How To Help Your Young Athlete Become Self Motivated…Even When They’re Not!

Asia Mape
In Learn
By Asia Mape | November 10, 2016

(I recently posted about why it sucks to be the parent of a “good” athlete. We had several great responses, and this one was so eloquent and spot on, that we decided to share it with our entire community. Thank you Gary Avischious for these wise and helpful words.)

There is no “IF”. I don’t mean to be a jerk but I’m hearing, “I love watching you play IF this is going somewhere.” There should be no struggle at all with good athletes.

Self-motivated athletes are ALWAYS the best athletes! Passion, effort, grit are common words to describe it. As a coaching educator I had one parent ask “then how do I make my kid become self-motivated?” Do you see the absurdity of the question? The answer? Water the right thing.

If you know anything about gardening you don’t put a firehouse of water on the rose petals. You water the right thing. You cultivate the soil and give it what IT needs instead of firehosing the outcome.

You can’t make your kid self-motivated but you can influence it by your passion and flat out love of what their doing for the sheer joy it brings THEM. A book the USOC introduced me to is “Developing Talent In Young People” by Benjamin Bloom and in it they found that 100% of successful young people in sports, math, music, science, etc…had, at an early age, a parent, a teacher or a coach give them (model) a love of the game or a love of learning. It works!

I was a goofy coach. We had a lot of fun. I modeled working hard for what you did. And the kids responded by giving their all cuz it was fun to do so. And they won A LOT. Over 20 years of coaching the kids I coached won over 90% of their games. AND I didn’t care.

What I cared about was their enjoyment, their development, their learning, their being better that yesterday and their effort in practice. The game was just the “flower” of what they did and what I was able to influence by providing a fertile environment for their growth/success.

With age comes perspective so my reward is not the won/loss record but seeing them as adults with successful careers, raising their own kids who LOVE sports and hearing of things that they battled along the way and gave it their all to overcome. Knowing that many of the kids that I coached at age 5, 6 and 7 played high school sports and some played in college. Most all of them play, or have played some adult rec level cuz they still love it.

So modeling a love of the game and/or learning is vitally important, but there is no “IF”. I don’t love watching you play because this is going somewhere. I love watching you play because I love seeing YOUR passion, what you learned in practice, what you could do today (in a game) that you have been working so hard in the backyard to figure out how to do, what I saw you try last week but couldn’t do, but today…. Today was AWESOME! It’s got to feel so amazing to have worked so hard to to that. And you did it! Well done! I love watching you play!

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