Sometimes, I tell my team that (especially some of the younger kids) that we won't even come close to winning unless we pick up our game, and we have been told that by our coaches quite a few times. It may have been a strategy to motivate you to try harder.
Just a random comment on that, but I don't think such motivation is what wins teams spots to nationals. SO is a competition, but it is also a learning field for the scientifically fascinated. If the individual team members really enjoy learning what they do and like the thrill of competition, well I guess that's what I see as a motivated team...but we all have our opinions. But I'm not trying to put anybody down here, just putting out another view of things, that's all.
Well, to be honest, I pretty much say the exact same thing to my team that unless we step up, we are gonna lose. I even offered people to pie me in the face if they win a medal at state, its a win win for me. Also, on SciBomb's point, I dont think anybody on our team cares about it for the learning, maybe 1 or 2 kids, but its mostly about the competition for us, but I agree, its mostly opinion based.