Motivating a High School Wrestler Application Essay

Excerpt from Application Essay :

Motivation Theory on a High School Wrestler

Motivational theories can be utilized to encourage individuals in different settings towards the realization of specific goals and outcomes. An example of an individual who can be motivated through the use of these theories is a high school wrestler. Richie Smith is a senior on the high school wrestler team who has displayed some great signs or potential in wrestling. These skills have been demonstrated through the better than average record that he has achieved in his first three seasons as a college wrestler on the school's wrestling team. Richie has established a goal of becoming a state wrestling champion with proven skills and accomplishments. In order to achieve his ultimate goal, Richie needs to be motivated at different points in his career. The motivation can be achieved through the use of motivation theories, especially the Self-Determination Theory.


Richie Smith is a senior on the high school wrestling team for the school at which I teach and coach. Richie has shown flashes of brilliance with his wrestling abilities throughout his career as evidenced by having accumulated a better that average record over his first three seasons as a varsity wrestler on the schools wrestling team. As Richie's senior season began, I knew that in order for him to accomplish his ultimate goal of being a state wrestling champion that I would need to be able to motivate Richie at different points during the long tough wrestling season. My realization of the need to motivate Richie at various points in his career to achieve the ultimate goal is based on my 27-year experience as a wrestling coach and understanding of several things about the sport. Moreover, the wrestling season is usually a long and rigorous grind for these athletes instead of a short quick sprint.

The most important period for wrestlers to peak is towards the end of the season since they experience highs and lows throughout the entire wrestling season. However, the motivation will involve conducting individual meetings with the wrestlers during the preseason or at the beginning of the season. The meetings help in motivation since they focus on several aspects such as goals, motivation, and how to handle future adversities during the long grueling season. Notably, the motivation of the wrestlers like Richie is not just carried out during the meeting but is carried out during the whole season.

Theoretical Concepts

As previously mentioned, the motivation of Richie Smith to accomplish his ultimate goal of becoming a state wrestling champion requires the use of a suitable motivation theory. Generally, motivation is described as the internal motivation for success, which is easily sustained through establishing clear goals and dreams. This is primarily because the absence of clear goals and dreams makes it easier for an individual to bounce back and forth between other people's ideas and opinions. The establishment of clear and precise goals helps in motivating an individual, especially during tough times. People with no impetus or inspiration for action are considered unmotivated but those who are constantly energized and activated to achieve a certain goal are regarded as motivated.

From a theoretical perspective, the most suitable motivation theory in this scenario is Self-Determination Theory, which postulates that human behavior is regulated in five ways that contribute to continuum of different kinds of motivation that vary in quality. These five different ways with which an individual is motivated are amotivation, introjected regulation, external regulation, identified regulation, and integrated regulation. Amotivation occurs when a person's experiences do not create an impetus towards a certain behavior while introjected regulation creates a link between behaviors and self-esteem so that behaviors are not geared towards avoiding shame or guilt. Identified regulation involves the identification of behaviors that are yet to be integrated into an individual's identity whereas integrated regulation leads to behaviors that are effectively incorporated into a person's identity. External regulation is behaviors emerging from external motivation in order to avoid a punishment or to obtain an incentive.

Based on Self-Determination Theory, behaviors can be regarded as self-determined if they are valued and beneficial in a social context. In this case, the behaviors fulfill the three basic psychological needs of an individual i.e. independence, relatedness, and competence. Independence means the human need to feel that his/her behaviors emerge from within the self whereas competence is the human need to manage outcomes and be effective in realizing desired outcomes and relatedness is the human need to feel a sense of belonging in a social group (Darner, 2012, p.464). Consequently, a person's environmental education experience should focus on promoting self-determination and fulfilling the basic psychological needs. The process also involves supporting competence, engaging in action training, and involvement in problem-solving activities.

Application of Self-Determination Theory to Richie's Scenario

The motivational theory I used in motivating Richie to achieve his ultimate objective of becoming a state wrestling champion is Self-Determination Theory that was initially developed Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. This theory is effective in the scenario since it focuses on supporting intrinsic tendencies for effective and healthy behaviors. The theorists who introduced and developed this theory define it using several terms like intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The theorists also discussed locus of control together with the significance of goal setting for individuals in relation to motivation. Therefore, for Richie to achieve goal of becoming a state wrestling champion, these various elements of motivation will be utilized as well as other aspects relating to motivation. As discussed previously, wrestlers tend to undergo lows and highs in the long season but face the need to peak at the end of the season since it is the most important time of the year. Therefore, it is increasingly important to conduct meetings with all wrestlers including Richie during preseason to prepare them for the long and tough wrestling season. The meetings focus on discussing personal goals, motivation, and dealing with adversity that they will experience during the grueling season.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

When meeting with Richie, we discussed the different types of motivation where I explained to Richie the difference between internal and external motivation in terms of their differences and importance. According to Deci and Ryan (1985), intrinsic motivation is the inborn, ordinary inclination to engage one's interests and exercise one's capacities (p.43). Intrinsic motivation is a person's natural desire to accomplish a task whereas extrinsic motivation entails the desire to complete an assignment or task through earning a reward or avoiding a punishment (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p.56). Nonetheless, rewards and/or punishments must not be present in order for motivation to be extrinsic even though extrinsic motivation is characterized by reasoning emerging outwardly from the individual.

During the discussions, Richie identified a mixture of his intrinsic motivational factors i.e. To be the best wrestler in the state in his weight class and to get an athletic scholarship that would pay for his college tuition. In addition, Richie identified several extrinsic motivational factors i.e. awards from wrestling tournaments and social status or reputation at school. Richie is a very intelligent student and understands that to be motivated and achieve goals an athlete must want to do things for himself and nobody else, thus he knows the importance of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. Being a State Champion or Athletic Scholarship recipient was by far more important to him intrinsically than extrinsically.

Locus of Control

The next topic we discussed concerned a person taking responsibility for events that happen in their life or Locus of Control. It is very important that a wrestler who has aspirations of obtaining an athletic scholarship and being a state champion exhibit these qualities. I explained to Richie that if a person has an internal locus of control, they accept responsibility on themselves and feel that they have control over events in their life. Generally, student-athletes with an inner locus of control believe that educational or athletic success based on how hard they work and attempt to make the best of a situation. Moreover, the students believe they create their own destiny, think positively regarding life, athletics, and school work, and depend on internal motivation for their respective actions and activities.

In addition, I also explained to Richie that if a person has an external locus of control, he would place responsibility on others and feel that events beyond their control influence their life. Moreover, I let him know that it is better to have an internal locus of control because this type of individual would believe that he could create and control events in his life and can change things for the better. Richie and I discussed what traits were necessary in successful student athletes with an internal locus of control in contrast with traits of a student athlete with an external locus of control.

Student-athletes with an external locus of control believe that events in life are by-products of chance, luck or fate, believe teachers or coaches make mistakes when dealing with adversity, and look for someone to…

Sources Used in Document:


Darner, R. (2012, August). An Empirical Test of Self-determination Theory As A Guide to Fostering Environmental Motivation. Environmental Education Research 18(4), 463-472.

Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54-67.

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