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The Head Coach: Pride beats intimidation in football, and in life.

The Head Coach: Pride beats intimidation in football, and in life.
November 19, 2012 Ignacio Fiallos

Football mimics life in many ways.

One way is in the challenge of motivating others to perform at their peak. Teachers struggle to motivate their students. Parents try to spark their children to study more. Coaches can, at times, have a difficult time setting a fire under their players.

That is why Bud Adams stepped into the mix with the Tennessee Titans. The team’s owner put everyone on notice — the coaching staff, the players, as well as the front office. The Bears had just blown away the Titans, winning by 31 points. This was the fifth time in the season that the Titans had lost by 20 or more points.

Adams’ big stick worked.

The following week, the Titans surged to victory over Miami, 34-3.

But how long will this Titans fire last? How long will fear and intimidation motivate the Titans players?

We know in motivational research that punishment, intimidation and fear do work, but only in the short term. When the intimidation and punishment is gone, so is the desired behavior.

More importantly, we also know in motivational research that extrinsic motivation (such as punishment and intimidation) can diminish our intrinsic motivation (such as enjoyment and passion). That is, intimidation motivates us in the short term, but it can also diminish our innate, long-term motivation.

While Bud Adams’ tactic worked, I am afraid it will be short-lived. Rather than intimidate the players, Bud Adams and the coaching staff need to spark the players’ inner fire by emphasizing pride and meaning.

Stepping onto the field and being proud that you gave it 100 percent effort on every play will be more impactful in the long term for the Titans’ performance.

Of course, football does not stand alone with the difficulty of sparking pride. Teachers, parents and leaders of companies must also find ways to boost motivation by fueling pride in one’s actions.

Here is my suggestion for this difficult task: Develop a pride list.

Ask your student, child or employee to make a list of aspects about the task at hand that give him or her a sense of pride. As a leader, focus on those aspects. Emphasize those prideful nuggets.

Pride is one of the most powerful human emotions. It can help you to rise above any difficulty, in football and in life.


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