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Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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1 What drives international athletes?

How do you develop a good grasp of the needs of those you are working with and, in particular, the different things that motivate their work week in, week out? To be an effective coach or teacher at any level, this is an important aspect to think about. If you can explain what drives you at a personal level, this self-awareness is useful in helping navigate work and life.

Activity 1 Heart and soul in rowing

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Watch this video which examines why rowers love their sport and what motivates them. You may find it helpful to watch the video more than once, to pick up on things you miss the first time you watch it.

Download this video clip.Video player: Hearts row to Rio
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Hearts row to Rio
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  • i.Identify phrases used under three main categories: mastery of skills, the sport’s environment and being with others.
  • ii.Think about your own experience of being coached or coaching and what athletes would say if you made a similar video for your sport.


  • i.The video links to what you saw in Session 2 about fun and enjoyment in children’s sport, but there is considerable nuance amongst these athletes because they can express themselves very well. Here are some of the things that may have stood out for you under each category, which also coincide with research about motivation.

    Mastery of skills: the feeling of the movements when carried out optimally was mentioned often and the ambition of what they were attempting is perfectly represented by, ‘[it is] elegant and precise, but powerful and delicate but strong’.

    The sport’s environment: the outdoor surroundings and the tranquillity of being ‘free’ in open space was a recurring theme.

    Being with others: the special atmosphere of being part of a well-functioning team, which includes supporting each other and developing strong bonds, was important for some.

  • ii.If videos were made for other sports, the evidence suggests that sports participants would also talk about mastery, as most other top athletes focus on working towards an elusive personal best performance. Those in team sports are likely to talk about the social aspect of being together and shared experiences.