At some point during the year 2013, Rubén Castro, a striker who plays for the Sevilla based football club Real Betis, is likely to get a call to represent Spain in an international football game. I heard this on a Radio while commuting to work during the week. I wasn’t surprised! Every professional sports team looks for young blood to rejuvenate the winning spirit and for infusion of new skills. However I was indeed surprised when I discovered that Rubén was already 32. An age where a professional footballer starts planning for his retirement. The same age when Maradona’s career started to decline. The same age when Spanish legend Raúl was shown the exit from the national team, Rubén Castro will be rewarded for his hard work and consistency in his performances. Rubén started at the age of 19 in the club of his hometown Las Palmas. He was signed by Deportivo la Coruña at the age of 23. Later in six different seasons he was loaned out to six different clubs before he settled down finally at the age of 30 at Real Betis. Such a career trajectory is enough to demotivate any player. But Rubén not only stayed motivated, he actually flourished.
Another example that came to my attention in a very interesting article in Cricinfo is that of Sitanshu Kotak. Sitanshu Kotak is going to play his first Ranji trophy final (Premier Indian Domestic Cricket Competition) in a week. Sitanshu Kotak is playing his twentieth season. He is 40. Most of his teammates from his junior cricket team today would be either cricket administrators, coaches or would be doing something completely unrelated to Cricket. Sitanshu was a promising batsman. But he never got a chance to play for the country. When he was at his peak, the selectors denied him an opportunity saying “he was over 30”, while he actually was still 28. Many sports professionals hang up their boots once they know that they will not get a chance to play at the highest level. They lose their motivation.
Then what motivates people like Sitanshu Kotak and Rubén Castro? Maybe, the sheer joy of game. However it’s not just fun. There’s something more than that. Teresa Amabile, Harvard Professor in one of her earlier studies had shown that intrinsic motivation is based on intrinsic value that one attaches to work. In colloquial parlance often intrinsic motivation is misunderstood as fun and enjoyment one derives from an activity. Intrinsic value is not just fun though. In the article mentioned above Sitanshu Kotak says one important thing about his motivation, “My only motivation after 2005 was to play, perform and trouble the opponent. And if the [opposition] had senior or international players, I wanted to make them understand: even if he has never played for India, he is a player of our standard.” This tells us a lot about intrinsic motivation. It’s not just fun but it’s about proving one’s worth. Sitanshu says that he will play as long as he feels good. One plays as long as one feels that one can prove himself through the sports. This motivation of doing well. The motivation of proving one’s worth. Motivation of doing the best that one can do. That’s what keeps players like Rubén Castro and Sitanshu Kotak going.
At times, lady luck smiles at them. I read a wonderful piece about Bryce McGain. The player who was an ordinary club cricketer but was rewarded with a call up to the Australian test side. Unfortunately he registered one of the worst debuts ever in the history of Cricket and was discarded after a solitary game. No matter what, he kept on working hard and trying hard. It’s players like them who keep the spirit of any sports alive. Because its sports which keeps their spirits alive…
Amabile, T. (1985). Motivation and creativity: Effects of motivational orientation on creative writers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48 (2), 393-397 DOI: 10.1037//0022-3518.104.22.1683