Learn about motivation
We are all motivated by different things. Motivation is the reason why someone acts or behaves in a certain way. There are internal things that motivate us, like doing an activity because we enjoy it. There are also external things that motivate us, like being praised or rewarded. Knowing what motivates young people is a good way to keep them interested and engaged in activities. If you are unsure of what motivates a player after speaking with them, check with the player if you can ask their parent or sibling. Some players (eg. young players) might be okay with this, but others (eg. older players) might not.
An achievement-motivated player might be very motivated by improving how they kick the football, and will happily practise kicking for a long time. A socially-motivated player will be more interested in talking with other young people around them. A player motivated by a challenge might be keen to tackle big challenging tasks, like learning a new skill, whereas other players might be disheartened by this. Some players can be motivated by all of these things.
Sometimes, it isn't clear what motivates a player, but trying to understand what motivates each young person and what they find rewarding is important.
Players who are not feeling motivated might look disinterested or bored. They may need support to follow instructions, and they may need a lot of encouragement to get involved. Although players might respond well to positive feedback, keep in mind that motivating players may not remove other barriers to participation.
If unsure, ask the young person, their parent, or sibling
If a player isn’t motivated, think about what might motivate them. Ask the player what activities they enjoy most. Ask them questions like: What do you like about footy? What footy activities do you enjoy the most? Is there anything at footy that you really don’t like?
Ask the parent if they like to use rewards*
Some parents like to use rewards to help their child engage in activities, while others don’t. If parents use rewards, ask them what rewards they use. For example, a reward could be a block of time doing an activity they love. Encouraging a young person for good effort can also be rewarding.
Find the activity level that enables success
Feeling like you are getting better at something can be very rewarding. In contrast, if a task is always very challenging, it can become disheartening and can reduce self-confidence. Begin activities at a level that allows the young person to experience success and gradually increase the level of difficulty over time. Success and improvement can act as motivators.
*We acknowledge that some people prefer to avoid the use of rewards to support young people’s behaviour. However, there is evidence to suggest that rewards can support young people’s motivation to play sport. We use the term ‘rewards’ to refer to a wide range of rewarding activities to acknowledge effort, not just tangible items such as prizes.
AllPlay Footy is a joint initiative by Monash University and the AFL. AllPlay Footy was founded at Deakin University in 2015 and has been part of Monash Education since 2021. The AllPlay Footy content and resources presented here have been developed with people with lived experience of disability, consultants from National Sporting Organisations for People with Disability, psychologists and researchers, and are brought to you with funding from a Department of Social Services Information, Linkages and Capacity Building: Social and Community Participation Stream (2020-2024) grant. We aim to use language that is respectful to everyone.