Building an environment to perform under pressure
Motivational climates, what are they? For those of you who are familiar with growth mindset, this may seem similar. The important distinction is that growth mindset is, well, a mindset, whereas a motivational climate is the athlete’s perceived structure of the environment.
In this week’s 3 Points, I’ll discuss the types of motivational climates, the impact it has on your athletes, and a framework to improve yours.
1. There are two types types of motivational climates. A mastery climate (often referred to as a task-involved) and a performance climate (also referred to as ego-involved). Recently, the concept of a caring climate was shown to be complementary to mastery climates, so I will be referring to it as Caring + Mastery.
2. Previous research has highlighted how a positive and supportive environment is linked to athletes’ optimal effort, enjoyment, and commitment, as well as psychological well-being - greater hope and happiness, less depression and sadness. The study I am sharing looked at performance-related variables that are likely to be of interest to collegiate coaches. It studied 467 Big XII athletes and examined the relationship between athletes’ perceptions of the motivational climate on their Division I collegiate teams and their use of psychological coping skills.
Psychological coping skills were measured by looking at 7 psychological aspects of performance (also things I think all coaches would love from their athletes):
Coping with Adversity
Confidence and Achievement Motivation
Goal Setting and Mental Preparation
Peaking under Pressure
Freedom from Worry
They found that when athletes perceive that the coach creates an environment where athletes are cared for, valued for their effort, improvement, and cooperation with teammates, and that they play an important role on the team (caring + mastery climate), they are capable of utilizing psychological coping skills to their advantage, are confident in their ability to perform well when they are most challenged, and display positive motivation and mental preparation.
When athletes perceive that the ultimate focus is on winning/outperforming others, rivalry among teammates is prominent, and a few stars get most of the coaches’ attention (performance climate), athletes are less likely to utilize important psychological coping skills in their sport competitions.
3. While giving you a list of items and telling you it works is great, I think understanding the why and how behind ideas makes it “sticky”. The authors of the study explained:
While winning is a goal for most athletes and coaches, including those who create a highly Caring + Mastery Climate, emphasizing goals that are more controllable may serve as a form of emotional coping, distracting athletes from the pressure of feeling that they have to outperform others to prove their value. Praising athletes for trying hard and recognizing improvement likely lessens the pressure to win and outperform others, which are not always under the control of athletes. This may result in athletes being able to peak under pressure, especially if they feel they will be supported by their coach and teammates for having tried their very best, and if they know their mistakes will be treated as part of the learning process.
So, how do athletes perceive the climate you are creating in practice? During games? After games? In the film room?
I’ll leave you with a helpful framework (TARGET) to analyze this question: