As a parent of two teenage boys, like most sports parents, I deal with the balancing act of wondering what are the best ways of motivating kids in sports. Do you let go and let god? Do you give an encouraging push? Or do you get tough on them so that they will get tough on themselves?
As my kids get older it is getting less and less of a choice to let go, because they are busy asserting their independence and I am working hard to maintain a good relationship with them.
We wanted to get an expert in the area, Janis Meredith, who’s been a coach’s wife for 29 years and sports parent for 20, to weigh in on How To Motivate Your Child in Sports Without Being Pushy.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and if you have any questions or feedback for Janis. Here’s what Janis had to say:
We all want to see our kids succeed. And sometimes, without meaning to, we push just a bit too hard.
You see it happen all the time in youth sports. And the older kids get, the more they are likely to resist parental pushiness.
There are ways to motivate your child without being pushy. It takes a little more restraint, and a bit more work, but it will help you maintain an easier relationship with your young athlete.
Ask the right question after practice or games. Notice I said question, not questions.
How did practice go? or How did you feel about your game tonight?
One question shows your interest and gives them a chance to say as much or as little as they want. It indicates that you care and want to know how they are doing. Too many questions can make them feel like you are pressuring them.
Offer opportunities for them to work outside of practice. Offer, not push or demand.
Iʼll drive you to the gym if youʼd like to work out. Would you like to go to a speed training camp?
Iʼll be glad to check out traveling teams if youʼd like to play.
If they say no, then drop it, and maybe bring it up again at another time when they express a desire to improve their skills.
Be at as many games as you possibly can. Itʼs understandable if you canʼt be at every one, but the more you are present at your childʼs games, the more you communicate your support. Your presence may push him to work harder and play his best.
Notice, and offer casual praise for his hard work. You may be jumping up and down inside that your kid is pushing himself and working hard, but you gotta keep your cool, especially if we are talking about adolescents.
If your praise is too effusive, he may be embarrassed or annoyed or if heʼs in those contrary years, he may figure that if heʼs pleasing you too much, then maybe he doesn’t want to work so hard.
A simple, hey, nice job tonight! or I really liked the way you played aggressively this afternoon, or I can definitely see that youʼve been working hard at practice will communicate your support and interest without sounding like your love and approval is attached to his performance.
Let him bask in and enjoy his good games, points scored, games won. Reinforce the fact that he worked hard and it paid off. When kids see that their hard work does pay off, they are more likely to push themselves, with very little help from you.
There is no magical age when a kid starts really pushing himself. It varies with each athlete. Iʼve seen 10-year-olds with amazing drive and seniors in high school that finally peaked in their desire.
Being a self motivator is a valuable life lesson for your child to learn; it comes in handy later in life. If you help motivate your kids in sports without being pushy, he will feel responsible for his own success.
Janis writes JBM Thinks, a youth sports blog on character building in youth sports. She also write for sports and parenting websites. Click here to check out her information-packed site.