The Difference Between a Motivated Team and a Team In Need of Motivation

By Patrick Maks on August 5, 2014 at 8:15a
Wide receiver drills at the first practice of Ohio State's fall camp.

If he really wanted to, Urban Meyer could find enough bulletin board material to enrage his Ohio State football team in the worst way.

After all, that’s what happens when you string together 24-straight wins against largely inferior competition before crumbling when it matters most.

For two seasons, critics chirped how the Buckeyes were overrated. Big-stage losses to Michigan State and Clemson, fair or not, legitimized and perpetuated such a notion.

“You control what you can control. We didn’t finish strong,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days last week. “Played two top-five teams and some stuff happened.”

That’s a gentle way for describing how two years worth of pent-up Big Ten and national championship aspirations evaporated on an anticlimactic and cold December night in Indianapolis. But you don’t need a reminder of what happened. Neither does Ohio State.

“That’s been long gone for a long time,” he said Monday after the team’s first practice of fall camp. “If we have to utilize motivation, I’ve said this before, it’s probably not a very good team.”

It’s why Meyer, who’s known for his ability to push buttons, won’t do so here. He’s urging the Buckeyes to move on from a pair of losses that ruined their season. He won't point to them as a painful reminder. He doesn’t want them to be looking back. 

“We’ll use (motivation if we have to),” he said, “but you’re looking at a bad team probably.”

In and of itself, it’s an interesting concept that seems to go against the grain of traditional thinking when it comes to sports. Ohio State fits into the whole unfinished business, redemption narrative nicely this season. Since when is motivation such a bad thing?

“Last year, I think, is in everybody’s minds. I don’t mind it being there,” Meyer said. “But we just gotta get better. We gotta work out. think those are all good storylines. But if we do have to use stuff to motivate a team  and we’ve had to  that’s a bad team usually.”

Because a good team's already motivated. A good team doesn’t need to be tricked into getting pumped up for what's already the obvious. A good team doesn’t care about what happened the year before. A good team doesn’t need extra motivation to be a good. But a bad team does.

“Every coach’s dream is to coach a hungry, angry team. I think every coach here would say that,” Meyer said last week.

And here, for all intents and purposes, a hungry team is a motivated team. A motivated team's intrinsically driven toward success. A motivated team doesn't need a reminder of why it should be motivated in the first place. 

On the flip side, Meyer’s comments suggest a team in need of extra motivation at this point in the preseason is a team already destined for mediocrity. 

Ohio State has all the motivation in the world to put on for the college football world next season. There’s a problem, then, if Meyer and his staff have to start pushing extra and unnecessary buttons to remind the Buckeyes of something so obvious.

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