Basketball Motivation: Using Motivation Techniques From Sports And Life

By Stephanie Kirby|Updated July 8, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Chante’ Gamby, LCSW

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Coaches can improve their team's success if they have a clear understanding of basketball motivation. If you're a player, knowledge of motivation concepts and techniques can also help you in basketball. You can better prepare your body and mind, perform well in games, work your way through injuries, and enjoy the game even more than you do now.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is a concept most people understand at some level, although you may never have tried to put it into words. The definition of motivation can be either the reasons you do something or the desire and willingness to do it.

When you're motivated, you're enthusiastic, ambitious, determined, and you take the initiative to move toward achieving your goals.

Biochemical Basis Of Motivation

Motivation happens in your brain. It's a physiological process that relies on the dopamine system to produce a feeling of reward for accomplishing things that you value. The process begins when you anticipate the rewards of doing well.

There are prescription drugs that can enhance your capacity for feeling motivated. You should always talk to your doctor before taking medication as some may have adverse effects. However, in basketball, motivation is typically fostered by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and through psychological techniques.

Psychological Components Of Motivation

Motivation can come from practical reasons, inner drive, incentives, inspiration, or stimulation. One of the components of building motivation, then, is to discover the specific motivators that work best for you as an individual.

Motivation can be categorized based internal vs. external rewards. The amount of control and self-determination available to you has a major impact on whether your motivation will build and what you can accomplish with it.

What Makes Basketball Motivation Different?

Basketball is a fast-paced, high-energy game. Playing half-heartedly gets you nowhere in this sport.

You have to be committed to conditioning your body and mastering skills between games. Then, you have to outperform the other team during games.

That's why basketball motivation is so crucial to the success and well-being of each player and the team.

Levels Of Motivation

Motivation isn't like an on-off switch where you either have it, or you don't. You can have only a little motivation, more motivation, or even reach the highest level of motivation that's known as a flow state. Each level of motivation happens in a specific way.


Amotivation has little or no motivation. When you have the motivation, you have no particular intent to do it. You may be absent from basketball practices or miss games. You just don't want to be there.

You may feel helpless to improve either your attitude or your skills. Talking to a therapist may be the best way to decide whether you want to continue, and if so, develop greater motivation.

External Regulation

External regulation is a level of motivation that comes from outside yourself. You feel you have no choice but to practice and play. You may feel angry, resentful, or stressed by the pressure to perform well.

External regulation can come from trying to win a prize or trophy, avoid punishment, or be judged as a poor player. Often, it's these external rewards that sports fans want most for their teams. However, there are much better ways to be motivated if you're a player.

Introjected Regulation

If the pressure to perform well comes from a sense of duty, feelings of guilt, or a need to be recognized for your achievements, you have introjected regulation. Although the pressure comes from within you, you feel you have no choice or freedom in the decision to play well.

When you have introjected regulation, you put the pressure on yourself. It isn't a healthy kind of internal pressure. Through therapy, you can resolve your inner pressures of guilt, duty, or neediness. When you do, you can dig deeper to find higher and more effective levels of motivation.

Identified Regulation

Identified regulation motivation comes from external sources, but you feel in control of whether you participate. You may not enjoy the game, but you choose it because you value it, or it serves some larger purpose. You practice, do drills, and hone skills with a clear intention of getting better so you can get the external rewards you want.

Integrated Motivation

Integrated motivation means that you see basketball as a part of who you are. Being a good player means being yourself. You choose to do what it takes to get better and perform well because it speaks to the truth of who you are as you see yourself.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes solely from within yourself. If you have intrinsic motivation to play basketball, you do it because you enjoy it and find it personally satisfying. You want to know more, accomplish more, and receive the mental and physical stimulation you find pleasurable and self-rewarding. Intrinsic motivation is the healthiest kind of long-term motivation you can feel.

Flow State Of Motivation

An even higher level of motivation can be found in the flow state. This is a kind of short-term state that happens when you're immersed in the game. To achieve a flow state, you need to be doing an activity that demands exactly what you can achieve.

The flow state is suited to your highest level of performance, and that's what you're accomplishing at the moment. Your awareness of yourself diminishes as you sense yourself as indistinguishable from the game itself.

Goal-Setting And Motivation

Effective goal-setting can increase motivation dramatically. There are certain ways to set goals that are more effective than others. No matter what the goal, having the feeling that it's your choice to work toward it increases the value of that goal for you. Here are some other techniques for choosing goals.

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Task-Oriented Goals

Choose task-oriented goals for greater focus. Rather than saying, "We're going to win this game," give your players or yourself goals that are concrete and oriented to a specific task.

For example, you might say, "I'm going to aim correctly when I go for a free throw." Not only do you have a greater focus on that task, but unlike vague goals like doing well, you know for sure whether you've accomplished it or not.

Then, if you feel that you've aimed correctly and don't know why the ball didn't go in the hoop, your coach can work with you on that specific skill.

Personal Mastery Goals

A personal mastery goal comes from intrinsic motivation. Or, it can be a part of identified motivation if you feel that who you are is someone who plays as well as is possible given who you are and your physical attributes.

Only the player himself or herself can set a personal mastery goal. This is a long-term goal that you may work toward for as long as you play the game. When you aim for personal mastery, it doesn't matter what happens to you in the game or whether your team wins or loses. The goal hasn't changed unless you decide to change it.

Long-Term And Short-Term Goals

Ideally, you would have both long-term goals and short-term goals. The short-term goals improve focus and concentration in a single task or game. Long-term goals keep you motivated to continue improving over the course of a season or a career.

Once you reach a long-term goal, you may want to choose another long-term goal right away. Otherwise, the game can begin to feel less important, boring, or pointless.

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting an unrealistic goal can be unhelpful. It puts pressure on you without ever giving you concrete rewards nor personal satisfaction. That's why it's important to set goals you have the ability and opportunity to achieve. They don't have to be easy, but they do need to be doable.

Should Winning Be The Primary Goal?

Winning is an important goal, certainly. If that is your main goal, you're in for an emotional rollercoaster ride. Wins are great highs, but the high doesn't last long as you move on to the next game. Losses, on the other hand, can be even more devastating if all you're playing for is the win.

Do you want to win? Of course! What you need is a goal you have more control over and can accomplish regardless of how others do at the game. You also need other goals that you can rely on even when you don't win.

Motivation Techniques From Other Sports

Basketball motivation has its unique challenges, for sure. You can also use motivation techniques from other sports to drive you towards your goals. Here are some of the motivation techniques that have been used successfully across all types of sports.

Motivation Quotes

Learning, speaking, and thinking of motivational quotes can help keep you motivated in the heat of competition. To be most effective, a sports motivation quote needs to be simple, forceful, and concise.

When you can call it to mind with no effort at all, it can move you through a moment when you're feeling intense physical or mental pressure.

Football motivation quotes are particularly powerful at times of physical pain and fatigue. Some of these include:

"Don't give up at halftime." ~Paul Bear Bryant

"A winner never stops trying." ~Tom Landry

"Success if not forever, and failure isn't fatal." ~Don Shula

"Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period." Lou Holtz

Music And Motivation

Music can inspire you to put forth greater effort without feeling as fatigued as you might otherwise. It helps you feel physically and mentally better. It increases your enjoyment, even when you're doing a relatively mundane drill.

For your basketball motivation, take cues from MLB baseball motivation pump up songs. Soccer motivation music may be more like that you can use for basketball motivation because it usually has the same fast pace that's ideal for both sports.

No matter the sport, you can find music that fits your team and their unique goals. You may even choose a sports motivation song as your own!

Motivation Videos

A motivation sports video can help you associate positive feelings more strongly with the tasks you have to do to win a game. A great powerlifting motivation video, for example, combines inspiring images, quotes and sounds with a vivid portrayal of the hero's journey from challenge to triumph.

A very inspirational sports video used for wrestling motivation can give you ideas for the kind of video you're looking for as you search for motivation. One video called Rise and Shine focuses on the concept of choice and the motivation that comes from it.

Motivation Techniques From Daily Life

To live a fully satisfying life, you may need extra motivation to pay attention to what's happening at home and work. However, once you learn how to use these motivational tools, you can use them on and off the court.

Positive Self-Talk

Muhammad Ali once said, "I am the greatest. I said that before I knew I was." That's a perfect example of positive self-talk. It's also a great example of effective boxing motivation. You can use positive self-talk in sports, but you can use it as well in many other aspects of your life.

Consider what kind of life you could lead if you said, "I am a great spouse," or "I am a great father," or even "I am great at my job?" You don't even have to tell yourself you're the greatest. That emphasizes the comparison. In basketball as in many other aspects of life, you move towards whatever you think you are.


Most people think of therapy as a way to deal with personal problems at home or work. Counseling can be extremely helpful for athletes who are struggling to find motivation.

With a therapist who understands your needs, you can resolve old issues that prevent you from finding motivation in your current situation. Then, you can examine your life and thoughts to identify what is important to you and what can motivate you the most effectively.

You can talk to a licensed therapist online at now. Go to the site and fill out a simple questionnaire to be matched with a counselor. It's fast, easy, and affordable. When you take this small step towards self-improvement, you can change the way you think about basketball and the intensity with which you pursue it.

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