Young Athletes Must Learn About Hard Work

By Janis Meredith | Posted 4/15/2019

Before we get into why it is so important for youth athletes to develop a good work ethic, let me say this: Kids should be having fun in sports too. Fun is what keeps them coming back to play, but fun and hard work should both be part of the youth sports experience.

British marketing guru Simon Sinek explains that one result of kids not being taught to develop a good work ethic is a generation that’s given everything for nothing and faces unmet expectations in the workplace.

Youth sports give coaches and parents a great opportunity to teach children a strong work ethic at a young age. This is so important because kids who develop a good work ethic in sports tend to understand the importance of hard work in other areas of life.

RELATED CONTENT: 5 Types of Manipulation That Happen in Youth Sports

I’ve seen (and it’s been proven) that youth athletes are more likely to succeed in school, partially due to the work ethic they learn from sports. Student-athletes learn to push themselves and try hard in sports, so they are more likely to do so out of the game.

Young athletes learn to diligently practice and set goals, and this can spill over into the rest of their lives. They become responsible for doing their homework and making good use of their time, which helps them as adults in the workforce when they need to manage time, follow through with tasks and submit to authority.

The connection is clear: kids that work to become better and learn how to work well with others will be more successful at bettering themselves. They may not always be in first place, but youth sports can teach children that success doesn’t just mean you win the trophy. Sometimes success means your child grows as a leader, learns how to persist, and sometimes it just means that they are better than they were the week before.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Work Ethic

Here are a few suggestions on how to grow your child’s work ethic:

•   Praise efforts and not just results.

•   Show your kids what hard work looks like. Be an example.

•   Don’t give false praise, which congratulates a child for doing a good job when they obviously weren’t putting forth a good effort.

•   Remind your kids that success is not just based on skill, but on steady, persistent discipline.

•   Help your children learn that they cannot control outcomes, but they can control effort. Help them focus on what they CAN control.

•   Reframe success in this way: they’re successful when they put forth all their effort to prepare to be their best.

RELATED CONTENT: How to Avoid One of the Biggest Sports Parenting Mistakes

I hear a lot of complaining about millennials and their weak work ethic, and it causes me to take a second look at my own three kids, now 25, 28, and 31. They grew up playing sports all the way through college, and all three of them, although not perfect by any means, exhibit a strong work ethic. I truly believe sports helped teach them that.

This is not to say that every athlete that grows up has a strong work ethic, because I’ve seen plenty who don’t. But youth sports can and will do that for athletes if coaches and parents work together to nurture the mentality of a strong work ethic both on the field and court and at home.

Janis Meredith is a family coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at