Which Wins in Youth Sports: Talent or Passion?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 5/13/2019

When it comes to your child’s sports, which will carry them further – talent or passion?

You might be tempted to think it’s talent, but an 11-year study led by Dr. Daniel Heller would argue otherwise. The study surveyed 450 elite musical students and found that, over time, passion trumps talent. It was the students’ passion for music that inspired greater risks and gave them the intrinsic motivation to persist in the face of adversity. At the end of the day, passion wins. (Mark Batterson)

Now, imagine the success your child can have if they possess both talent and passion? That’s the magic formula for the champions who’ve gone far in their sport.

Here’s what every young athlete needs to understand about the connection between talent and passion:

Hard work and talent are siblings.

If your child has the passion, but not the skill, then hard work is the only path to success. Your child must let go of perfectionism and focus on the fact that to succeed, they must try, fail and learn a lot.

Your child won’t be great at their passion in the beginning, and most certainly not all the time, but that doesn’t mean that they will not eventually experience success.


What does this look like in sports? Let’s say your child loves baseball, but the talent is just not there. The key is presenting your child with opportunities that help develop skills and encourage the love of the game. If they keep working hard, their skill just may catch up to their passion.

You also can see the opposite sometimes with who are very talented, but do not have a good work ethic or a strong love for the game. My husband and former coach always said he’d rather have a team full of passionate players who needed skill development, than a team full of talent that lacked heart.

If your child has the passion, but not the talent, don’t give up on them. Just be sure they’re in an environment where they’re developing the skills that they need to play the game they love. Their passion will get them where they need to be if you support them.


On the contrary, natural talent in a child doesn’t necessarily mean that they should pursue a sport they aren’t passionate about. In this situation you should ask your child what THEY want to do. You might be surprised to hear their answer.  

If your child has passion, they can learn the skills, but if your child has talent and no desire to play, they cannot learn passion.

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