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UK Coaching Team
Improving Physical Ability

Intrinsic Motivation: A Key Ingredient in Skill Acquisition

An overview of the powerful and important influence of intrinsic motivation on the acquisition and development of movement skill, developed in partnership with Harjiv Singh

As human beings, we are not motivationally neutral organisms. The development, acquisition, and performance of movement skills is a product of our social interactions, our thoughts, and our emotions (social-cognitive-affective).

While what we see may be a labelled as unbelievable athleticism or tactical and technical brilliance, how this skill and behavioral flexibility is produced, altered, learned, controlled, and adapted is a result of a co-existing relationship between one’s thoughts, emotions, action environment, and task goal.

Understanding intrinsic motivation

‘Motivation’ is derived from the Latin wordmovere’ which means, “to move.” As a coach, you are a facilitator of movement skill, which is generally characterised by fluent and consistent (in outcome) movements that require reduced effort.

Think about confidence and control. You want to have your athletes feeling confident and in control over the effects of their actions. In other words, you want them to be intrinsically motivated. Over the last couple of years, research has attributed intrinsic motivation as a key factor in movement learning and performance.

While this is rooted in extensive theoretical underpinnings, the practical implications of this research can help you improve your coaching practice and craft while supporting and harnessing the basic needs of being human.

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UK Coaching Team