5 Ways to Help Kids Succeed in Sports or Other Activities
I remember my friend Jennifer sharing how her little boy struck out at his baseball game for the third game in a row and cried all the way home. It was on that drive that she resolved to do something to help him succeed and boost his confidence. For her little slugger, it only took a couple of lessons with a batting instructor to help him break some bad habits and start hitting the ball with more consistency. His enjoyment of the game, and his confidence, soared.
If your child needs help to achieve in a chosen sport or activity, there are ways to encourage their best effort and help them along the way.
1. Define the Goal. For a pianist, it’s too general to simply say, “I want to play better.” Goals need a quantifiable way to be measured, so give it a specific definition. It might be to make a superior rating at the next piano competition, or for a cross country runner to improve his best time at a particular distance. It’s impossible to figure out how to get there if you don’t know where you’re trying to go!
- iMOM’s 25 Day You Can Do It! Chart
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2. Consider the Commitment. Some children want to be the best, but don’t understand that achieving great things almost always involves personal sacrifice. Have an honest talk with your child about what she’s willing to give up to achieve her goal. Is it other activities? Time with friends? Sometimes the answer will be a resounding “Yes, whatever it takes,” while other times it will be, “No, it’s not worth all that.” But in going through this analysis with your child, you’re training her to make these types of decisions thoughtfully.
3. Keep Your Child’s Age in Mind. Consider your child’s age when helping her make decisions about forfeiting other experiences to “specialize” in a single activity, because it can sometimes backfire. My friend Amanda has a daughter who, at age 6, showed great potential in gymnastics. The staff at her gym quickly invited her to be a part of their competitive team, which required a commitment of around 20 hours per week in the gym—for a first grader. While Amanda’s daughter gained skill rapidly on the team, she was completely burned out and begged to quit in less than a year. Amanda laments that she allowed her child to commit too much too soon and ultimately grow to hate a sport that, under less pressure, she would have loved and excelled in. Help your younger child do her best, but keep the intensity and commitment at an age-appropriate level.
4. Identify Weaknesses and Possible Remedies. If your soccer player loses skills in the off-season, maybe a summer soccer camp will help with retention. If your violinist seems frustrated with his teacher, it may be time to try a new instructor. Often, just a small addition of specialized instruction or a change in the routine can buoy your child’s confidence and focus.
5. Maintain Perspective. While working hard and achieving goals is important, you must, as the parent, maintain perspective about the long-term importance of these activities. Very few children will go on to pursue a career related to their childhood sports or interests. What truly matters are the elements of good character that these pursuits build in your child. If your son walks away from baseball with a strong work ethic, a respect for his coaches, and a spirit of competitiveness balanced with good sportsmanship—he won. Remember, when he’s twenty-five, no one will look at him and say, “Did he make all-stars in 5th grade?” They’re far more likely to say, “He’s a fine young man who has the skills to do well in whatever he pursues.” So if your child tries his best and falls short of his goal, help him to see the bigger picture and continue to work hard.
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