Can You Motivate A Lazy Child?

Asia Mape
In Learn
By Asia Mape | April 17, 2016

If any of your kids suffer from this affliction, there are few things more painful to watch from the sidelines, than laziness. I can handle losing, ugly play, poor decision making, but laziness..ugh. Nothing can compare to the feelings flaring up inside when you watch your talented child not giving 100% effort.  I wondered if there is something I can do as a parent to squelch laziness, so I posed this question to our guest Contributor Coach/Trainer Mike Guevara:

“Can you do anything to help a lazy, but talented kid, achieve a high level of success in sports?” 

Over the last 7 years of being in the performance field I have had the pleasure of working with thousands of kids in an effort in trying to make them the best athletes that ‘THEY’ want to be.  I place an emphasis on ‘THEY’ because it is always a choice. My job is to maximize the amount of effort they put forth, however, I cannot and will not make anyone give effort.  It is a prerequisite that everyone must have before walking on to the training floor.  I have even kicked kids off of the floor because their effort level was poor and it was clear that the gym was the last place they wanted to be.  But there is always that one exception…  The super talented kid that knows he or she should be training and shows up even though the desire to work hard is not present.  The ‘do what is necessary and not overdo’ mentality which works well for them because success tends to happen naturally even though maximum effort isn’t ever a priority.  


But crazy talent can mask laziness only  for so long. How do I motivate those kids?  Can they be motivated?  Can I change their mindset that one day pure talent will not be enough to continue to have an edge over your competition?  The answer is NO. More than a few times I have worked with this kid.  This specific individual never had to work hard and the game was still easy.  The game seemed to slow down for this kid and the others around him seemed a step slower.  He carried this attitude all the way through his junior career.  Things were great until high school or college when everyone around him was just as fast, quick, agile, strong, or clever.  Now what? And he is too stubborn to admit that his work ethic could be an issue and chooses not to listen to me or anyone for that matter.  And what happens, he has now gone from the best to average, the middle of the pack.  All because he didn’t want to embrace everything that was around the sport and not just the sport.

These are the four step I believe an athlete needs in order to take his/her sport to the next level.  Without a focus on these four areas, an athlete will not find success for very long at a high level.

  1. Nutrition
  2. Training
  3. Good recovery habits
  4. Listening to people who know more about things then they do  

Seems simple; but these kids choose to be average after awesome adolescent careers.  “I can take a horse to water but I can’t make him drink.”  You have to WANT to drink and these particular kids would rather talk then drink. I believe that it all starts as a young child. Your parents either make you earn your milestones or they give you your milestones. But the process in which they are achieved is a critical one because time will dictate whether or not you will be grinder or not.  God can bless you with all of the talent in the world but if one does not cultivate their talent then you’re just wasting somebody else’s dream.

16 September 2015: Tee Factory in Sherman Oaks, CA.

As Director of Performance at The Factory in Sherman Oaks, Ca, Mike G has quickly risen to become one of the most well-respected performance coaches in the United States, training Olympians, NFL Players, NBA players and MLB athletes as well as young athletes of all ages. Under Coach G’s training, Victoria Azarenka became the top ranked women’s tennis player in the world in 2011.   After a break in coaching her, Mike returned to work with Azarenka this year and she has again risen the ranks just recently becoming only the third woman to win the back-to-back tournaments at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne in the same year. 


  1. Great Article/posting …so now what as you described my 15 year old to a tee….is it too late?
    As a D1 athlete in college I could never imagine working my hardest each and every practice wanting to be better. Carried me into my adult life where i started to run marathons because i was told i cannot and still carries me in my work life. So its difficult to watch my son that could be a professional athlete (as others and pros have told me) but he has no drive. No desire to do the work on his own to get better. I got him stretching tools, charts to make to do pushups and situps, books, read articles on training and even movies i thought might motivate…nada because as you say the game and actually every game he plays come very easy to him
    so Now what can i do – just sit and watch a waste of talent?

    • Robert,
      Thanks for your comment. We are two peas in a pod. I feel like I could write a book on this subject at this point. lol. I’m not going to do that, but I am planning to do another post with some recent discoveries. If you don’t see it soon, please reach back out to me. One thing to think about right now, does your son want to be good and to excel and does he enjoy the sport? Even if he doesn’t do anything about it yet? If so, then I do believe there are things he and you can do to help him get through this. Please reach back out if you don’t see a post within the next two weeks on it. Thank you!!

  2. I have a super, super talented 10 year old wakeboarder. She already has people watching her for pro or junior coaching… and she is being lazy or wanting to just play around on a tube with her friends who have no interest in wakeboarding. I have seen her do this with three different sports, motivated, good- crazy athletic, then gets caught up playing and talking with other kids and says she wants to quit. It is insane and a waste of talent and very frustrating. Any advice? I was like this as a kid, it is hard to deal with, but my only thing is I wish my parents had really pushed me even more.

    • Hi Pam,
      Thanks for the question. This is definitely an area I struggle with as I deal with something similar. First of all, I think it’s VERY normal for a ten year old child to lose focus and want to play and chat. I don’t know how much time she has to put into her sport, but kids these days are expected to behave like robots and mini professional athletes, which can be a tough thing to ask of a child at her age. I would make sure her training program has enough time built into it for “fun and social interactions” or when you’re noticing that she’s straying from her focused training, then give her a day off etc. If you push too hard right now, she may quit altogether, so she needs gentle nudging. The fact that she keeps quitting sports when she’s doing well is interesting. Either she loses interest because she’s not being challenged enough (playing with older kids, boys etc can solve this) or she may be doing something I have read a lot about – where people have told them they are so good at something that kids become afraid to fail and disappoint. This leads to them not trying as hard or quitting when they seem to have so much potential. Afraid to let people down who have been telling them they are great. This is why experts are always saying not to tell kids they are great, but rather to applaud the effort and the process. I hope this helps, If I come across anything else helpful I will share it.

  3. We have an 11 year old who loves soccer but has not been giving much effort into practice. My husband wants to pull him and make him quit since he isn’t put forth the effort but I don’t think this is the way to go. Do you have any advice you could give on this issue. Thanks

    • Melissa,
      Thank you for reaching out! I will forward your question to Mike G. He’s traveling right now with Azarenka, so I’m not sure how quickly he will reply, but I know he will eventually for sure. In the meantime, I hope you can stick it out with your son and figure out what might be the issue. I know there are ebbs and flows with my kids and just when I’m ready to throw in the towel you can be sure it will change again. If this is a sudden change in behavior or new pattern, things to think about..outside stresses, nutrition, health, friend situation on the team, coach relationship, pressure to perform. All of these things can affect his energy output at practice. If he doesn’t see the issue himself, try taping a drill or scrimmage with your phone and showing him later. Be sure to have some positive things to say as well. But if you can show him and he can visually see what you are referring to, this is always a helpful tool as well.
      Best of luck. And please email us anytime via the contact page.


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