Small Things Motivate Your Youth Athlete

Greg Hubbard
November 7, 2022

As parents, we know that we are some of the biggest influencers and motivators in our child’s life. This means we can help our children think about their athletic experience in a way that will encourage enjoyment, motivation, growth, and development.

For your child to thrive in sports, their motivation must be in place. Without the desire to improve and be the best they can be, it’s unlikely that they will get the most out of their youth sports experience. As a parent, you understand how important motivation is, but how can you help your child?

To help your child maximize their motivation you may need to shift the way you praise your child. Instead of praising the obvious results like wins and goals, look for the less obvious like effort and sportsmanship. Can’t I still be proud of the obvious achievements? Of course, but make sure to focus your attention and praise on items that they have complete control over rather than things they do not. Praise the hard work that goes into making the obvious achievements possible.

When a child is praised for their effort and work, they tend believe that their abilities and outcomes are due to hard work (as opposed to mere natural talent). It is a way of thinking that improves motivation levels, giving your child additional drive to work towards their goals. Ideally the drive to participate and succeed needs to come from within your child and when the praise is strictly applied to performance, children tend to lose motivation.

Commend success no matter how small. Children want to feel successful and have fun. Pointing out their effort or improvement will encourage them to strive for more. Thereby increasing their motivation to further their development. Celebrating successes shouldn’t just happen during a game or competition. If your child finishes a tough practice, completes a juggling challenge, or attempts a new foot skill, use these opportunities to acknowledge the courage or effort that went into attempting or completing that activity.

It can be hard to keep a loss or failure from bringing young children down. Therefore, it is important to watch for improvements and highlight them at the right moment. When working with children it is important to point out their minor achievements since many will not recognize them on their own.

We often fall into the habit of praising talent and accomplishments, rather than praising the hard work that our children put forth to get there. To help our children, get the greatest amount of enjoyment and development out of sports, acknowledge the hard work that is done behind the scenes and help them keep a positive outlook and motivate them to continue their growth.  

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