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Four Ways to Motivate Your Young Athlete to Do Their Best

By Jessa McClure
Full length portrait of a kid in sportswear posing with a soccerThe opposing team is kicking the ball straight toward my four-year-old daughter who has been talking about this moment for weeks. But as the ball gets within a foot of my pint-sized soccer player, she just stands there, watching the other team kick it past her.

I shake my head and watch as she jogs after her teammates, occasionally becoming distracted by a passing dragonfly. While I know she's only four, I hope she will to at least want to kick the ball away from the other team.

It can be difficult when we see our children not doing their best, but the way we attempt to motivate them might push them further into apathy, or worse, make them feel guilty for not pleasing us.

Here are some ways to encourage your young athlete to do their best, without robbing them of the fun they're supposed to be having.

1. Figure out what motivates them
Children are more likely to be motivated to try their hardest when they truly love what they're doing. If it wasn't their idea to sign up for a sport, they might not have the inner-motivation to commit themselves fully to the sport.

If they were initially excited about beginning a sport, then remind them of this fact and talk about what they like about that particular activity. Tapping into what brings them joy might remind them why they want to do well. But don't let your child's motivation be to please you or anyone else. They should want to succeed because it makes them feel good and proud of themselves.

2. Avoid putting undue pressure on them
This is so easy to do when you see them not trying their hardest. Shouting "go get the ball" or "run faster," is only going to make your child feel as though they are letting you down. Try to let the coach or coaches give direction when they are on the field or the court and avoid talking just about what they did wrong during their game or sporting event.

3. Encourage them whether they win or lose
Even if they tried their hardest, they could still come up short. If they do lose a game or a match, try focusing on all of things they did well and encourage them to work on the things they feel they didn't do as well. And if you must yell anything from the bleachers, stands or sidelines, make it something encouraging like "way to go" or "good try."

4. Show interest in your child's sport
If your child is having trouble being motivated, it might be because they don't feel like youhappy child or girl doing ballet jump are interested in what they're doing. Even if you are not particularly interested in the sport they're playing, try to learn more about it or take up an interest while your child is involved. Find time to go outside, to the park or the batting cages and help them practice their skills.

Another great way to show your interest is to ask the coach if he or she needs any help during game time, offer to bring drinks and snacks for the team, or get to know the other parents. Not only will this make games and matches more enjoyable for you, but it will show your child that you want to be a part of their activity. Back To Top

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