The Science of Motivation

May 26, 2010, 2:47 p.m. (ET)

 There have only been a few books which I have bought multiple copies of to share with others impacting my life. One happens each May/June, when I give “A Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankel to high school and college graduates, about the freedom to chose your attitude in every situation. A second is Oh the Places You Will Go, by Dr. Suess, for younger kids deserving of effort reward in a wonderfully motivational book.  Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture has been a third one,  as it came from one of the finest lectures ever delivered about living life – which you can view by CLICKING  HERE.  Last year I bought a dozen copies of The Talent Code, and have enjoyed getting to share ideas since then with the book’s author Dan Coyle. His work on the development of talent is important to understand by all coaches working with kids of any age, and I highly recommend you bookmark his blog and read what he is sharing at --

The book  which I have most recently purchased and given to folks like Hugh McCutcheon, Carl McGown, Karch and others, is Daniel Pink’s book on motivation, titled Drive. It belongs in every Junior Olympic Volleyball Club program’s library, for the insights the coaches of our sport can gain into helping every child being taught to increase their mastery through their professional application of coaching theory. Gosh, that sounds like something IMPACT-ual for all. A key principle to understand is to focus on mastery over outcome, and to grow your player’s talents through creative, gamelike challenges. Coaches oft ask me, how do I motivate this or that kid? It is my contention that they are already motivated, for they are in the gym with you, unlike tens of millions of other kids who could be, but are not. What you need to do more of, is find out how to challenge each individual, by caring enough to know more about each of them, and learning what they want to get out of volleyball, and of life. Do you know each player’s favorite number, book, movie, candy or place they have visited? You should learn these things and more – not to be their friend, but to be the best teacher you can be of each of them.

If I may, and you can skip this paragraph, but I have to crow about one of the kids I have been coaching, teaching and parenting over the last 18 years. I have had the joy over the last week to watch my son Cody put in great effort to finish his International Baccularuate Diploma. His tests are graded in the next two months against thousands of other IB students from over 125 nations He pulled down a 4.80 GPA en route.. He received high honors in Foreign Language, Science and Social Studies, and interestingly he did not get honors in PE, but his peers selected him the most athletic in his senior class. He was honored by the Marine Corp for his leadership ability, in part as Cody in the just the past year was captain of his school tennis, lacrosse and volleyball teams. Three  years of Chinese, means three years of his sister and I not being able to help one tiny bit on homework or reading, since the first day of that class. Thank gosh he also took Spanish, where we could at least guess at the meaning of a word or do at least a bit of editing.  Those of you who HAVE read this paragraph get a surprise you might find of value in growing the game – CLICK HERE for a copy of my 100 page Minivolley book completely in Spanish. Today, before flying to Phoenix for our USAV Annual Meetings, I got to sit through 2 hours of name reading, followed by pockets of raucous joyful cheering, as over 400 Palmer HS seniors were given diplomas and got to flip their tassels to the right.  It was 40 years ago that I flipped my tassel too, as a Camarillo Scorpion, and began a journey of learning and coaching that continues to this day. Cody is not following the normal path as he is not going to college this year, but is going to intern at USA Volleyball and US Paralympics, while seeking to develop his volleyball game as well. If my body allows, we will play one last Father’s Day Sunday in the Father Son tournament in Vail next month and will also play with his sister in the adult coed division on Friday. He will then join me after Junior Nationals in Austin, to work the World Sitting Volleyball Championships in Edmond, then the US Nationals for Special Olympics. So look for some contributions from him in growing the game over the next months.

Motivation is such a huge part of being a good parent, and coach. I have found two great clips that will allow me to make this blog a bit shorter than usual, and let you experience great teaching from two very different, yet similar, speakers on motivation. The first is the chance to hear Daniel Pink himself speak about his research and findings. It is always best to hear directly from the expert, so CLICK HERE to listen to him speak in a 20 minute presentation. The second is also about the science of motivation, but it is also a brilliant example of pattern interruption used in teaching. CLICK HERE to see the research and ideas brought to light in a marvelous fashion, and consider using both these presentations to teach other coaches how to be better at what we do. (Thanks Ravi)    

From success to significance is something that I have been chewing on as my kids get ready to fly the next.  To have a purpose and a passion that motivates by being the right fit for who you are and what you seek to accomplish in life. I feel lucky to be working in growing the game, as I get to meet so many others who share this passion for our sport. This fall, at the Olympic Training Center in September (final dates being determined by the USOC), we will be simply sharing those best practices with those Junior Clubs and Facility owners who want to also make a difference. Passionate leaders from other Olympic sports who are growing the game for their discipline, will be in attendance as well. With 60 million kids, and some 10 million doing sport, we should NEVER consider another sport that is giving the life lessons which come from being active, as an opponent. They are our partners – and we need to work together to get the other 50 million kids more involved in a passion for play and sport, not worry about how a player was “taken” by some other sport.  As Becky Howard, past USAV President once said “Give us a chance to be your sport…” that is all we seek as we reach out to our Regions – some 40 strong, Affiliated Organizations – like the YMCA, Armed Forces, National HS Federation, Starlings USA and Special Olympics – and just share ideas on how to get our youth to love sport – including this great lifetime one. 

In closing, as I have also been a long time lacrosse coach – my daughter has risen well beyond her being coached by dad and just lost at States to a great team from Denver East –the University of Virginia tragedy has been weighing heavy on my mind.  This blog by USA Volleyball Affiliated Organization - Positive Coaching Alliance -   is the best writing I have seen on the topic, and I urge all of you to also take the time to browse through the website by CLICKING HERE.

As always, thanks for your help in growing the game together and let us know how we can help -  leaving comments below for all to share, or email me at