How to Motivate Your Son in Sports (The Right Way)

While some kids hit the field with vigor and enthusiasm, others need a little more motivation. Learn ways to inspire your son to do well in sports.

We all want our kids to exceed in sports. However, not all children are self-motivated and may need a little “push” from mom and dad to gain traction in their sport of choice. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to be one of those overbearing parents that use guilt or intimidation to get results.

Positive motivation is a low-key way to help your child succeed in sports – if, and only if – your child is truly interested in playing that sport.

If your child has skirted around the idea of quitting, be sure to listen to his words.  “If your child is experiencing more frustration than pleasure, or she’s simply not enjoying his sport, consider switching him to a different activity,” says Patrick Cohn, mental training expert and founder of Peak Performance Sports in Orlando, Florida.

If your son is really interested in playing, find fun ways to boost his motivation for sports on and off the field.

What the Experts Say

It can be frustrating to watch your child give half-hearted effort while playing a sport. Know that without the proper encouragement, many children will easily give up and move onto the next activity. Sometimes all it takes is some positive reinforcement to get a child excited about playing again. Here’s what some experts have to say about motivating children in sports.

“Identify your own desires and expectations regarding the choice of sport your child should play. Parents have desires and expectations. This is common and normal. The problems arise when parents do not acknowledge their desires and expectations. Do you think your desires and expectations are realistic? More importantly, does your child think they are realistic? Discuss this together.”

– Virgil L. Brady, The Score Is Love All

“Observe what lights your child’s fire. Find out what he or she likes about certain aspects of a sport or other activity. Respond, with support, to the signs of inspiration and motivation that you see. Encourage him or her in the direction of particular sports – or other activities – that offer these things. Watch for anxiety or frustration. You may need to suggest a change of direction or explore new activities.”

– Jim Sundberg, Janet Sundberg, How to Win at Sports Parenting

“Athletes who are self-motivated take part in sports for the pure enjoyment of it. They don’t need rewards to participate. To succeed in sports, it’s important that your athlete love to play or perform. It’s not a good idea to take part in sports because they want to make others happy – such as parents, coaches, or peers, for example.”

– Patrick Cohn, Ph.D, Lisa Cohn, How to Motivate Your Youth Athlete to Get Better

“You can’t make your kid self-motivated but you can influence their motivation by your passion and flat out love of what they’re doing for the sheer joy it brings them.”

– Asia Mape, How to Motivate Your Child in Sports

“If you want your child to come out of their youth sports experience a winner (feeling good about themselves and having a healthy attitude towards sports), then they need your help! You are a vital and important part of the coach-athlete-parent team. If you do your job correctly and play your position well, then your child will learn the sport faster, perform better, really have fun and have his/her self-esteem enhanced as a result.”

– Dr. Alan Goldberg, 13 Steps to Being a Winning Parent

Learn to Communicate

Poor communication can make a significant impact on your child’s performance in sports. When you don’t take the time to learn how your child feels about their sport, he may shows signs of dissatisfaction, such as low morale and lack of teamwork.

Having a meaningful conversation with your child is important to better understand his strengths, weaknesses, and athletic desires. It also shows your son that you respect him and want to know how he feels.

During your conversation, explain to your child the value of playing a sport not just for the physical aspects but also for developing socialization, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

Be a Positive Role Model

Most children want to be like their parents. If your son sees you being physical active, he is more likely to mimic your behavior. Be a positive role model for your child by staying physically active.

Even more, be physically active with your son by engaging in his favorite sports along with him. A couple times a week head out to the backyard and throw the ball around. You may also want to start a league with just friends and family. Keep it fun by not keeping score but simply playing while honing your child’s skills.

Become His Biggest Fan

When your son knows that you’re excited about him playing a sport, he’ll likely become excited to. Be your child’s biggest fan while attending practices or sporting events. Cheer him on no matter how he’s performing. It can also be helpful to communicate with other parents about forming an encouraging support system that benefits every child on the team.

While your son may have been excited about starting a new sport when you signed him up, motivation can quickly dwindle. Encourage your child to continue playing a sport which can help him develop vital life skills, such as commitment, leadership, and confidence.


Liz Coyle

Liz is a Scottsdale-based writer and mom of two young children and one not so young Boston Terrier. She is a lover of cooking, travel, and any activities she can do with the kids. She loves to share her experiences of being a high-strung, type a mom in an imperfect world.

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