The Heart of the Athlete: Motivation for Activity, for Sport and for Life
by Hannah R., Concordia Applied Journalism
Have you ever looked an athlete - whether they’re a professional, an enthusiast or even a child - and wonder about why are they pushing themselves beyond their limits? How do they motivate themselves in challenging athletic feats for such extended times? This line of inquiry with Concordia varsity athletes reveals a wide range of motivation, some of which you might find surprising.
“My motivation to continue playing is my love for the sport,” says Ryan B. He has been playing basketball for 4 years and the 2018-19 season will be his 5th year playing. “I have devoted myself to continue improving because it is an escape from whatever is stressing me out,” he explains. “[It’s] a great way to exercise, and a really fun game to play.”
Amy L. and Erika B., who both have been swimming competitively for more than 10 years, offer motives that resonate with Ryan’s. “Swimming is one of my favorite sports and it has been with me my entire childhood,” Amy says.
Swimming not only keeps me fit but also a great way to release stress. Although it’s not really a team sport, the team often bonds during meets and, different from other sports, it involves the entire school from elementary to high school,” says Amy, revealing her desire to share her passion with others. “I enjoy leading the little kids and seeing them grow”.
Erika’s response is similarly grounded: “Part of my motivation, honestly, is to finish out high school doing what I love,” she explains. “The other part is to push myself by setting goals that I am constantly trying to accomplish.”
Interestingly, some individuals are motivated by positive acknowledgement from peer and coaches. Samuel C., an 8-year veteran of swimming, states, “I mostly swim for fitness, but I am also doing it for the varsity title and the hope of becoming captain someday”. He reveals his desire to accomplish goals he has set for himself, an idea that is well known among intrinsically motivated athletes.
Kelly W., who has been dancing since she was very young, admits that feeling part of a peer group is some of what drives her. “What keeps me motivated are my teammates and the APAC conference itself,” she says. “The team is very close. The APAC conference is always very exciting and also we don’t want to embarrass ourselves in front of other schools.”
Chloe L. has been a table tennis player for an amazing 10 years. Her thoughts echo those of Samuel as she explains that, “other than the physical fitness aspect, I love the sense of community that is developed within a team. People tend to consider table tennis as an individual sport, but it is set up to foster teamwork and cooperation.” Chloe describes her experience with table tennis as an important factor in what makes her a well round person, physically and mentally.
In her 8 years of playing basketball, Karen M. has developed a completely different outlook when it comes to her sport. “As I got older I started finding outdoor pickup courts to play in, but the thing is, there was only guys so I learned how to play with them,” she recounts. “I was never taken seriously, and the guys wouldn’t even guard me and it really frustrated me. This doesn’t only happen in China, as we can see in the WNBA, those women don’t get the same amount of pay as NBA athletes, and most of them have to go overseas to play during the off season in order to make more money.”
“What motivates me to keep playing,” Karen explains, “is the fact that although I know men are biologically stronger and have more athletic capability, it doesn’t mean woman are weak and it doesn’t mean we can’t be good athletes.”
“By playing basketball, I want people to see girls don’t have to be weak that they don’t need to go easy on me just because I’m a girl,” she explains. “I want them to still defend me as if I were a guy so I can get better.” Karen’s perspective on basketball at the professional level aligns with her philosophy: “In general, I really hope that people can view women’s basketball not as a comparison to the NBA, but as a platform for the best female basketball players in the world.” This search for a higher meaning in the sport of basketball exemplifies the multiple levels on which athletes can be motivated to excel in their sport.
Ultimately these insights reveal the different drives that underlie the performance Concordia Varsity athletes attain on the court, in the pool, on the stage and on the field. Perhaps in each is revealed a path to future success, whether that be from loving what one is doing, appreciating peers, having eyes on the prize, or seeing a deeper meaning behind what one does.
Hannah R. is an active member of the Concordia Applied Journalism program.