Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Go figure: Motivating today’s high school athlete is tricky

January 30, 2008

If I wanted to be a teacher and a coach, I would minor in psychology.

I would spend hours studying motivation and theories on how people react to coaching.

Sometimes, figuring out what makes a player tick or want to play a game can be everything.

While I would study motivation, in reality there is no method to the madness that is high school basketball or athletics.

Some times you look at the scores and say, 'huh, did that really just happen?'

Wednesday was one of those days. I glanced at the scores and saw that Bonner Springs had lost to Bishop Ward 59-30.

I was surprised by the outcome. I didn't think Bishop Ward was 29 points better than Bonner Springs.

After all, this was the same team that had defeated Mill Valley a week before. Since that loss, Mill Valley has won two games and Bonner Springs has lost two games.

The question is why.

Motivation plays a role in the equation.

I believe that the Mill Valley boys basketball team is motivated by a fear of not living up to the previous standards of excellence that have taken place at the school.

Winning tradition can win you games.

I don't think Bonner Springs is not motivated, but it sounds like the team is tired. A lot of players have been hit with the flu, and sicknesses can be tougher to sidestep when a team isn't winning as many games and players are trying like heck to turn the corner for a basketball program.

In watching high school basketball, I have learned tthat the teams who are most motivated on a basketball court will play the hardest and thus increase their chances to win.

They don't always win the game, but the games are a lot more competitive.

The thing is, an athlete rarely takes the court feeling 100 percent. Some feel sick. Others are stressed out by school or family, friends, maybe they broke up with someone they thought was the love of their life.

Maybe their thumbs hurt from sending too many text messages during passing periods, but the truth is, motivating a team can be an extremely difficult task for a coach.

"That is it entirely," coach Ryan Hull said. "Kids are, especially at this age, very fickle at times. We didn't tip off until after 8:30, kids are kids and they are affected by that stuff."

But this topic is bigger than just one game or team. In general, it is difficult chore to motivate 15 to 18 year old athletes who can have 100 different things on their minds at once.

Coaches will try anything to get through to their teams. Some speak about pounding a rock until they get the job done.

Others use fear, none though know for sure for what will work.

Some days Hull sees the image of what he wants Bonner Springs to be. Players grasp how to execute the press offense. They work fluidly on defense. The press works.

"It is not that can't do it the rest of the time, just out of nowhere they decide to do it," he said.

The Kaw Valley League has been fickle like that this season.

In the course of a few days, Bonner Springs defeated Tonganoxie who then turned around a few days later and bested Perry-Lecompton.

Perry-Lecompton is ranked in the state polls and one of the teams to beat in the league.

"On Any given night any team win and any night anybody can be motivated," Hull said.

Yes, a psychology degree would be mighty handy right now.

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