I ran across an interesting email that talked about motivating a student-athlete. It reminded me that motivation is internal and no matter how much a parent or coach may want to light a fire under someone — it doesn’t work that way. This is an excerpt from the email from sports parenting coach David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life:
The following situation came from a coach, but it could have easily been a parent. I was asked if there’s anything that could be done about a 14-year-old athlete who is loaded with natural talent but has lost his motivation.
“The desire to work and improve seems to be missing.” said this coach.
While this is frustrating for a coach or a parent who takes a personal interest in an athlete, the short answer is “love him where he’s at.”
Despite the urge to become a protector of this athlete’s career, you cannot give someone a “want to” if they don’t have one of their own. You can create opportunities, provide an inspiring environment, and tell uplifting stories, but a “want to” comes from the inside, not the outside.
There’s usually a story behind the story when dealing with an athlete who has lost his motivation. It may stem from a relationship issue at home, strife with a coach, or other pressing priorities.
As parents, we need to let out kids live their lives and be cheerleaders on the side. We cannot make them do anything like a sport or piano lessons because we want it. We can manipulate and bribe, but that’s not an ideal way to build a healthy relationship. I like the advice to “love him where’s he’s at.”
I wanted my daughter to love ballet because I did. She hated it and big tears would run down her cheeks when I made her go. That was true of piano lessons, too. I really wanted her to stick it out. My son loved piano. I was already driving him, so she could have her lessons, too. She loved swimming instead. My son like swimming, too, but with severe asthma it was a battle staying well during the winter months. He’d make progress only to get sick and miss weeks and weeks of practice. His interest moved to music in high school and he formed a band and performed with his non-swim friends.
I love my kids for who they are — not for what they did. I hope they know that now.
In what ways have you tried to motivate your kids?