9 fun ways to motivate your child in sports

By Janis Meredith | Posted 11/12/2014

Has your child lost the motivation to play sports? It happens all the time with older athletes, and that’s when mental toughness is truly tested.

But what about younger children? We can’t expect them to have the mental fortitude to continue working hard without motivation. Here’s some ways to keep them interested:

  1. Let them pick. Allow your child choose a sport he enjoys – even if it’s not football. It’s easier for children to be motivated when they enjoy the activity. 
  2. Watch others. Take your child to see others play the sport. Take children to pro and college games, if you can, but more importantly, take them to sporting events involving their peers and the levels just above them. Let the child see people having fun as they play.
  3. Read and watch. Get books at rent movies about sports with your child. Often, children are interested in what they are familiar with and as they learn more about a sport, it might pique their interest to start or continue playing. 
  4. Play with your child. Not just to teach skills but to just have fun. You don’t always have to be coaching your child on how to tackle or kick. Sometimes, it’s better to be silly with them and let them experience the fun of sports with you.
  5. Praise efforts, not results. If you want to offer a reward for good effort, that’s up to you. If you do, make it an experience with them — a special outing, play their favorite game, etc., not a material one.
  6. Mix it up. Choose a new sport and learn it together with your child.
  7. Familiar faces. Look for opportunities for them to play on teams with their friends.
  8. Take a break. Give them plenty of free time to follow their own interests outside of sports. Too much emphasis on playing sports at a young age can put children on the early path to sports burnout.
  9. Make it a family event. Plan an active outing to play a game of family softball, touch football or whatever your family likes. Invite other friends and family along to make it even more fun.

As parents, we can’t make our kids care as much as we do about any specific thing, but we can provide plenty of opportunities for them to catch the bug.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.