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Strategies to Promote an Empowering Environment

As someone who currently works as a Coach and before this came from a teaching background, I have always had a fascination with the psychology surrounding achievement and motivation.  Why do some people seem to consistently hit their goals whilst others find it much more challenging? The answer is rarely going to be a simple one and there can be a thousand possible reasons that need to be explored. One important factor that has been shown to count is whether the individual finds their environment empowering. The more empowered an athlete feels, the more motivated  they are to keep putting in the effort consistently over time, the more likely they will be successful in achieving whatever it is that they wish to achieve.

The strategies within Sports psychology are not just important for coaches or teachers but it's principles are relevant for anyone working in a team environment, even if you do not participate in sport. The best companies out there are well aware of the motivational tools required to get the best out of their staff and I'm sure quite a few of us have had experience of working for companies who were not so informed!

Obviously nobody is exempt from having a bad day, life throws random stuff at us all the time that really is completely out of our control. This may affect our ability to communicate, behave or even just think the way that we would prefer to. It is impossible to feel on form 100% of the time and mistakes will happen, so I think the main thing is to be aware of the ideal and then just do the best you can do at the time!

The big three factors that have been shown to facilitate an empowering environment are:

- Autonomy

- Belonging

- Competence

These three concepts are derived from ‘Self Determination Theory’ first promoted by Ryan & Deci in 1985. Self determination theory is based around the idea that actions are best powered by intrinsic motivation, a sense of personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

Autonomy:  Having the capacity to make your own decisions Strategies; - Encouraging everyone to share ideas and help decide aspects within the training session and providing meaningful training choices - Explaining the relevance and benefits of each activity - Promote fun and enjoyment 

Belonging: Feeling valued as part of the group Strategies; - Encouraging participants to work together and give feedback to each other - Athletes should feel that their role in the group is important - Coaches must take a real interest in the athlete's life outside of the sport

- Athletes who have injuries and cannot train as usual are still invited and involved

Competence: A sense of confidence in your own ability Strategies; - Improvement is nurtured by supplying athlete's with frequent constructive feedback after both failure or success - Coaches teach athletes the value of making mistakes in order to be able to learn from them and create an environment where they feel comfortable to make errors - Where possible, activities are planned to challenge athletes (Athletes can tend to stick with tasks and movements that they are good at as this improves self confidence, a feeling of competency and positive reinforcement, so it is important for coaches to find ways to motivate their athletes to work on things that they have not yet mastered)

As someone who wants to improve a specific area of our life, whether it be in a sport environment, at home, or at work, it is useful to be aware of these factors. These strategies can be used to create an empowering environment, build motivation and improve acheivement. It is also important to note that when these factors are not met, the opposite can arise.

It is well worth taking the time to look at the different environments that you are most frequently exposed to when planning how to achieve your goals, including how you treat yourself. Are these environments suitable for achievement? If not then what can you do to change them? It doesn't matter whether you want to become an elite athlete, achieve top marks in a subject, be a successful manager or you are just trying to lose a bit of weight, these environments will affect your ability to succeed. 

Ryan Fearn - Canterbury Strength Coach

C.J. Knight, C.G. Harwood, D. Gould (2018) Sports Psychology For Young Athletes. Routledge. London. 

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.

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