Coaches don’t play the games, players do. How’s that for an obvious statement? Despite how obvious that statement is, it is worth repeating because it leads to one of the greatest challenges and opportunities that a coach faces – motivating players. As a Coach, you cannot go out there and do it yourself. You have to motivate your players to learn, practice, give great effort, and ultimately go out and execute to the best of their ability. Any study on the greatest coaches in the history of sports is also a study on some of the greatest motivators to ever live.

Photo Credit: vbossi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: vbossi via Compfight cc

All of our Coaching Life Groups at CFC go through 13 lessons titled Coaching With Purpose. In one of those lessons, FCA Coaching Academy faculty member Mark Hull makes the following statement:

[Tweet “”Love is the greatest motivating force in the world” (Mark Hull) via @CFC_KC”]

If that is true, why is unloving behavior so prevalent in sports?

Take a minute to think of a parent, teacher, coach, or mentor who has had a positive impact on your life. Were you motivated to please them? To do what they asked? I’m guessing you were. I know that the coaches that have had the greatest positive impact on me throughout my journey are the ones I wanted most to please. I would have done anything they asked without much thought because I knew they cared for me and I wanted to please them. In other words, they loved me and I was motivated to play for them or do what they asked.

I am a huge sports fan. I watch SportsCenter more than I watch any other television show, and I love watching live sporting events. I’m no expert, but I watch more than your average share of sports, and I am confident in saying that I see far more unloving behavior in sports than loving behavior. Think about your experience with sports, especially youth sports – how often do you see unloving behavior? I feel confident assuming that it’s way too often.

So, back to our question from above: if love is the greatest motivating force in the world, why is unloving behavior so prevalent in sports?

Here are three reasons to consider:

1. Competition in sports can breed a “tough guy/girl” mentality, and love is often seen as weak.

Sports are demanding physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sports are full of challenges that push us and stretch us, often well beyond our comfort zone. To excel in sport, it takes mental, physical, and emotional toughness. I’m a fan of toughness. I think kids in youth sports need to learn how to be tough because that will serve them well when life inevitably throws hard things their way. But, the problem is that toughness can be seen as the opposite of love. Coaches can begin to think that being tough on their players is most important, and showing any sort of emotion or caring for the players (i.e. love) could be seen as weakness. When competition in sports breeds a “tough guy/girl” mentality, and love is viewed as weak, unloving behavior is an inevitable result.

2. Rewards for winning in sports brings out selfishness in people, and love is inherently unselfish.

Competition is inherent to sport, and with that comes winning and losing. Anyone with even the slightest competitive streak in them (i.e. almost everyone who plays sports) would say that they want to win, not lose. With winning comes rewards and recognition, and when rewards/recognition are in play, people often do whatever they can to win. They begin to think about themselves and how much they want the rewards of winning more than they think of anything else. In other words, winning often brings out selfishness in people. Love is inherently unselfish, and when the selfish pursuit of rewards grabs a hold of someone (player, coach, or parent), unloving behavior is often the result.

3. There are not enough examples of coaches using love as motivation.

Let me start reason #3 by saying that there are lots of examples of coaches who are awesome. They are making a real difference in the lives of their athletes and should be celebrated. I have seen them and meet with them all the time as part of my work at CFC. But, the sad reality is that there are still not enough examples of coaches using love as motivation. Most of the media coverage in sports includes coaches that portray themselves as anything but loving. And, given the fact that the coaches we see on TV are often at the pinnacle of the Coaching profession, it’s easy to come to the false conclusion that you have to Coach like them to have success like them.

The truth is that isn’t true. Think about John Wooden, Tony Dungy, Mike Kzryzewski, and Mike Matheny. Those are four examples of coaches who love their players, are at the pinnacle of their respective sports, and have achieved more success than 99% of Coaches in the world. Love is the greatest motivating force in the world, but we simply don’t have enough example of coaches using love as motivation, therefore we see unloving behavior in sports way too often.

So what does all this mean for us as Coaches? As a Coach, we have to motivate our players. And with that, we should consider how to motivate our players most effectively. Love is the greatest motivating force in the world, and despite all the reasons why unloving behavior is so prevalent in sports, using love as a motivator will always have the greatest impact and results. Those results might not always include trophies, but they will include transformation. And, for 99% of us Coaches, the way we impact our athletes will be the only way we are remembered.

Why do you think unloving behavior is so prevalent in sports?