Baseball Motivational Taxonomy

baseball motivational taxonomyThis article will define a baseball motivational taxonomy. The one topic I spend very little energy marketing in my practice but a ton of time talking about in private training is the mental game. High amounts of self-motivation or determination is a powerful characteristic of an individual. To best understand how this plays a role in someone’s ability to play a sport like baseball lets first categories motivation to truly understand its nature. I will then define how I use this taxonomy to first understand the athlete and then to best influence their motivation in my training.

Research by Ryan and Deci (2000) defines a taxonomy of human motivation. The categories are intrinsic motivation (IM), extrinsic motivation (EM) and amotivation. Each category defines an orientation for the state of motivation.

Baseball Motivational Taxonomy: Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation (IM) refers to engaging in an activity purely for the pleasure and satisfaction derived from doing the activity (Pelletier et al., 1995). Within the category of IM comes the subsets. The first subset is IM to Know which defines those who find enjoyment from learning something new. In my practice, this is those athletes that usually bring a pad and paper to my camps and enjoy my lectures as much as my training. This is a rare group of self-motivators but ones I truly enjoy to teach.

The next subset of IM is Toward Accomplishment which defines those who are motivated to master a task. Developmental psychology defines this as mastery motivation. This has been one of my biggest driving forces in my playing career and coaching career. I have always had a desire to master. I find others who have this motivation usually at the professional level of baseball. Would be interesting to put together a case study to find a correlation between those who play at the professional level and those who have a strong motivation to master.

The third and final subset of IM is to Experience Stimulation which defines those who enjoy the sport of baseball because of the thrill of the game or the feel of hitting a baseball over the fence or striking out a good batter. I believe most successful baseball players eventually develop this motivation more as an addiction to the highs of the game than their original attraction to the sport.

Baseball Motivational Taxonomy: Extrinsic Motivation

The next category of the baseball motivational taxonomy is extrinsic motivation (EM). EM pertains to a wide variety of behaviors that are engaged in as a means to an end and not for their own sake. EM is in operation when the individual comes to value and judge the behavior as important and, therefore, performs it out of choice (Pelletier et al., 1995). The subsets of EM are; external regulation, introjection, identification, and integration.

External regulation behaviors are performed to satisfy an external demand or obtain an externally imposed reward contingency (Ryan, & Deci, 2000). This is very common at either the beginning levels of baseball or the very top levels of baseball. This would define those youth baseball players who are playing because their parents wanted them to play baseball or they wanted to show off for a friend or girlfriend. This would also define those at the very top of the professional levels where the athlete is playing for money or status. This motivation can seem very dark or negative in many cases but there are moments it can be a good thing like when someone is playing for a sick friend or a dying elder.

Introjection regulation describes a type of internal regulation that is still quite controlling because people perform such actions with the feeling of pressure in order to avoid guilt or anxiety or to attain ego-enhancements or pride (Ryan, & Deci, 2000). The only example I can find of those who are motivated to play baseball because of guilt or anxiety would be those who are trying to prove their self-worth to others. Like the bully showing that he is more than just a talker. On the other side of this motivation is the pride or ego-enhancement which would be the motivation to prove to yourself that you have talent or skill as opposed to showing off to others. Unfortunately, those who play with this motivation are living in a shallow perspective of the game.

Identification regulation describes those who are motivated purely because they have identified with the sport or the skill (Ryan, & Deci, 2000). They must be good at the sport or the skill because it represents who they are. I had a friend whom I grew up playing baseball with who only wore baseball shoes to school, only played baseball for a sport, bragged about his knowledge of baseball and even today he is an umpire in his 40’s which brings us to the final EM which is integration regulation. This occurs when identified regulations have been fully assimilated to the self. My friend had completely enveloped himself in the game of baseball and I couldn’t tell you if he enjoyed playing the game at all. He never gave me the impression.

Baseball Motivational Taxonomy: Amotivation

This seventh and final form of the baseball motivational taxonomy is amotivation which is the state of lacking an intention to act. When amotivated, a person’s behavior lacks intentionality and a sense of personal causation (Ryan, & Deci, 2000). This is usually just before the person quits or retires from the game. Once IM and EM have been eliminated the person becomes amotivated. I have had a few baseball players come to me ready to retire from the game or quit. The reason is usually injury which has plagued them for a while and they have no confidence it will be removed, or they had a coach discourage them to the point that they believed they did not have the ability to play the game anymore. Amotivation is usually the result of frustration. Those who fall into this lack of motivation are fragile but in a great place to make a big change in their careers.

Out of all the categories in the taxonomy of human motivation that I enjoy working with the most is all the IM’s but by far are the amotivated. The amotivated usually need a little sign of hope and they move back to the IM’s with a vengeance. I find hope for these athletes in teaching them the science of the game and that no career is lost or over.

Baseball Motivational Reference:

Pelletier, L., Tuson, K., Fortier, M., Vallerand, R., Brikre, N., & Blais, M., (1995). Toward a new measure of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation in sports: the sport motivation scale (SMS). Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 17, 35-53.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67.

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