It is common knowledge that intrinsic motivation is more effective than extrinsic motivation. Any leadership or sports psychology book will tell you that. As coaches, we know that if our athletes are motivated intrinsically then they will work harder and longer than if the motivation is coming from somewhere else. At the risk of stating the obvious, a motivated athlete that works harder and longer will not only help themselves get better, but they will also help the team get better.

The thing is, though, that intrinsic motivation isn’t something that any of us as coaches can give our athletes. It has to come from inside them. Since we know that internally motivated athletes are better individually and are more helpful to the team, that begs the question: how do we help our athletes develop their own internal desire and motivation?
We coach with purpose. More specifically, we coach with the purpose of encouraging, challenging, and empowering our athletes to strive for their athletic goals. 
I coach baseball, and this past summer I coached a 17U team. About halfway throughout the summer I was having lunch with a dad of one of the players and he asked me the following question:

“You know, what is it about how you are coaching my son that is different? He has been working harder on his own than I have ever seen him work in his life. What do you do to motivate him?”

I couldn’t help but smile when this dad asked me this question because I loved the fact that this player was working hard on his own, and I was grateful to know that my coaching played a role in his motivation. 
Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t do anything extraordinary, and I certainly didn’t do anything that anyone else couldn’t do. What I did was coach with the purpose of ensuring that my players knew that I cared about them and wanted what was best for them. I also made sure that my players knew that playing for me was a safe place to work hard and push themselves without worrying about me getting down on them for failures. I did my best to cultivate an environment that was encouraging, challenging (in a constructive way), and empowering. And with that environment, many of my players discovered an internal motivation and desire to work hard not only in team practices, but also on their own. 

Intrinsic motivation will always be something that we can’t force or create in our players. It has to come from within themselves. But, creating an encouraging, constructively challenging, and empowering environment can go a long way in helping our players discover a new found motivation that will not only help themselves, but also those around them.