Motivation is one of the most important, but least-discussed, factors when it comes to becoming a better tennis player. It really all starts with motivation: wanting to get better. If it’s a cold Saturday morning and you are tired and snug in your bed, will you get up to train or stay in bed? Many people will opt to stay in bed.
“Just this once,” they will tell themselves. There is nothing wrong with taking a break every now and again, of course, but the problem is these events too easily become habits. And once these habits become entrenched, they can be very hard indeed to get rid of.
The key to avoiding such issues, of course, is motivation. Motivation is simply the thing that drives you to do something. There are two kinds of motivation: - Intrinsic motivation: Internal motivation that comes from within you.
- Extrinsic motivation: External motivation that comes from outside sources.
Extrinsic motivation is the easiest to use to get yourself going in the short term. For example, you can tell yourself that if you train on the cold Saturday morning, you will buy yourself pancakes for breakfast. Intrinsic motivation is more substantive and comes from a desire to do something for its own sake.
For example, if you are intrinsically motivated, you will get up to train on the cold Saturday morning because you have a passion for tennis and want to get better. You don’t necessarily need potential prizes or pancakes to motivate you to train hard.
To maintain long-term motivation, it is essential to be intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation will keep you going for a while, but even with success it is easy to “burn out” when only using this form of motivation.
To “burn out” is to become demotivated and tired of tennis. In terms of extrinsic motivation, it is usually because either you are not receiving enough external rewards to keep you motivated, or the external rewards you are receiving no longer interest you.
Think about it…if you have already own $100 million, would you really be motivated to win another $10000? Would you be motivated enough to keep training at the level required to play at an elite level? The answer, for most people, is simply “no”.
Extrinsic motivation has its limits, and very rarely leads to long careers. The inspiration you can get from intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is essentially limitless. If you have a true passion for the game and are willing to train hard just for the sake of getting better at your favorite sport, you are much less likely to burn out because you won’t be measuring yourself in physical rewards, but internal satisfaction. Long careers, regardless of their overall success, are almost exclusively fueled by intrinsic motivation.