Does Your Child Know the “Why” Behind Their “What?”

By Janis Meredith | Posted 7/15/2020

There’s a tremendous amount of focus in youth sports on what kids do and not so much on why they do it.  And knowing the “why” is, by far, the most important piece to reaching their potential. 

When your children first started playing, it may have been their idea, or it may have been yours. Maybe they wanted to play to hang out with friends or just because it looked fun. Perhaps you wanted them to play to keep them busy or to get them to learn good fitness habits.

As they get older in youth sports, there comes a time when every athlete needs to know their “why” behind the “what”: Why are they sacrificing so much time and energy to play a game?

The “why” has a tremendous impact on their achievements and enjoyment of youth sports. If your child is getting more serious about the game, it’s time to have the why conversation with them. What it is that motivates them to play? What is it that drives them to work extra outside of practice? What pushes them in practices and games?

Let your child answer the “why” question in a judgment-free zone. Their answer could help you and them understand why their youth sports experience looks the way it does.

Perhaps their “why” is simply to have fun with friends and enjoy middle school or high school sports.

Perhaps their “why” is to achieve their dream of playing in college or at the next level.

Perhaps their “why” is to make you proud and not let you down.

Perhaps their “why” is because “why not? I don’t have anything better to do.”

None of these “whys” are right or wrong. The purpose of learning the “why” is not to correct them but to give context to their youth sports experience. If their “why” is simply to have fun and enjoy middle or high school sports, then they may not be driven to put in extra work. If their “why” is to make you happy, then they may not really enjoy the experience. If their “why” is to play in college, then they must be sold on their sport and put in extra time into training to reach their goal.

Knowing your child’s “why” can help you as a parent, too. Once you understand what is behind their desire to play, you can better manage your own personal expectations of your child’s youth sports experience.

It’s remarkable how an incredibly strong why can influence what your child does in youth sports.

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


USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.