As we continue to navigate the pandemic, you may be struggling with the uncertainty and change. For many of the athletes I work with, the pandemic has taken away the external motivators that pushed them in practice. They were forced to leave their normal competitive training environment. They were no longer skating with their coaches and competitors. Planned competitions were rescheduled, cancelled or done virtually. My athletes expressed that they felt lost because their external motivators were missing. This got me thinking about the importance of measuring motivation and how I could help them stay motivated during a pandemic. First we need to learn more about motivation.


It is the drive to perform an act or engage in a behaviour that helps you achieve a desired outcome. 

Motivation is driven by the need to:

  1. Master a skill – when you have mastered the skills to be successful you are more likely to take action.
  2. Connect with others – to feel connected to others, be liked, feel part of a group.
  3. Feel in control of actions – you know that by taking action you will create change.

There are two kinds of motivators: external and internal.

External Motivation

External motivation can is driven by 3 factors:

  1. Rewards – winning a medal, qualifying for a competition, passing a test, coach rewarding you for landing your jump by giving you $50.
  2. Punishments – avoiding criticism, losing, not qualifying, wasting time or money.
  3. Internal Pressures – disappointing one’s coach or parent, not being liked by someone, looking stupid.

Athletes who are strongly motivated by external factors struggle to initiate and maintain high level practice over long periods of time. 

Internal Motivation

Internal motivation is driven by 2 factors:

  1. Value – you recognize the benefits of pursuing a goal, learning new skills, improving work ethic, sense of accomplishment.
  2. Enjoyment/Interest – your sport is fun, improving skills makes you feel good, reminder of why you love to skate/perform.

This motivation creates more persistent behaviour. The athlete feels a greater sense of accomplishment knowing that, because of their hard work, they have achieved a skill. They are happier and more content with their training.

Motivation Measurement Tool (MMT)

Use the MMT to bring awareness to the motivation that fuels the common actions you are required to execute in training. Listed are some of the most common actions a competitive figure skater faces in training. Please feel free to add more to the list. Identify whether these actions are motivated by external or internal factors and be specific about which ones. Notice if you have more external than internal.

ActionExternal – reward, punishment, pressureInternal – value, interest
Train when I am tired, sore.
Run a full program when I don’t want to. 
Get up early to train
Miss time with friends to train/compete
Arrive on time
Eat healthy
Travel long distance to train/compete
Do off-ice training
Attempt a new element
Show up to practice after a disappointing competition.
Attempt the element for the 100th time!
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