Towards the end of October, after dragging their feet for a few weeks, I told the Senior class that it was now too late to hold Powderpuff in the Fall and we'd need to refocus our efforts to a Spring game. It made the most sense to me since we didn't want something rushed together and hoped to have a quality product in the end. The girls, however, saw this as a challenge and immediately mobilized to recruit players, pick a date, find coaches, and set up practices. Within 36 hours of being told "no", they were ready to go. While we weren't telling them "no" for this purpose, it ended up helping better than we could have hoped.
Looking back at some of my own challenges, especially with it being marathon week and all, being told "you can't" is sometimes much more motivating than being encouraged. When I first thought I'd run a marathon back in 2009, many people, explicitly or not, stated that it'd be pretty close to impossible for me (a non-runner up until that point) to finish such a long race. I wasn't angry at them...they definitely had no reason to think I could finish, but that was all the motivation I needed to make sure I proved them wrong. While I'm still not winning these events, it's now become as routine as running a 5K used to be. In the same way, Powderpuff this year came together as smoothly as possible. There were no huge fights, drama in finding coaches, last minutes crisises, or on-field injuries. After being told no...they girls simply changed it into a yes.
So the next time you're looking to motivate someone, consider a little reverse-psychology. It won't always work, but if the desire is buried under apathy, you'll find the perfect way to unearth it.