“…(I)gnition is determined by simple if/then propositions, with the then part always the same – better get busy. See someone you want to become? Better get busy. Want to catch up with a desirable group? Better get busy.”

Chapter 5 Takeaways:

  • Ignition – how motivation is created and sustained
  • Variables to ‘Flip the Switch’

The idea is skill takes deep practice, which concentrates on the repetitive activity of targeting mistakes. Ignition is the essence of why we keep doing it. What drives us (coaches), or them (athletes) to persist? What is the catalyst for going to the park for hours to miss 50% of our shots? Or sit in our office watching the same film 3 times in a row? Ignition is the attempt to understanding motivation and variables that come to affect our aspirations to pursue improvement.

Variables discussed pertaining to a variety of primal cues that stimulate our inspiration:

  • Stardom – Admiration for the role models that we see succeed on the biggest stages. Envious of status, skill, and acclaim we emulate mannerisms and personality traits in an effort to be in a similar position.
  • Environmental – This can come from a myriad of events: family upbringing, aesthetics or availability (think banners in the gym, locker room, or equipment accessibility), or connection by trend (popularity) or identity (accepted by association).
  • Vision – Short-term or long-term commitment. Hear kids say, “I have always dreamed of being in the NBA.” Everyone has had a similar dream, the separation comes from those who actually envision it to the extent where it had to become reality.

There are a couple things to take away from this chapter. From a coaching standpoint, motivation is an interesting element to our profession. We look to apply it daily, but it is best when it is unintended.

“I shouldn’t have to coach effort.”

If collaborative consistent effort is what creates championship-caliber cultures, is out our job to ignite that effort? Or are we to just expect it? If it is expected and it doesn’t occur, how are we igniting those flames to become sustainable?

On the surface, it would seem the best motivation for a team tends to come by cultural standards. Taking from some of the best organizations (without being directly involved) the San Antonio Spurs or Duke University; there is a level of understanding that success has been achieved here by a baseline of work ethic, limited distractions, and sacrifice toward a collective goal. The challenge is building that culture prior to banners being raised. If it has not been done before there is not a proven path to success. Now, you are having to focus more on the individual to create a collective mentality. At some point in our coaching career, we either have or will be in that position.

Coaching Application

Without program tradition or cultural standards in place, what will motivate student-athletes toward a collective goal? 

And are those tactics establishing standards or short-term buy-in?

An idea that came to mind was simply putting up the banners that exist in the rafters and placing replicas in the locker room. Inundate the student-athletes with the team ambition when it comes to program values. If it is at the level of conference championships, display those banners. If it is about academic success, showcase those students. The locker room at one of the Division III programs I was part of had probably one of the most inspiring collections I have been a part of as a coach. As soon as you walk in was a large sign of core values created by former players of what it meant to be a part of the program and what are the standards. There were the plaques scattered on the side-wall of every student-athlete that has been a part of the program and graduated in four years. If you have been a part of Division III athletics you understand the level of attrition that takes place annually. Within each locker room was a notebook/binder. This binder starts empty for freshman and is filled to look like an NFL playbook by time they leave for the last time creating a catalog of contributions. It is in my opinion that the small gestures that align with program standards are the best approaches towards building culture. And if it is believed based on successful organizations – such as (fill in the blank with your idealistic program) – are built off of cultural standards, then it is the simplest traditions that can be the most significant motivation.


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