Printer Friendly Version

I have discovered through experience the most powerful motivational tool ever! It is so powerful that any athlete or team can win over the more talented or even the better trained.
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Fall 2000

If you use this powerful tool and have talent in addition with a solid training program, you can achieve true greatness. There are three main steps in gaining the most out of The Most Powerful Motivational Tool. However, before I reveal these three steps, I should give you my definition of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation:

Extrinsic Motivation: Coming from the outside. A prime example would be a coach giving t-shirts to athletes who lift a certain amount of weight or make a certain number of workouts. Receiving any kind of material reward would be considered extrinsic in nature. Verbal praise is a form of extrinsic motivation. In other words, you get something, if you do something.

Intrinsic Motivation: Coming from within. A prime example would be to have a burning
desire inside to succeed because you have accepted a challenge. Tears of joy

after accomplishment are the evidence of the
intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation deals with feelings and commitment. Personal decisions which lead to excellence are the driving force behind intrinsic motivation.

Which Is The Most Powerful? If you were to say to a pro athlete, “I’ll give you an extra ten thousand dollars today if we win,” how powerful would that be? How about if you were to say, “The press thinks were going to lose, the bookies think were going to lose, heck, everybody thinks were going to lose. But, they don’t know our hearts. They don’t know what we have been through together. I believe in you. I believe we can prove everybody wrong. I believe in our team.” One is extrinsic in nature while the other is intrinsic. Which is the most powerful? I believe intrinsic motivation can be far more powerful. But, you have to use it correctly. That is the purpose of this article.


Step #1 seems so simple. So obvious. Yet, when I do clinics and ask the athletes, very few teams have done it. Here is the question: “Have your juniors-to-be and especially your seniors-to-be talked about what they want to do next year as a team?” If you take in all the high school team sports among both boys and girls across the country, you would find that well over 90% have not done this. Wow! What an opportunity lost. Here they are working out and part of a team, and they don’t even have a united purpose. Amazing!

The rule here for step #1 is clear: let the athletes decide their destiny or goal. If a coach says, “Our goal is to win the state championship. How many of you can back me up?” This is not nearly as powerful as if it is the athlete’s original decision. At clinics, I will have the athletes who are going to be juniors and seniors get together by themselves; without any adults. Their job is to decide on what they want to accomplish as a team. If they come back and report, “Coach, we are united. We want to win the state championship. That is our goal.” This becomes powerful.

Sometimes, they might need a little guidance. This is fine but always give them a choice - the pros and cons. Then, let them decide. Always demand they look you in the eye. If they have not had a winning season in awhile and their goal is to win state, ask them, “Do you realize just how difficult that will be? Do you realize just how much work it is going to take?” They will always nod “yes.” Then ask, “And your willing to commit everything to attain this dream?” They will respond in the affirmative. You then must respond with emotion, “I will do everything I can to help each of you. We will do this great thing together.”


Many coaches wait until the season starts to come up with team goals. That is too late. A football team needs to do the how part in December or January. A basketball or wrestling team needs to this in April. Why? To give the team as long as possible to prepare. Establish what you want to accomplish as soon after the sport season as possible.


Ask the team, “What kind of work ethic should we have? On a scale of one to ten, what should we be willing to give?” Most of the time you will hear ten. If no one says “eleven,” ask, “Does anyone have another idea.” Then wait. Almost always someone will say, “eleven.” Then respond by saying, “That is a good idea.”

You now have constructed an amazingly powerful situation. You have a united goal that came from your athletes. You have eight or so months to prepare and you are going to prepare everyday at an eleven rate.


There will be mistakes and problems with athletes during this eight-month period. There are definite rules on how to handle these situations with the most powerful motivational tool that has been presented. It is critical to remain focused on the goal while remaining positive.
HANDLING MISTAKES: When an athlete makes a mistake or does not fulfill his/her commitment to being an eleven, you cannot say, “Listen, you little twink. You better shape up or else. I’m sick and tired of you screwing up.” Don’t react to a situation--Act. Act with a preplanned strategy. For example, my favorite to acknowledge an error in judgement is to say, “I thought you said that you wanted to be an eleven?” Then pause. “What would an eleven do? Pause. “We need you with us. Can I count on you from now on?”

This strategy corrects the situation with a positive resolve with the athlete to do better. Normally, athletes react with a lot of self guilt. No need to rub it in. Always leave the encounter showing that you care. A firm handshake and a smile is an eleven way to do it.

HANDLING CONTINUAL PROBLEMS: This can be a team decision made at the same time as the goal. Just ask the team, “What if someone just won’t be an eleven and is constantly making bad decisions. What if someone just doesn’t care to give what it takes?” As they are thinking about these questions, then ask, “Do you want me to handle them or do you want to try to handle them first?” Usually, they will want to handle them. This strategy can develop strong leadership and even greater commitment.

I would recommend you have captains or senior leaders. Communicate on a regular basis. Ask, “How are we doing?” Do you need any help?” Always relate the positive things you see going on.

USE EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION: This will enhance and fortify the goal and the three steps. Always give praise. Say things like, “You know what you are? On a scale of one to ten, you are an eleven; or that was an eleven thing to do.” The BFS Set-Rep System is a phenomenal way to use extrinsic motivation. First, all athletes break at least eight personal records per week. This is great by itself but you can also give awards for all kinds of things: most records broken, biggest gains, most improved, etc. Use t-shirts, caps or other things the kids can earn. However, as this is done, always refer back to the main goal. For example, say, “Because of your hard work, we are closer to our goal. Here is a shirt to represent what you have given to that goal and our team.”

Dr. Greg Shepard

Return to Fall 2000 Articles

Click Here to Return to Archive Search Page Return to Magazine Archive Search Page

For BFS Magazine Issues after 2014, click here to return the BFS Magazine Archives Main Page

FAX 1-801-975-1159 Toll Free 1-800-628-9737 Email BFS with Your Comments
All Content © 2010 Bigger Faster Stronger Incorporated All Rights Reserved