How Do Competitive Athletes Stay Motivated?

Many athletes compete because they love their sport, but is that all that keeps them motivated? The promise of large sums of money must have it's influence, right? What do forum members PolPow53, Aussie LTD & frobro think?

TOPIC: How Do Competitive Athletes Stay Motivated?

The Question:

Many athletes compete because they love their sport, but is that all that keeps them motivated?

What keeps athletes more motivated, the love for the sport or the money and women?

Where does the majority of an athlete's desire come from?

Bonus Question: What keeps you motivated?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:


      1st place - 75 in store credit.

1st Place - PolPow53

Many athletes compete because they love their sport, but is that all that keeps them motivated?

Many people love game day, their match, their meet. BUT, what keeps them going through the tough practices, the late night off-season training, waking up early, battling the elements, diet changes and the physical pain from the struggle? What happens then?

When times get tough, it is often not enough to simply love the game, the average human mind is not strong enough to simply want to keep going when the lactic acid burns up and the body gets fatigued. There is a need for lots of different forms of motivation for an athlete to stay motivated through tough times. This can include various different and effective approaches.

The most effective approach is the classic "cliche-like" approach of "keep your eyes on the prize", "pain is temporary, glory lasts forever!" Those phrases were coined ages ago and they apply today more than ever. An athlete has to learn to see what the big picture is.

Whatever is being done at the moment is vital to the overall success of the athletes immediate and eventual future. Everything matters, whether it's having the discipline to go to bed early enough to get enough sleep for the day ahead, to finish off those harsh sprints in conditioning at full effort or to not indulge in junk food. The athlete has to think:

  • Is this worth it?

  • How badly will this affect me?

  • Is the satisfaction I get from this decision worth possibly jeopardizing my dream?

This question is important, as the answers may vary and that is OK. No one can be 100% dedicated all the time. But it is important to be aware of the situation. For example, taking some time off to spend a night with quality people may be a legitimate and needed break, yet there is a difference between that and getting drunk for a whole week and skipping various workouts.

An athlete should imagine themselves winning and losing, experiencing the "thrill of victory and agony of defeat" if you will. Often negative experiences can be good motivational tactics. If an athlete fails to make a team, gets cut, doesn't get recruiting attention, has his team go winless, loses a rivalry game, all that can enrage and motivate an athlete to no end.

If no such experiences are available, they can always be played out. Imagine yourself losing your spot to your mortal enemy, the cross-town team beating up on your squad in the last match of the season. If that doesn't get your blood boiling then I don't know what will.

Similar things can be done with positive experiences. If an athlete or their team enjoyed success recently, repeating that can be a great factor in motivating. While a mediocre athlete can fantasize about one day achieving that level, hoisting that trophy, getting that kiss on the podium, having the picture in the paper.


One of the most influential aspects of sports psychology today is the concept of visualization. Arnold would look at and concentrate on his biceps while other athletes can think about the plays they will make beforehand.

Visualization has its pros in that it in nearly effortless and it can be applied to the gritty aspects of an athlete's life. It can be used to plan out workouts and to mentally prepare for practices. Once an athlete is keen on and mentally prepared for his or her task, he or she can perform it much better than a shocked mind can.

Planning out and visualizing what we fear can be an effective way to overcome this. Pondering about the length of a session and its intricacies will lead the athlete into entering the session with a blueprint for success that can be followed to completion, rather than drudged through.


Having other people around, especially during training can be great for some. Depending on the athlete's mindset, they should choose a certain partner.

The hungry person can choose to work with someone way beyond his or her level. This will bring great motivation as the athlete will have an exemplar to emulate and strive to one day beat their role model.

The unmotivated person can benefit from having a partner similar to themselves, that way the two can push each other to great lengths, trying to outdo each others mark on every form of training.

Lastly, the jealous type may enjoy an inferior partner. Seeing them make gains and catching up to you can be a great motivator to get back to work. This works great since beginners will make easier gains, exaggerating the advanced athletes' needs.

Goal Setting

Setting goals is simple and vital. Goals should be set both for performance on the field of play, but also in the off-season training program. The true beauty of goal setting is that there is a deadline, which shocks the athlete to work harder so that they do not fail at their goals.

Shallow Tricks

Buy yourself a new supplement, a new pair of workout gloves, some more weights for the home gym, a membership to a better gym, a new shirt, ANYTHING!!

This will want to make you go out and use this new product, and inevitably make you train harder as it is amazing to see how shallow the mind can be.

For Love Or Money?
What keeps athletes more motivated, the love for the sport, or the money and women?

I would have liked to say it is the love for the sport, yet more and more my mind is being tainted and I feel that ideology is farfetched. One does not have to look far to see examples of this.

  • Terrell Owens ruined his whole season, for money!

  • Ricky Williams did not have enough love for the game to keep playing until money issues were brought up.

  • NHL players had no problem not playing for a year due to money issues.

  • More and more college football players are declaring for the draft early, many basketball players are going to the NBA straight from high school.

  • Olympic Athletes seem to be looking more for endorsements and losing the vision of true Olympic participation.

  • High school kids are competing in sports to impress colleges. More and more it is either about recruiting to get a scholarship, or others doing 3 different sports to put on their resumes.

However, I do believe in purity, and there are athletes out there who compete for the love of the game, and they should be saluted.

Where does the majority of an athlete's desire come from?

The majority of an athlete's desire comes from just that, the desire to succeed. The nature and motivation behind the success varies, but no one likes to fail. Sure, some team members rather get an All-State recognition over winning a team title, others may want to go on to the next level in their sport, others may only want the chance to actually play their sport.

Everyone's goals are different, but we all have the desire to succeed, whatever our personal idea of that may be. This all comes from our mind, if our mind is dedicated enough, it can make our body do anything. The trick is being mentally strong.

Bonus Question:
What keeps you motivated?

I have a little trick that keeps me motivated for off-season training. It is simple: MAKE YOURSELF LOVE WHAT YOU DO! Many people dread lifting, dread running, dread practicing. Imagine it is fun!

For example, I learned to love lifting through embracing lifting itself. In my sport of football, lifting is a means and not an end, so it is easy to just say that I am going through the motions because it is necessary.

I found that I can combat this by watching lifting. I have various videos of power lifters', Olympic lifters', bodybuilders' and strongmen training sessions. Seeing these athletes train makes one want to get up and lift something heavy and I love it.

The Fit Show is great for such things as it features many great athletes as well as a great new addition, World's Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski. If those videos do not prompt one to get motivated, then I don't know what will!

2nd Place - Aussie LTD

Motivation is the thing that drives us. An athlete who is motivated can mean the difference between the ambitious star of the team to the guy who is always lifelessly sitting on the sidelines. Motivation is crucial; but where does it come from?

This question sits in the same category as the question, "what makes humans happy?", if we all knew the answer, we'd all be happy, and motivated right away. Personally, I feel motivation can be result of many factors, including money.

In this section I will go over some of those, discuss how much of a role money plays towards an athletes desire to play, and share some of my own sporting experiences. Read on.

Love Of Competition:
Many athletes compete because they love their sport, but is that all that keeps them motivated? Where does the majority of an athlete's desire come from?

Sport is something almost all of us have a passion for. In some cases, it's become almost a tradition. Our love of sport is definitely the biggest reason behind this fascination. People love everything from the competitiveness to the aggression to that deep desire to win.

Sporting events draw the biggest crowds in the world and are some of the most talked about events of the year. All you need to do is go over some of the major sporting events to witness the extent of love we as humans show for sport. Look at the incomparable atmosphere at the Soccer World Cup, the tradition and history associated with the Olympics, or the excitement surrounding the Superbowl.

People are turned on by these spectacles; the excitement, the entertainment, that passion to win. In this section I will delve deeper into the under-lying motivations we have for these sports.

We Are Competitive Animals:

People's love of sport throughout the world can't be compared to many other things. The competitive nature of sport is a major reason that lies behind this international fascination.

By nature we are competitive animals. All you need to do is look at evolution, and how humans have needed to fight, and even compete, for their own survival. Sport allows humans to excel at what, by nature, they are intended to do - fight against others and find a way to win.

What Is Humanity's True State Of Nature?
The concept of a state of nature was first posited by the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan. Hobbes described the concept in the Latin phrase bellum omnium contra omnes, meaning "the war of all against all." In this state any person has a right to do any thing to preserve their own liberty or safety.

Famously, he believed that such a condition would lead to a "war of every man against every man" and make life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

Humans are highly motivated by competing and fighting their way through challenges to get to the finish line.

That Burning Desire To Win:

As well as our in-born desire to compete and survive, comes that burning desire to win. A lot of us are largely motivated by wanting to be the best; not just another player, but the captain of the team; not just an average kick, but the longest kick in the team; not just "that guy," but the guy who rose to the top.

I think people really get turned on by the fact that they can be the best, and challenge anyone who thinks they can take their place.

Fueling That Healthy Ego:

A lot of people are largely fueled by their ego. Not the type of ego that is associated with big bucks, fast women and even faster cars, which I'll discuss later in the article, but the ego that is associated with big tackles, Herculean builds, powerhouse strength and flawless skill; all things that you can find in sporting events.

Just knowing that you're one of the Top 10 tennis player's in the world, or that you are a star of the Chicago Bulls, or the biggest kicker in the NFL is a feeling that would be enough to fuel even the smallest of egos. The amount of motivation I would get knowing I was one of the best players in the National Football League would make me feel invincible, unstoppable.

People Love The Physical Aggression:

I don't think there is anything better for the ego than a healthy level of aggression; not physical brutality, but the sort of bumping, shoving and tackling that is associated with most top sports.

By nature, males are aggressive animals. We have always needed to be physical in order to survive. Even to this day, people still love doing anything physical; whether it is weight training, playing sport, or just throwing around your brother for some fun. And I can't think of any better way for males to release their aggression than playing sport.


We all know the impact the mind has on performance, and your self-belief is probably one of the most important mental factors.

Having self-belief means athletes have the belief that they can overcome any hurdle, a belief that they can take on any challenge, and a belief that they will win.

When you're running high on these positive emotions, and have a true belief they you can do it, your motivation will just flow.


A big part of motivation for athletes is a sense of achievement. The achievement from setting goals and accomplishing them is an amazing feeling. Anyone knows the euphoria after setting a goal, working your @ss off and then finally getting to the finish line; nothing beats it.

Setting goals forms the foundation for achievement; without any direction, you have no clear sense of where you're heading or what you're looking to achieve.

After achieving something you didn't think you could do, you feel on top of the world, and not much can make your motivation levels any higher.

See Yourself Succeed, & Success Will Be Yours:

Sports psychologists have realized for some time now that one of the biggest factors that leads to high motivation in competitive sport is the power to visualize success. When you can already visualize a win in your own mind, you will more likely follow through with your predetermined set of actions.

When you have all these positive visions in your mind, you feel great; motivation will be high, and you will just want to get out there and show them what you've got to offer.

For Love Or Money?
What keeps athletes more motivated, the love for the sport, or the money and women?

There is no doubt that money and women can fuel a lot of athlete's egos, but motivation usually lies within other places, such as those I've listed above.

I don't think anyone can deny someone's love for their own sport. If the only reason professional athletes play is for money, then we need to look at their childhood to witness how one's love for their sport has evolved.

I remember watching a documentary on Magic Johnson and his love for the sport of basketball; as a child he was found dribbling a ball anywhere he went; he played because he had a passion. That same passion that won him consecutive championships, and drove him to play with passion until the day he retired.

Michael Jordan was another who shares this passion; he dribbled his basketball everywhere as a kid. Do you think that while he was dribbling he was thinking about the amount of money he would make being in the NBA? No!

He was dreaming about running onto the basketball court in front of fans, shooting incredible goals and playing next to other he admires. These are just two examples of professionals who are motivated by the game, not the cash.

If it wasn't for this passion, they wouldn't be where they are now. After an athlete has spent their childhood playing in the minor leagues, and dreaming of hitting the big league, do you think they are thinking about the money(?), no. They are thinking about the dream; the dream that they have wanted to achieve all their lives.

They are being driven by "achieving their lifelong dream," "being on an international stage," "and being the best they can at that particular sport." The energy associated with these things is incredible.

I spent the majority of my teenage years playing Australian Rules Football, trying to fulfill my dream of making it to the AFL, the biggest league in the country. Unfortunately, I had a stress fracture that sidelined me and didn't give me that opportunity. Playing in professional football was a dream, and when you really want something, money doesn't come into it at all.

Never once did I think about the $100,000 pay check that can come with being a first-year player, or the chance of becoming a millionaire. All I was thinking about was getting the chance to do something I've always wanted to do, playing in the biggest sporting spectacle in the country.

I'm 20 and still play football, and am too old to ever make it to professional-grade. There are hundreds of thousands of others who play at my age or older for no other reason than the enjoyment. These guys are motivated by the fun of it all, and that's enough to keep them going.

A lot of people might be thinking, "there has to be some athletes who only care about the money?" Some of them: yes, but I think most don't. What I do know is that those who are driven by the cash, and anything that comes along with it such as fancy lifestyles, fast cars and hot women are the ones who end up losing; both on and off-field.

They not only perform worse on-field, but they are loosing because they don't know how good it feels to have a passion in life, and be out there doing everything you can to fulfill it. Fulfilling your dreams is one the best feelings you can get, and only those who love what they do will achieve this.

Bonus Question:
What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated by many things, but above most things is the fact I want to succeed at what I do. I think this is what motivates a lot of professional athletes; that desire to be the best at what they do. The thought of making it to the big league or being the best in the world really sparks me up.

One thing that has always motivated me more than anything else was winning the premiership. It would fuel me before every football season, and give me that added incentive you need to play at your best.

Winning any trophy is a great feeling, just the feeling of holding one in your hand knowing that you've won something. It's a lifelong symbol of achievement. I was lucky I played with others who shared this passion, and I ended up coming home with two premierships.

By nature, I'm a competitive person. I love the competitive aspect of sport; going out there and trying my hardest to defeat my opponent, or the opposition. Football is competitive; a lot of 1-on-1 contact, and contests, so that was definitely enough to fulfill me.

The aggression in most professional levels sports is awesome. Sports like wrestling, boxing, football and MMA. Most guys love sports like this because contact is actually encouraged; you're not out there to kill someone, but just show some aggression.

On top of these factors, I can also be heavily motivated by the power of my own mind. When I feel I have a burst of self-confidence, the sort of drive I get from this burst makes me feel invincible. I truly believe at least half of anyone's motivation is a result of how they think.

I use visualization to help me achieve this winning edge. Before football, I'll sit down for 10-15 minutes, relax and start visualizing the game in my own mind. I'll see myself kicking goals, taking marks and planning out the whole game so it finishes the way I'd like it to.

On top of this I make sure I eat right, and think positively. Positive thinking is one of the most powerful tools an athlete can use to gain a competitive advantage, and fueling your body with the right nutrition is vital if you want to get the absolute most out of yourself.

I find when I'm thinking positively and healthy, I'm top of my game. I use several supplements that really help me stay focused and feeling good; Kava-Kava is one. It is a great help in relieving any pre-game anxiety, and keeping me focused on the game.

As well as kava-kava, you might want to try some of the ATX sport-specific products, such as baseball, basketball and football formulas, as well as others.

From the will to win, to the love of competition to the exhilaration of sport, I find motivation is the result of a combination of factors, and can be largely individual. What I do know is that those who are motivated by outside factors such as money and lifestyle, are usually the ones who end up losing.

Good luck with all your sporting goals.

3rd Place - frobro
Sports & Motivation!

First off before answering all of these questions, let me define motive.

Motive: Something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.

Many athletes compete because they love their sport, but is that all that keeps them motivated?

The love for one's sport can only go so far in the process of motivation. Motivation can come from anywhere. To give you an example, I will explain a show I watched on the NFL Network during Super Bowl week.

Isaiah Kacyvenski; that name alone is not complex enough to describe how this brilliant mind lived his life. It all started out with his childhood. His mom had no job and his dad was a dishwasher. They moved many times, sometimes living in a trailer, or a tent.

Sometimes his father could not afford to have food on the table when needed and sadly, Isaiah and his mother had to look for scraps in a local dumpster. If you think that is bad enough, occasionally his father would have drunken outrages and beat Isaiah along with his mother.

Well, Isaiah did not keep his head down. He did not look to live his life the way his parents did. He focused on keeping his grades high and having a desire to play Notre Dame football. He ended up with one of the two. He graduated from high school with honors but did not get the offer to Notre Dame like he had wished.

Instead, he was accepted to play at Harvard. I wonder if this college rings a bell. During his academic and football career at Harvard, Isaiah earned All-Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors, All-Ivy League 1st team honors, first Harvard football player to start every game, and most importantly maintained a 3.9 GPA.

Isaiah was selected in the 4th Round of the 2000 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He decided to go to training camp instead of attending graduation, so he got his father, the man who used to beat Isaiah, to go get his diploma. Isaiah and his father had developed a special bond over the years that cannot be broken.

Isaiah is now a 2nd-string outside linebacker for the Seahawks and is also a key player on special teams. To sum this up, Isaiah used his LIFE as motivation and many other players in the NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, and other leagues around the world have had experiences like this and also use it as their motivation.

For Love Or Money?
What keeps athletes more motivated, the love for the sport, or the money and women?

To be honest I would have to answer both to this question and here's why: Athletes who love their sport would not care about how much money they earn, but over the previous years, I have seen greed taken to its extent.

Many people love the game they play. Actually, they use the money they earn on the playing field and use it to help others in times of need. A perfect example of this person would be Warrick Dunn of the Atlanta Falcons. Warrick gives money to single mothers who can't afford homes when they are most needed.

His mother raised him by herself while working as a police officer. Later on she was killed in the line of duty and Warrick knew that he did not want anyone else to live like this. Again, Warrick's motivation is his LIFE. It motivates him on the football field and it motivates him to help others.

To Learn More About The Warrick Dunn Foudation Click Here.

You also find a deep love for the game in semi-pro leagues. These men and women have already gone to college; gotten their degree but still want to play the sport they were meant to play. These leagues pay half as less as most jobs could pay, but their motivation to keep playing keeps them going.

Unfortunately, money is the power in this world. Countless strikes have taken place because of salary. Many players will not sign with teams because of the amount of money they are willing to pay. The question that must be asked is why would someone want more money than they need.

When players reach that next level, money is no longer a need, it is a want. Greed takes over the minds of players and makes them buy more and more and more and more. They want more women, they want more clothes, they want more cars and they can get it all with just one signature.

This now leads me to my conclusion. The ones who have a deep, passionate love for their game are the ones out their, busting their butt playing it. The one's who are in it for the money and only the money are the ones sitting on the sideline and are coming a hair's width away from losing it all.

Where does the majority of an athlete's desire come from?

Desire comes from all around...


The love of the game says everything that needs to be said. People go out and play because they love the game. They enjoy every moment, the hard times and the good times. They don't care if they win; they just play because they love it. That love generates so much motivation that one can use it to play forever. Love is the heart of motivation.


Yes, money is power in this world. Athletes will work hard and use that hard work just to get a buck. Sometimes it's used for the good and sometimes it's used pointlessly. Money is the brain of motivation.


If listening to your favorite music doesn't pump you up then I don't know what will. Music creates the pulse for motivation. It gives you that adrenaline rush. It will "Unleash the Beast" on the playing field.


Some don't like music. They just stand there, stare right at a mirror, and focus on hitting that homerun, making that play, scoring that goal, etc. Silence is the structure of motivation. It creates that base for one to play on.

The Future:

This is the foundation of motivation. You are not guaranteed tomorrow. A career ending injury can happen at any time. So play the game like it's your last!

Bonus Question:
What keeps you motivated?

I go through phases of all of the above except for money. I love the game, I listen to music, I sit at a mirror and stare, and I know that I'm not guaranteed tomorrow. All of these influence my motivation to keep me running. It makes impossible nothing, either on the field or off the field. It's my desire, my need, my strength and most importantly my motivation.