U.S. soccer superstar, Olympian, and all-time leading goal scorer, Abby Wambach, admits that in her early years she was “overwhelmingly talented” but “underwhelmingly motivated.” As a source of motivation, her dad paid her $25 for every goal she scored in high school!
Parents want to see their children have fun and succeed in sports, but some kids complain about going to practice, refuse to work at getting better, or simply don’t exert much effort on the court or field.
So what can parents do to help kick-start the desire in children to practice, play, and perform at their best?
First, find out what drives your child. Why did they choose that particular sport? Different children are motivated by different factors. Some like the social aspect of playing with friends. Others are driven by a challenge. Some are in it for the trophies, awards and accolades. Tuning in to your child’s particular motive allows you to decide the best way to approach the matter.
Communicate a positive message. After practice, engage with your child and ask about what they learned. Talk to them after a game and see what they thought they did well. If they have trouble coming up with something, be ready to point out improvements you saw in them – no matter how small. Applaud their effort. This will help them gain self-confidence and encourage them to see what part they play in the big picture.
Be a good role model and cheerleader. Sometimes kids worry about failing and letting down their team. Since children learn by example, it’s important for parents to admit when they, themselves, make
a mistake. Children will see mistakes are normal and not something to be anxious about. Parents also can model a positive sports attitude by attending their children’s games and cheering them on. Refrain
from talking negatively about how much time is taken up by your kid’s sport.
Foster fun and friendships with teammates. Encourage your child to get to know his teammates better by inviting one or two of them over to hang out outside of practice. Children will look forward to practices and games more if they get to spend that time with good friends.
Finally, consider if your child’s current team is a good fit. Does your kid’s sport coach criticize players or encourage them? Are teammates selfish or supportive? If your child is in a negative team environment, and it’s outside your control, you may need to look for a new team for your child.
Whether you resort to bribery, like Abby’s dad, or one of the other steps listed above, parents can foster an attitude of enthusiasm while motivating kids to excel and get excited about their sport.