I am a coach and trainer for tennis players mostly under the age of 11. I spend a significant amount of time doing it, and in the process have designed exercises and drills that will not only challenge them but to have them to improve their personal level of competence. (Koka & Hein, 2003). I positively correlate these challenges in a way that results in the kids being more motivated to excel and enjoy practicing, playing, and competing.
The ultimate goal for me is to get the children to develop their skills to the maximum point possible by getting their motivation from within rather than from external sources. External motivators, such as “I am doing it because my mom told me to” or “my best friend is in the class” need to be replaced by internal motivators, such as the opportunity to learn new strategies and tactics and by doing so, feel good about themselves and their accomplishments.
My strategy to get the children to focus on the main goal of mastering the game of tennis is executed in two phases. The first is to make the drills as challenging as possible. The second phase involves customizing the drills to each child, moving from advanced to par, taking into account the unique skills of each child. A key principle of mine is to set the bar high, then develop a plan to make success possible. Setting the bar low does not encourage true success but stymies it.
Taking this principle a step further, the bar must be elusive; never to be reached. It is to always have an upward movement away from the child’s grasp. The child needs to engage the challenge and learn from it, and the increasing challenge will result in more learning. (Fredeick-Rocasino & Schuster-Smith, 2003). In contrast, the lower correlation of less learning and lower engagement will be achieved if the challenges are easier.
Fredeick-Rocasino, C.M. & Schuster-Smith, H. (2003). Competition and motivation in physical activity. A comparison of two groups. Journal of Sports Behavior, 26 (3).
Koka, A. & Hein, V. (2003). Perceptions of teacher’s feedback and learning environment of intrinsic motivation in physical education. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4(4), 333 – 346. doi 10.1046/s1469-0292(02)00012-2.