The Super Bowl: Playing to Win or to Improve?

Friday, January 26th, 2018

 

If you live in Minnesota, odds are you know Super Bowl VII will be held at US Bank stadium on February 4th. What you may not know is the driving force behind these teams that makes them so successful. Motivation style plays a huge role in performance outcome. Is it more important to have a drive to win or a drive to improve?

Any team that has made it to the Super Bowl would say it is more important to win. What many teams do not know is that performance is linked to motivation style, and according to research athletes are more successful when they are motivated to improve rather than to win (Vallerand, 2012). Motivation purely to win can actually result in a poorer performance from the athlete due to pressure from uncontrolled outcomes.

Improvement may not be the main goal for many athletes or teams competing in the Super Bowl, however, it may be the key to victory. According to the Theory of Self-Determination, athletes perform better when they are intrinsically motivated, for example by a desire to improve, compared to being extrinsically motivated by an outcome such as wining (Cameron, 1999).

When athletes are extrinsically motivated it means their motivation comes from an outside source, such as winning. This may lead athletes to feel as though their behavior is controlled by external, material rewards like trophies, scholarships, or recognition. Therefore, their personal motivation level decreases and can lead to a loss of interest, value, and effort resulting in higher anxiety, poor sportsmanship, and decreased performance outcome (Vallerand, 2012). This being said, if an athlete plays in the Super Bowl with the mindset of wanting to win rather than wanting to improve, their performance can suffer and may cost them the game.

Intrinsic motivation is just the opposite; athletes participate in a sport for internal enjoyment and satisfaction through skill improvement and personal growth resulting in an increased confidence level, reduced stress from mistakes, and an overall higher satisfaction in the game (Vallerand, 2012). The behaviors associated with those who are intrinsically motivated are more self-determination and fulfillment in their sport (Cameron, 1999). These behaviors allow athletes to grow and improve their focus and performance without the worry of external factors such as the pressure of winning or any other outside expectations. These behaviors are related to growth mindset; the belief that abilities are developed through dedication and hard work.

The motivation style each team chooses can immensely influence the outcome of the game. Motivation is the force that drives athletes to succeed both physically and mentally and will be a key factor in the outcome of Super Bowl VII.

 

Amanda Letsinger

  • Proud Provider of Services for Athletes in:
  • Premier Sport Psychology
  • 952.835.8513
    7401 Metro Blvd
    Suite 510
    Edina, MN 55439