Finding the Motivation to Try

“Things are hard when you HAVE TO…but become easy if you WANT TO…”
– Alan Stein

What motivates younger players? Not surprisingly it is the same things that motivate all of us when we are placed in an unfamiliar position or situation. In the beginning, it all comes down to three simple things that have total control on our confidence to get involved…

  • Fun
  • Friends
  • Feelings

Before a child even starts an activity, they usually require some type of emotional trigger to take the first step. The activity must be perceived as “FUN.” If it’s not fun, why would they waste their time participating? After all life is too short not to enjoy every day! But even though it may be fun, younger players still might lack the confidence to get started, they usually have a need to be surrounded by a support group of “FRIENDS.” Most of the first time players that start our program were asked by a friend to join the group. And even though we are talking about kids, this is something that drives our motivation to start a new activity for the rest of our lives. Think about it… all your life you have been prodded by friends to try new things with statements like, “Come on, it will be fun!” or “We’re all going to go.” or “It’ll be good, you’ll make new friends.”

The final trigger is not so much around starting a new activity as much as it is about continuing to work towards improving your skills within the activity. “FEELINGS” drive everything. I am constantly asking our players, “How do you FEEL?” We spend as much time monitoring the players emotional state as we do their physical state. To get started we need a FUN, FRIENDLY environment, but to stay engaged we need to focus on FEELINGS. Fanning the emotional flame, keeping the fire burning, and knowing when to push and when to back off.

We discussed this in a previous post on developing confidence and talked about how motivation drives effort, effort drives skill improvement, and the higher the skill, the higher the confidence. Between 8 and 12 years old, young players learn that they either “have” or “do not have” what it takes (the skills) to be successful in a particular sport. It has been reported that children that drop out of activity for the following reasons.

  • Lack of interest, no longer fun
  • Perceptions of incompetence
  • Limited reps to master skills

Usually the reasons above all stem from the same model we discussed in the developing confidence post. The players that drop out of sport were probably involved in practice sessions that did not offer a chance to get some individual or small group work. This is where we build the relationship with the coach (believe in the dream) while also getting more focused instruction (more reps to master skills). Without these reps a player won’t get the opportunity to develop the key skills, and probably won’t understand the importance of the whole process. At this point they will most likely lose interest, because after all, if you struggle to throw balls on target, playing catch is not fun. These players lack the skills due to limited opportunities and instruction, which leads to a perception of incompetence. Once the child ventures down this path, it is very hard to steer them back.

Having fun is the primary reason children participate in sport. Children have fun doing things that they do well. By developing movement, motor skills and confidence in fun, fast paced programs, we address these issues and keep children participating for life. Here are a few reasons children site for participating in sports.

  • To have fun
  • To do something I am good at
  • To stay in shape
  • To learn new or improve my skills
  • To be a part of a team

Think about this as you work with your younger players. Most of them don’t yet share the same dream as their parents or coaches. They don’t yet dream of championships, college scholarships or professional contracts. Light the spark, create a motivational, explosive environment, and then fan the emotional flame. Remember… before you teach, you must show that you care.

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