choice.
Example - Refocusing the troups: "Remember guys, we decided that we didn't want to take the easy road. We said we wanted to get better, and getting better means we have to work harder than everyone else. I'm going to push you a little to keep us working hard because you told me that is what you guys wanted. Let's save the goofing around for after the game when we've beat those other guys. Right now is not the time to take it easy. It's work time. Let's get better today."
Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Baseball Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge