Studies in the corporate environment have revealed that cash raises are not always the most effective way to reward and motivate employees. In fact, a recent study revealed 3 methods that proved as successful at motivating employees that coaches can adopt to motivate athletes as well.
1) Let players have some say over their own schedule. If your team has worked hard in the early part of the season, why not reward them by letting them have some say in setting practice and work out schedules? If they have several great practices in a row, allow them to cut short practice time later in the week.
2) Give them different assignments. For those players who bust their tail at practice, but rarely, if ever, see playing time when it counts, you can ask them to become coaches on the sidelines.
Have them make mental notes of what they are seeing and ask them to write a post game report of what they saw on the field or court. They may spot something that you missed. It keeps their “head in the game” which is very important when you know that you won’t be seeing much playing time outside of mop up duty.
3) Praise players for exceptional effort in public. John Wooden said one of his greatest regrets was not praising his reserves more often. When you see great effort from a back-up – even when the result is not great – give them loud and vocal public praise. Both starters and reserves will be more motivated.