Canterbury Ambassador Profile: Shaun Johnson
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Motivation is the foundation upon which all athletic effort and accomplishments are built. Without a desire and determination to compete and improve, everything else is meaningless. All of the physical prowess in the world isn’t going to win you a grand final if you have no desire to win, no motivating factors to be the last team standing on grand final night. That is why the role of motivation in footy is so important. If you can set goals and ignite a desire to win you can go a long way towards reaching new heights in professional sport.
Gerard Beale has reached the pinnacle of the NRL – winning a grand final in 2016. In his 180 NRL appearances, he’s scored 47 tries and played for New Zealand and the World All-Stars. Once you have tasted success, it’s easy to become complacent. A part of the historic Cronulla Sharks premiership victory in 2016, it would have been easy for Beale to rest on his laurels, he’s already won a premiership, what more is there left to achieve?
Instead, he sets goals for himself, for every week and season. Because, when you set goals, it’s always easier to notice progress and improvement. Setting goals also helps to give athletes motivation. The best goals have a clear definition, justification for importance and a clearly outlined pathway for achievement.
Simple goals that are specific to your role in the team go a long way towards boosting motivation. As a centre, you could plan to take some hard carries working the ball away from your own tryline every set or perhaps establish a set number of metres you want to run per game. Make sure you mix simple and harder goals to ensure that you’re always challenging yourself to do, not only the fundamentals right, but some tougher feats as well.
Beale says: “You can plan your weeks ahead, setting goals, so you are making the most of time. I know that if I want to be better, I have to make sure I’m planning and setting goals and doing the best I can to achieve them.”
While good goals can go a long way towards driving behaviour, it’s also vital that players each harbour a desire to win. Without a desire to win, it’s almost impossible to achieve the highest honours that footy has to offer. A desire to win means having the willpower to overcome adversity and beat all obstacles. This desire inspires perseverance and hard work.
To be an effective source of motivation, a desire to win needs to transform from being a one-off to a lifestyle. Players need to learn that there is a difference between being involved and being committed. Involved players will run the ball 10 metres and get up and play the ball. Committed players will run onto the ball, pumping their legs as hard as they can and strive to get up quickly to earn their team a quick play-the-ball.
However, the will to win isn’t worth anything without a daily commitment to do whatever it takes to prepare for a win. This is why athletes have to keep up their fitness. Fitness and mentality go hand in hand towards achieving success. If you’re physically fit yet don’t have the motivation to win, what is pushing you to use your fitness reserves when pushed to the limit and down on the scoreboard? If you’re mentally strong yet physically unfit, how are you going to translate that desire to win into a good performance when your legs can no longer carry you?
Beale says: “I like to make sure I’m topping up with running and weights. I guess I’ve been playing in a role for a few seasons, I’ve learnt what works best for my body, and I make sure I try to be as professional as I can.”
In some cases, motivation can be hard to gain and easy to lose. All it takes is a few losses in a row or a season-ending injury to stop a player in their tracks. In fact, low confidence can not only be a result of injury, but also a cause of injury.
With physical or emotional setbacks, performance can suffer and as a result, motivation either lessens or disappears. Consequently, in these moments, athletes need to remember their goals, focus on what they can control and put in the hard work to return to peak condition.
To succeed in life and any career, it’s important to clarify direction, commit to taking responsibility for successes and failures and build unshakable self-confidence. Therefore, maintaining and regaining confidence is about going back to setting goals, dwelling on the positive and focusing only on yourself and not how others are performing.
Beale says: “You know, having the confidence that you can succeed is a big thing while always wanting to challenge yourself.”
The importance of goals and motivation in footy shouldn’t be underestimated. When combined with physical fitness and toughness, a desire to win and self-confidence can go a long way towards a grand final victory come the first weekend in October.