Motivation in Sports

by: Devin Smith

When you think of hot-button topics in sports, one debate that plagued barbershops for decades is the importance of motivation in organized sports. The basis of the argument ranges from its necessity, importance or even existence.

Open a copy of Webster’s and you’ll find that the definition of motivation is to provide with a motive. I think Webster dropped the ball here, but not everyone would agree with me on that.

Tom Landry, the father of the 4-3 defense and iconic ex-coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was one of those people.

“I don’t believe in team motivation,” said Landry. “I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.”

Now while it’s hard to disagree with someone wearing two Super Bowl rings, I can’t help but feel as though he’s only partially correct.

Look at the Baltimore Ravens this past season for example. It’s not a secret that when it comes to the ultimate motivators in sports history the name Ray Lewis is not far behind. That man played with a level of heart and passion unrivaled for 17 long years, but once he announced his retirement pending the season’s end look how it galvanized his team.

Lewis has often referred to his team as a brotherhood, and I think that’s an important factor. It’s very difficult to motivate an unorganized and divided group of people, but nearly impossible in a realm of constantly clashing egos. The Ravens carried each other through the playoffs, but Ray Lewis, as he has been so often in the past, was the igniter that sparked the flame.

An all-time basketball great by the name of Michael Jordan was also considered one of the great team motivators of all time. Many people, including myself, consider Jordan to be one of the greatest winners and athletes not only in basketball history, but in sports as a whole. If it’s hard to disagree with two Super Bowl rings, then it basically impossible to argue with six NBA Championships (not to mention the 5 MVP’s).

It could be money, fame, the love of the game or possibly something a bit more personal. Regardless, everyone has something that drives them that pushes them. Like Ray Lewis said, “When you wake up at 6 a.m. in the morning, it shouldn’t only be because of your alarm clock.”

It should be because it means something to you. Passion produces but it has to come from somewhere, and we are not all fortunate enough to receive that from Ray. It’s a nice gesture to say that you just want to win for whatever generic reason athletes may use, but ultimately when the stakes are the highest everyone has a chip on their shoulder.

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