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Motivating Young Athletes

Winners have it, everyone else wants it.  Motivation, that critical ingredient to success both in and out of sports.  It's the one element that will allow you to get back up after repeated failures and still achieve your goals.

It’s only natural for parents to want the best for our kids and want the best out of them.  For some children there is a natural desire to want to be the best.  Then there are those kids that will only do as much as they need to do just to get by.  There are also children that have no desire to do much of anything. 

Parents should be concerned about their kids’ motivation in sports.  Motivation is one of the keys to success in any endeavor in life.  Athletes can have all the physical talent in the world, but if they can’t act on it with enthusiasm, commitment and dedication, they won’t realize their full potential.

Follow these guidelines to help develop winning motivation within your athlete.

Kids have dreams and aspirations but many times they just need a little boost of confidence to get them going.  Because unless your teens believe their dreams are possible, they will not take action.  What will work is for them to see inspiring examples of other people who beat great odds to reach THEIR dreams.   Place inspirational posters up, write them notes of encouragement and praise them.

Lead by Example
Don’t expect your child to do something that you yourself don’t do.  The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” really doesn’t work.  Be involved in coaching youth programs and be active yourself.  Young athletes need inspiring examples to get them to believe in themselves enough to take action on their dreams.

Empower Your Children
Work with your athlete at the beginning and throughout the season on specific, measurable, clearly defines goals that they can break down into long term, intermediate and short term pieces.  Help them make sense of every practice in relation to their long term goals.  This way they feel as though they have some control over what is going on and they are more likely to do better.  Try not to be pushy or overbearing with your kids, remember how much you hated it?

Self-worth vs  Performance
Bad performances don't mean bad people.  Let your athlete know that you are even more there for them when they have a bad performance than when they have a good one.  Don't be a fair weather fan to your athlete!

Avoid Comparisons
Comparisons almost always make athletes feel badly about themselves, kill their motivation and team rivalry & unhealthy competition.  Compare only to model and use athletes outside of their team.

Challenge vs Threats
If you really want an athlete to go to that next level, challenge them.  Encourage them to go for it and let them know that you believe they can do it.  A challenge is positive and motivational.  A threat is negative and gets the athlete preoccupied with the consequences for failing, punishment.

Handle Mistakes Constructively
Teach your athlete that failures and setbacks are a necessary part of the learning process and not a cause for embarrassment or quitting.  Model this attitude and you'll motivate your athletes to take risks and really go for it.  If you jump in an athlete's face whenever they mess up you'll destroy them and get them worrying about failing.

Reaching your goals is never an easy path, but great athletes that learn this lesson early will have great success.

Good luck with your game,

Coach O


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