How To Motivate Your Child In Sports

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

How To Motivate Your Child In Sports

I recently posted about why it sucks to be the parent of a “good” athlete. {Read Here}. 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 this insight.

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 fire-hosing the outcome.

You can’t make your kid self-motivated but you can influence their motivation 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!

How To Motivate A Lazy Athlete

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 because 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 than 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 because 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!


  1. ” I had one parent ask “then how do I make my kid become self-motivated?” Do you see the absurdity of the question? ”

    Not an absurd question at all! I wish more parents were as thoughtful and self aware to ask this question. Perhaps the choice of words is the only problem here. “Make” your child self-motivated, as opposed to “help” your child find internal motivation.
    Good advice though. Just a bit overplayed. Children and developing young athletes are quite a bit more complex than your response would lead a parent to believe. The youth sports world they inhabit unfortunately too often increases the complexity of their young lives with intense pressures to “produce.” The pursuit of “unnatural yields” from our young athletes on the part of some coaches and parents does not provide a fertile environment you were able to create to cultivate healthy long term sustainable growth of the whole person. The parent is asking the right question, though perhaps for the wrong reason. You are one of the few coaches engaged in organic athlete gardening! I applaud you for your example. Thanks for sharing!


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