Sometimes, you’re tired after work. Or you want to hang out with your buddies instead of team practice. All athletes—from the weekend soccer player to the pro baller—need motivation to remain engaged when it comes to training, practice and a full season of competition. Try these tips to keep yourself in the right frame of mind. Set up a schedule: It’s simple physics—objects in motion tend to stay in motion. If you have a routine, the momentum of that routine is bound to keep you going. “In advance, set up a schedule for what you’re going to do that week. And check in with yourself, honestly, to see what you’ve accomplished,” says clinical health psychologist Dr. Jayme Albin. Commitment and motivation will come from holding yourself accountable. It’s that whole you-have-to-look-at-yourself-in-the mirror thing. Keep your eye on the prize: If you want to run a five-minute mile, it’s not going to magically happen after a few sessions. “You’ll need to remind yourself of the overall goal so you don’t get discouraged,” says sports psychologist Dr. William Wiener. Some professional athletes post motivating statements in their shower wall. Try writing down your ultimate goal and keep it in your wallet so you’re reminded of it every time you pay for something (like donuts). “You also want to make smaller goals so you can reach them and measure them in a timely manner.” So, make a smaller goal to run every day after work this week. Then, when you’ve done that, make another smaller goal that will help you reach that five-minute mile. Recognize you’re not perfect: “It’s hard to maintain perfect motivation,” says Dr. John F. Murray, a clinical and sports psychologist and author the Mental Performance Index. You may miss practice due to something out of your control but don’t let that stop you from getting back into it. “Most people do things to avoid failure or achieve success,” Murray points out. Recognizing that falling out of your sport could be a failure and getting back into it could bring you success. Make sure you’re happy: “You have to enjoy the sport, if you don’t then why are you in it?” challenges Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist and chief of staff at Behavioral Associates in New York City. “If you’re doing it to meet someone, that’s fine, but make sure you’re being social. If you’re doing it for athletic reasons, measure the league and make sure the team’s ability matches yours.” You’ll be more likely to blow off practice if you’re in the wrong sport or league.
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