Intrinsic And Extrinsic Motivation – What Is It

What is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in sport?

This article explains what intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is within sports and the importance to coaches and leaders. Some may also know this as internal or external motivation.

Motivational theories along with personality types can help sports coaches to further understand their athletes and what drives them. Our articles on the Drive theory and the Catastrophe Theory illustrates how motivation and arousal can impact sports performance.

The basis of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has been useful to us over the years as we have noticed different drivers in performance between intrinsically and extrinsically motivated athletes and performers. We have also used this theory to help set aims and objectives with our athletes as well as using this to reflect on our own aims and ambitions. You may also be interested in our posts on the drive theory and the catastrophic theory in sport.

Sports psychology is an integral part of sports performance with most top sports teams now employing professional sports psychologists. From professional football teams to Olympic cyclists and rowers. Therefore, we feel all coaches should know what the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is.

You can read more about other motivational theories in our guide to sports coaching.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is when somebody wants to achieve a personal goal for themselves. An example of this is when somebody wants to complete a two mile run for pride and a sense of achievement. The runner will not achieve anything of monetary value or a reward but instead feels self-satisfaction. Other characteristics of intrinsic motivation are taking part for personal values, pride and/or enjoyment.

Extrinsic motivation is when a person sets out to achieve a reward or some sense of recognition. An example of this is a person playing football to win the local cup or to be signed up to a professional contract for money. Other reasons could be peer pressure or the sense of belonging.

What is the definition of intrinsic motivation?

The definition of intrinsic motivation is “stimulation that drives an individual to adopt or change a behaviour for his or her internal satisfaction or fulfilment”.

What is the definition of extrinsic motivation?

The definition of intrinsic motivation is “an incentive to do something that arises from factors outside the individual, such as rewards or penalties.”

Why is it important to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

All those involved in sport aim to achieve a certain goal. Whether this is to be selected for the first team-squad, having a sense of achievement or to have a professional sports career.

Having an understanding of what drives athletes will help coaches to determine what motivates them to turn up to training.

Sports motivation is a widely researched area and all coaches should understand how to improve their coaching skills. Researchers say that athletes can show separate behaviour and motivation dependent on whether they are intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated.

Whilst rewards can increase an athletes’ motivation if they have little interest or are learning a new skill, a sense of enjoyment and belief can motivate athletes for longer. Therefore, by knowing this, coaches can begin to understand what their athletes’ hopes are and why they are taking part in the sport.

Our view

Not many level 1 and level 2 coaching courses study what intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is. However, more college and university programmes include this in their course.

Over our years of coaching, we have seen the importance of this principle being used by many sports coaches. Whether this is an education setting or in a competitive setting, we believe this fundamental principle is important to sports coaches.

Most, if not all top tier sports coaches use this principle daily to get the best out of their athletes.

Below are some key questions we have used to help determine intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:

  • Why is the athlete taking part in sport
  • What do they want to achieve long term
  • What do they enjoy the most about sport
  • What do they least enjoy about the sport
  • Do they have a plan for where they want to be in the future?

These questions are only some of the examples of what sports coaches can use to determine the intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Whether your athletes are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated will determine your aims and objectives when planning sessions and season objectives.

To summarise:

  • Intrinsic motivation is taking part for themselves
  • Characteristics of intrinsic motivation can be pride, sense of achievement and purpose
  • Extrinsic motivation is influenced by external factors
  • Characteristics of extrinsic motivation can be receiving incentives and rewards

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New to sports coaching? Then you may want to check out our guide to sports coaching. Here you will be able to learn techniques and strategies that will excel your coaching career. Topics include Stages of LearningMethods of Training and Leadership Styles.

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