Would you like to feel more motivated?

 

A hard lesson in motivation

Being involved with horses is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. On a massive high one day, desperately struggling the next. There is so much that we can’t control that staying motivated and really loving it sometimes seems more down to luck than anything we can do.

A big learning experience for me came when I went to have showjumping lessons with one of my horses many years ago. We were doing really well in the local unaffiliated classes, and we generally won everything up to 1.15m. A local instructor persuaded me that what I really needed was some lessons to get us to the next level and compete in affiliated classes. Within two months I had totally lost my confidence, my ability and my motivation. I should have read the warning signs when he said that I ‘needed him’ to be successful, that I could never do it on my own. My need for autonomy is high and I know I struggle with any threat of losing it.

To be honest, I thought that I could protect myself from the negative effects of his coaching as I knew that it was not intentional. He passionately believed in what he was doing. As an experienced coach myself, well versed in motivation theory and sports psychology, I believed that I could anaesthetise myself from the negative motivational impact. But I couldn’t. Even with all that awareness, I couldn’t stop being affected. The experience really brought it home to me that our motivation and confidence is not just ‘in our heads’, but part of our interaction with the world around us, socially and physically.

This might seem like a daft question but, do you know what really motivates you?

Have you always thought that your motivation is simply a result of your own behaviours and attitudes? Perhaps you sometimes feel guilty for not being as motivated as you would like to be? Research into motivation and behavioural regulation (controlling our own behaviour) suggests that we are very much influenced by how we feel about the support we get from those around us, particularly people who are important to us such as parents, partners, teachers and coaches. Understanding this can help you to create a more supportive environment for yourself and boost your self-motivation and enjoyment.

Our motivation is influenced by our perceptions of the support we get from those around us. Particularly people who are important to us like parents,  partners, teachers, and coaches.

Justine and support

The joy of being with other people who are passionate and skilful. Lusitano English Class, Royal Windsor Horse Show. Justine Armitage and her support team at Aintree International. Photo by Simon Armitage

As a coach, my interest in studying motivation was initially influenced by the way my son responded to the learning environments he experienced when he was young. One, in particular, stands out. At the age of eight, he asked if he could go to the local canoeing club with his best friend from school. I thought it was a great idea. He had played for years in boats with me and really enjoyed it, surely it would be so much more fun with his friends.

I went to pick him up after the club session expecting a happy excited little boy. But he had hated it. When I asked him why, he told me that canoeing was boring; they were not allowed to play like he did with me, they didn’t let him do the things that he was good at, or be with his friend. Not only did he not go back to the club, but he also lost interest in canoeing with me too. Then, ten years later, after a conversation with total strangers, he joined the Bangor University canoe polo club for a practice session. One day with them and he was hooked! He learnt quickly, become very skilful and ten years on he is still playing.

I was curious… How could one experience put him off so completely, and another inspire him so much? What was so different about the two experiences? If we understood what was influencing our motivation, could we be more savvy about ensuring that we have positive experiences (& our kids too)? After my experience with the showjumping lessons, I reflected again on my son’s experiences. I began to really focus on the motivational environment that I created with the people that I was coaching, and eventually, it inspired me to go back to university and do some more research.

 

Motivation Theories

There are many theories about motivation, but the one we’ll look at here is particularly useful for sports. It is called the Self Determination Theory, or SDT for short. SDT is made up of a number of micro-theories one of which is called the Basic Psychological Needs Theory. According to the Basic Psychological Needs Theory, motivation to engage in an activity is influenced by the support, and subsequent satisfaction of, three innate basic needs. These are the need for:

  1. Autonomy (a sense of control over your own life and personal volition),
  2. Competence (the need to be effective and skilful),
  3. Relatedness (the desire to feel connected to, and cared for, by others).

Motivation to engage in something (anything) can be increased by the satisfaction of any, but optimised by the satisfaction of all three, basic psychological needs. Interestingly, the satisfaction of these basic needs is not only very important for motivation, but also for overall health and well-being.

 

How does satisfying our basic needs influence motivation?

As human beings, we are inherently driven towards being creative and curious. This means that we will actively seek opportunities to satisfy our needs; to be masters of our own destiny, to be effective and feel connected.

If we do something that leads to our needs being satisfied, our motivation increases and we become more self-determined (self-motivated). You might have started riding horses because your parents did, or maybe your parents took you to a riding school, or your friends invited you to have a go. I’m guessing it was a good experience if you are still riding now.

Dysgu water

Marianne Davies and Dysgu having fun in the water at Somerford Park

Your motivation to continue to ride is likely to have become more self-determined over time because you were within a rewarding social context and your basic needs for relatedness, competence and autonomy were being satisfied.

Changing your motivational environments

Let’s look at a few examples of how you might make your own environment more supportive:

  • Your social groups

Have a think about your relationship with the people you ride with, train with and/or compete with. What about the people you spend time within your local riding club? Do you share ideas and values? Are you part of a supportive group of riders who celebrate each other’s success? Being amongst like-minded people is very important for your perceptions of relatedness and feeling valued, which in turn will increase your motivation. And being around people who are passionate and skilful has a positive effect on everyone.

Iberian line up

The joy of being with other people who are passionate and skilful. Lusitano English Class, Royal Windsor Horse Show. Photo by Simon Armitage

For those of you who don’t have your own facilities, a big challenge for your motivation is the whole complex environment of the livery yard. From the other livery owners and the yard owners to the rules that are in force on the yard. Is it somewhere you love being and can’t wait to get to every day? A big and important part of your social life?  …or is it somewhere that causes you stress and anxiety?

Maybe you spend much of your time on your own, intentionally or not. In the modern world of social media, we can create virtual support networks even if we can’t create real ones. Remember that the social environment you are part of is important for your motivation.

Yard and dog                                                                                                                                                                 A happy yard is important for you and your horse. Photo by ForagePlus

  •  What about you and your horse(s)?

Equestrian sports are unique because our performance partners are sentient animals. Although motivation theories have not been used to explore human-animal relationships, most people involved say that they ‘love’ their horses and value their relationships with them. This means that our relationship with our horse could also affect our motivation. How would you describe your relationship with your horse? Is the relationship part of what you love about riding and equestrian sports, or is it a source of conflict or frustration?

Relationship issues with your horse could impact on your feelings of competence and autonomy too. Sometimes spending time getting to really know your horse and doing something different, perhaps some in hand or liberty work can really improve your relationship.

Sarah and Smurf in hand

Sarah Braithwaite and Smurf getting to know each other better in hand. Photo by Forageplus

And what about your goals and aspirations? Is your horse able to fulfil them? Or do you need to re-evaluate what you want to achieve, or what you need to do with your horse to get there?

  •  Having lessons

Autonomy support:

  • Do you and your coach agree long and short term goals?
  • Who makes most of the decisions regarding your lessons? Do you have an input?
  • Are you able to choose your own level of challenge?
  • Do they provide opportunities for you to take initiatives and work independently?

Competence support:

  • Does your coach make sure that you have the knowledge and understanding you need to practice what you have been learning between lessons?
  • Do they provide competence feedback (acknowledging when you do things well instead of pointing out ‘faults’), and use non-controlling language (no use of words like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’… etc)?
  • Do they promote a mastery rather than ego involvement (developing your own performance and setting up tasks, manège patterns and exercises that allow you to recognise your own improvements)?
  • Are you still challenged and supported to be successful?

Relatedness support:

  • Are your feelings acknowledged and respected? Particularly anxiety or fear?
  • Does your coach explain the reasons behind what they ask you to do?
  • Do they avoid providing support that is not needed, or restricting opportunities to take initiatives, make decisions or be more independent? This is known as ‘controlling-support’.
  • Do they interact with you and show genuine interest in you and your horse?

If the answer to these questions is mostly ‘no’, you may need to challenge your coach to change some of their behaviours! If it is ‘yes’, give your coach a hug and keep hold of them! Coaches need motivation too!

  • Can we apply any of this to understand our horses’ motivation?

Whilst there is no specific research into equine motivation, there is some fascinating research being done at the moment into equine ethology and learning. The work of people like Dr Andrew McLean and Professor Paul McGreevy is of particular interest from a motivational point of view. According to McLean, not only do horses have a need to be free of pain, fear, and suffering but they also have a need to feel in control (have some autonomy) and to have some self-determination.

A  horse’s mental health is linked to their ridden and training experiences.

McLean also highlights that a horse’s mental health is linked to their ridden and training experiences. Whilst horses have a very different cognitive and learning capacity to humans, there is clear evidence that they do not learn best from simple punishment and reward, but from shaping their behaviour and rewarding incremental success.  This is very much a mastery focus for training your horse. Although we know that horses do not think the same way as us, it makes intuitive sense to acknowledge that a prey animal has a need to feel competent in their environment and movement ability.

We also know that horses, as herd animals, need to have strong social bonds to feel safe. Safe with us as their riders and trainers, and safe with a herd that they are able to spend time with.

Summary

Your motivation is not only influenced by you having a goal and intentions, but also by the little details of your everyday experiences that can create a supportive environment and satisfy your basic psychological needs. These are the needs to have autonomy, become competent and have meaningful relationships.  You might be surprised about how much difference you can make to your self-motivation, and enjoyment, by ensuring that you have as much support as possible.

Sarah and Morris

Sarah Braithwaite fulfilling her goals and supporting the needs of her Arab CSA Maurice. Photo by ForagePlus

Think through all of your equine experiences – which are supportive and which are not? What can you change? If you can’t change something that is not supportive, can you find a different way to make it work for you?

Don’t forget your partner. After all, for most of us, it is the love of our horses that is the most important part of our sport.

Justine passage

The fabulously competent Justine Armitage performing at a dressage Demo. Photo by Simon Armitage

It is interesting for me to think back on my son’s experiences with the two canoe clubs knowing what I now know about motivation and how much it is influenced by the support of autonomy, competence and relatedness needs. His experiences were very much a result of the environments that he was in at those moments in time and summed up perfectly for me how important and influential those environments are to all of us. We cannot become really skilful without passion and motivation, and we can’t develop those without self-determination.

Acknowledgements:

This article is based on my postgraduate research, but most importantly many conversations and the freely given knowledge and passion of too many people to individually mention. I would like to thank all of my friends and colleagues who proofread this for me, those who willingly offered pictures for me to use and the fabulous communities of support and practice that I am part of, both real and virtual. I would also like to thank both Paul McGreevy and Andrew McLean for taking the time to proofread the sections about the horse and confirm my interpretation of their research.

Beach with Dysgu & River

Marianne Davies and El Brown having fun at the beach with River Tiger and Dysgu. Photo by Matt Tuck

Marianne Davies

Marianne has been a coach and coach educator for over 20 years as well as conducting research in motivation, learning and skill acquisition. She is currently at Hartpury University doing a PhD researching skill acquisition in equestrian sports coaching. Her main interests are equestrian activities, climbing, mountaineering, and paddlesports.

 marianne@rivertiger.blog

MRes. (Distinction) Sport & Exercise Science – Influence of motivation on skill acquisition. BSc (Hons), Sport, Health & Physical Education.

Copyright remains with the author

 

 

A hard lesson in motivation

Being involved with horses is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. On a massive high one day, desperately struggling the next. There is so much that we can’t control that staying motivated and really loving it sometimes seems more down to luck than anything we can do.

A big learning experience for me came when I went to have showjumping lessons with one of my horses many years ago. We were doing really well in the local unaffiliated classes, and we generally won everything up to 1.15m. A local instructor persuaded me that what I really needed was some lessons to get us to the next level and compete in affiliated classes. Within two months I had totally lost my confidence, my ability and my motivation. I should have read the warning signs when he said that I ‘needed him’ to be successful, that I could never do it on my own. My need for autonomy is high and I know I struggle with any threat of losing it.

To be honest, I thought that I could protect myself from the negative effects of his coaching as I knew that it was not intentional. He passionately believed in what he was doing. As an experienced coach myself, well versed in motivation theory and sports psychology, I believed that I could anaesthetise myself from the negative motivational impact. But I couldn’t. Even with all that awareness, I couldn’t stop being affected. The experience really brought it home to me that our motivation and confidence is not just ‘in our heads’, but part of our interaction with the world around us, socially and physically.

This might seem like a daft question but, do you know what really motivates you?

Have you always thought that your motivation is simply a result of your own behaviours and attitudes? Perhaps you sometimes feel guilty for not being as motivated as you would like to be? Research into motivation and behavioural regulation (controlling our own behaviour) suggests that we are very much influenced by how we feel about the support we get from those around us, particularly people who are important to us such as parents, partners, teachers and coaches. Understanding this can help you to create a more supportive environment for yourself and boost your self-motivation and enjoyment.

Our motivation is influenced by our perceptions of the support we get from those around us. Particularly people who are important to us like parents,  partners, teachers, and coaches.

Justine and support

The joy of being with other people who are passionate and skilful. Lusitano English Class, Royal Windsor Horse Show. Justine Armitage and her support team at Aintree International. Photo by Simon Armitage

As a coach, my interest in studying motivation was initially influenced by the way my son responded to the learning environments he experienced when he was young. One, in particular, stands out. At the age of eight, he asked if he could go to the local canoeing club with his best friend from school. I thought it was a great idea. He had played for years in boats with me and really enjoyed it, surely it would be so much more fun with his friends! I went to pick him up after the club session expecting a happy excited little boy. But he had hated it. When I asked him why, he told me that canoeing was boring; they were not allowed to play like he did with me, they didn’t let him do the things that he was good at, or be with his friend. Not only did he not go back to the club, but he also lost interest in canoeing with me too. Then, ten years later, after a conversation with total strangers, he joined the Bangor University canoe polo club for a practice session. One day with them and he was hooked! He learnt quickly, become very skilful and ten years on he is still playing.

I was curious… How could one experience put him off so completely, and another inspire him so much? What was so different about the two experiences? If we understood what was influencing our motivation, could we be more savvy about ensuring that we have positive experiences (& our kids too)? After my experience with the showjumping lessons, I reflected again on my son’s experiences. I began to really focus on the motivational environment that I created with the people that I was coaching, and eventually, it inspired me to go back to university and do some more research.

 

Motivation Theories

There are many theories about motivation, but the one we’ll look at here is particularly useful for sports. It is called the Self Determination Theory, or SDT for short. SDT is made up of a number of micro-theories one of which is called the Basic Psychological Needs Theory. According to the Basic Psychological Needs Theory, motivation to engage in an activity is influenced by the support, and subsequent satisfaction of, three innate basic needs. These are the need for:

  1. Autonomy (a sense of control over your own life and personal volition),
  2. Competence (the need to be effective and skilful),
  3. Relatedness (the desire to feel connected to, and cared for, by others).

Motivation to engage in something (anything) can be increased by the satisfaction of any, but optimised by the satisfaction of all three, basic psychological needs. Interestingly, the satisfaction of these basic needs is not only very important for motivation, but also for overall health and well-being.

 

How does satisfying our basic needs influence motivation?

As human beings, we are inherently driven towards being creative and curious. This means that we will actively seek opportunities to satisfy our needs; to be masters of our own destiny, to be effective and feel connected.

If we do something that leads to our needs being satisfied, our motivation increases and we become more self-determined (self-motivated). You might have started riding horses because your parents did, or maybe your parents took you to a riding school, or your friends invited you to have a go. I’m guessing it was a good experience if you are still riding now.

Dysgu water

Marianne Davies and Dysgu having fun in the water at Somerford Park

Your motivation to continue to ride is likely to have become more self-determined over time because you were within a rewarding social context and your basic needs for relatedness, competence and autonomy were being satisfied.

Changing your motivational environments

Let’s look at a few examples of how you might make your own environment more supportive:

  • Your social groups

Have a think about your relationship with the people you ride with, train with and/or compete with. What about the people you spend time within your local riding club? Do you share ideas and values? Are you part of a supportive group of riders who celebrate each other’s success? Being amongst like-minded people is very important for your perceptions of relatedness and feeling valued, which in turn will increase your motivation. And being around people who are passionate and skilful has a positive effect on everyone.

Iberian line up

The joy of being with other people who are passionate and skilful. Lusitano English Class, Royal Windsor Horse Show. Photo by Simon Armitage

For those of you who don’t have your own facilities, a big challenge for your motivation is the whole complex environment of the livery yard. From the other livery owners and the yard owners to the rules that are in force on the yard. Is it somewhere you love being and can’t wait to get to every day? A big and important part of your social life?  …or is it somewhere that causes you stress and anxiety?

Maybe you spend much of your time on your own, intentionally or not. In the modern world of social media, we can create virtual support networks even if we can’t create real ones. Remember that the social environment you are part of is important for your motivation.

Yard and dog                                                                                                                                                                 A happy yard is important for you and your horse. Photo by ForagePlus

  •  What about you and your horse(s)?

Equestrian sports are unique because our performance partners are sentient animals. Although motivation theories have not been used to explore human-animal relationships, most people involved say that they ‘love’ their horses and value their relationships with them. This means that our relationship with our horse could also affect our motivation. How would you describe your relationship with your horse? Is the relationship part of what you love about riding and equestrian sports, or is it a source of conflict or frustration?

Relationship issues with your horse could impact on your feelings of competence and autonomy too. Sometimes spending time getting to really know your horse and doing something different, perhaps some in hand or liberty work can really improve your relationship.

Sarah and Smurf in hand

Sarah Braithwaite and Smurf getting to know each other better in hand. Photo by Forageplus

And what about your goals and aspirations? Is your horse able to fulfil them? Or do you need to re-evaluate what you want to achieve, or what you need to do with your horse to get there?

  •  Having lessons

Autonomy support:

  • Do you and your coach agree long and short term goals?
  • Who makes most of the decisions regarding your lessons? Do you have an input?
  • Are you able to choose your own level of challenge?
  • Do they provide opportunities for you to take initiatives and work independently?

Competence support:

  • Does your coach make sure that you have the knowledge and understanding you need to practice what you have been learning between lessons?
  • Do they provide competence feedback (acknowledging when you do things well instead of pointing out ‘faults’), and use non-controlling language (no use of words like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’… etc)?
  • Do they promote a mastery rather than ego involvement (developing your own performance and setting up tasks, manège patterns and exercises that allow you to recognise your own improvements)?
  • Are you still challenged and supported to be successful?

Relatedness support:

  • Are your feelings acknowledged and respected? Particularly anxiety or fear?
  • Does your coach explain the reasons behind what they ask you to do?
  • Do they avoid providing support that is not needed, or restricting opportunities to take initiatives, make decisions or be more independent? This is known as ‘controlling-support’.
  • Do they interact with you and show genuine interest in you and your horse?

If the answer to these questions is mostly ‘no’, you may need to challenge your coach to change some of their behaviours! If it is ‘yes’, give your coach a hug and keep hold of them! Coaches need motivation too!

  • Can we apply any of this to understand our horses’ motivation?

Whilst there is no specific research into equine motivation, there is some fascinating research being done at the moment into equine ethology and learning. The work of people like Dr Andrew McLean and Professor Paul McGreevy is of particular interest from a motivational point of view. According to McLean, not only do horses have a need to be free of pain, fear, and suffering but they also have a need to feel in control (have some autonomy) and to have some self-determination.

A  horse’s mental health is linked to their ridden and training experiences.

McLean also highlights that a horse’s mental health is linked to their ridden and training experiences. Whilst horses have a very different cognitive and learning capacity to humans, there is clear evidence that they do not learn best from simple punishment and reward, but from shaping their behaviour and rewarding incremental success.  This is very much a mastery focus for training your horse. Although we know that horses do not think the same way as us, it makes intuitive sense to acknowledge that a prey animal has a need to feel competent in their environment and movement ability.

We also know that horses, as herd animals, need to have strong social bonds to feel safe. Safe with us as their riders and trainers, and safe with a herd that they are able to spend time with.

Summary

Your motivation is not only influenced by you having a goal and intentions, but also by the little details of your everyday experiences that can create a supportive environment and satisfy your basic psychological needs. These are the needs to have autonomy, become competent and have meaningful relationships.  You might be surprised about how much difference you can make to your self-motivation, and enjoyment, by ensuring that you have as much support as possible.

Sarah and Morris

Sarah Braithwaite fulfilling her goals and supporting the needs of her Arab CSA Maurice. Photo by ForagePlus

Think through all of your equine experiences – which are supportive and which are not? What can you change? If you can’t change something that is not supportive, can you find a different way to make it work for you?

Don’t forget your partner. After all, for most of us, it is the love of our horses that is the most important part of our sport.

Justine passage

The fabulously competent Justine Armitage performing at a dressage Demo. Photo by Simon Armitage

It is interesting for me to think back on my son’s experiences with the two canoe clubs knowing what I now know about motivation and how much it is influenced by the support of autonomy, competence and relatedness needs. His experiences were very much a result of the environments that he was in at those moments in time and summed up perfectly for me how important and influential those environments are to all of us. We cannot become really skilful without passion and motivation, and we can’t develop those without self-determination.

Acknowledgements:

This article is based on my postgraduate research, but most importantly many conversations and the freely given knowledge and passion of too many people to individually mention. I would like to thank all of my friends and colleagues who proofread this for me, those who willingly offered pictures for me to use and the fabulous communities of support and practice that I am part of, both real and virtual. I would also like to thank both Paul McGreevy and Andrew McLean for taking the time to proofread the sections about the horse and confirm my interpretation of their research.

Beach with Dysgu & River

Marianne Davies and El Brown having fun at the beach with River Tiger and Dysgu. Photo by Matt Tuck

Marianne Davies

Marianne has been a coach and coach educator for over 20 years as well as conducting research in motivation, learning and skill acquisition. She is currently at Hartpury University doing a PhD researching skill acquisition in equestrian sports coaching. Her main interests are equestrian activities, climbing, mountaineering, and paddlesports.

 marianne@rivertiger.blog

MRes. (Distinction) Sport & Exercise Science – Influence of motivation on skill acquisition. BSc (Hons), Sport, Health & Physical Education.

Copyright remains with the author

 

Motivation Part 3. Why motivation changes how we learn.

Optimal learning environments

In parts one and two, we looked at how to create learning environments that lead to more self-motivated, happy, healthy, individuals!  These articles are written primarily to help coaches, coach educators and leaders in adventure and other sports. However, all of the concepts can be applied to you as a learner, participant or parent seeking to improve your skill and motivation, and to feed your passion!

Sian 2Needs-supportive coaching behaviours have an impact on motivation. Sian of ‘Psyched Paddleboarding’ coaching on the beautiful Llyn Padarn. Photo by ‘Two For Joy Photography’.

In these next two sections, we will explore whether motivationally supportive learning environments can also improve skill acquisition, or do we need to choose between them? Be happy and motivated, or be skilful? Most of you will be familiar with the term learner-centred coaching, but what does it mean, and why is it important? In this article, we will look at some of the most recent learner-focused research into coaching sports skills. Most of this research comes from attempts to understand what happens when the coach stops making all the decisions and starts to give the learner more autonomy as part of developing a motivationally supportive learning environment. When both motivation and skill are supported, we can have an optimal learning environment. Continue reading “Motivation Part 3. Why motivation changes how we learn.”

Motivation Part 2. Supportive coaching behaviours.

Creating an optimal learning environment

Okay, so we know that the satisfaction of basic needs has a positive impact on motivation and will influence whether someone continues to participate. That means we need to make sure that we are able to create an optimal learning environment; what is known as a ‘needs supportive learning environment’6. Autonomy is arguably the most important need and is essential for goal-directed behaviour to become self-determined2. It is unique among the basic psychological needs because a participant (particularly an athlete) could satisfy their need for competence with externally controlled (by a coach) deliberate practice, and they could satisfy the need for relatedness by being part of a team, but autonomy is not as easily satisfied in a traditional coaching environment. This is because the coach makes most of the decisions, and the rules and regulations of a sport can further limit the options that can be given to individual participants. Continue reading “Motivation Part 2. Supportive coaching behaviours.”

Motivation Part 1. How can we create optimal learning environments?

Canoe B&W

Photo by Lizzie Canoe

 

Motivating others

I think it is safe to assume that those of us who coach, lead or instruct other people would like them to leave each session they have with us feeling happy. Buzzing even. Keen to come back and do more with us. Motivated to go and practice what they have learnt, and enjoy it in their free time. I also think that we would all like to be able to influence our own motivation too. We would like to recognise elements that are supporting or thwarting our motivation and be able to change them or at least understand and accept them.

The statistics available on regular participation in sports make rather sobering reading, and numbers are consistently lower for women and girls, and minority groups. According to a Sport Wales statement from 2017, “Currently 576,000 women in Wales report not participating in any form of activity, while just over half (54%) of women say they’ve done at least one sporting activity in the last four weeks compared to 63% of men. Research shows a lack of confidence, fear of judgement, a perceived inability or no one to go along to something new with are common factors that prevent women and girls from getting more active”10. Can we, as practitioners, have any influence on the motivation and continued participation of those do come along to our sessions? Are we able to help increase the number of people who will get hooked on our sports and continue to participate long term, including ourselves?

My interest in motivation was particularly influenced by the way my son responded to the learning environments he experienced when he was young. At the age of eight, he asked if he could go to the local canoeing club with his best friend from school. I thought it was a great idea. He had played for years in boats with me and really enjoyed it, surely it would be so much more fun with his friends! I went to pick him up after the club session expecting a happy excited little boy. But he had hated it. When I asked him why, he told me that canoeing was boring; they were not allowed to play like he did with me, they didn’t let him do the things that he was good at, or be with his friend. Not only did he not go back to the club, but he also lost interest in coming to boat with me too. Continue reading “Motivation Part 1. How can we create optimal learning environments?”

Do coaches need to understand coaching and learning theory?

Fluid dynamics, weather systems and coaching adventure sports

olly pics2 063 

Rolling clouds over a snow-capped Craig Megaidth. Moving skillfully and making decisions on a Winter ML Assessment. Photo by Olly Sanders

Adventure sports coaches typically support individuals to operate confidently and competently in changeable and complex environments. To do this it would help to understand how people learn to interpret their environment, make decisions and move skillfully.

An ecological dynamics (ED) theory approach to coaching and learning views human movement as an interaction between the individual, the activity and the environment in which the activity is taking place. This approach emerged from the application of dynamical systems theory and ecological psychology6 to motor learning and is the underpinning theory for the ‘constraints’ led approach to the way we structure practice. All of you who coach or participate in adventure sports will be familiar with aspects of this approach already. You will intuitively recognise and understand it even if you have not used it to understand movement and learning. This is a brief introduction to the concepts and theories behind an ED approach to coaching and learning. In the following articles, armed with this understanding, we can look at the implications that this approach has for coaching adventure sports. Continue reading “Do coaches need to understand coaching and learning theory?”