Whether you're the team coach, a parent helper or are simply sitting on the sidelines, getting the kids pumped up to play is a key part of making the most of any children's athletic activity. Instead of having a group of unmotivated kids shirking around the soccer field or T-ball diamond, put some oomph into the affair and get the energy going with your own blend of motivational techniques.
Let your child choose an activity that really interests her. Forcing her to play soccer when she would rather join the school's dance team or making her sign up for the math Olympics when she wants to take basketball won't help to get her pumped up about anything. Go over her choices, and let her pick what she wants to try with minimal pressure from you or another adult. Provide your child with all of the options, paying attention to which ones she seems more positive about.
Stay present. Go to all of your child's practices, games and other related activities, even if you aren't a coach or parent helper. Pay attention to your child, and avoid talking on your cell phone, texting or answering emails on your tablet while she is on the field. Show enthusiasm for what she is doing. Keeping yourself pumped up about her play will rub off on her, making her more likely to feel enthusiastic and motivated.
Set realistic goals. Motivate your child and her teammates to succeed by creating attainable objectives. For example, come up with a goal for your first-grader that she will get her feet on the soccer ball at least four times during the first quarter of the game.
Praise your child's efforts. Avoid only adding in positive comments when your child scores a goal or makes a touchdown. Use encouraging words when your child tries or remind her of what a bang-up job she did during the last game before she starts a new one. Make your praise energetic and meaningful, adding to her sense of motivation to succeed or -- at the very least -- try.
Enlist your child, or one of her teammates, to help pump the group up. Name a team motivator. Ask the motivator to model a positive attitude, orally encourage and help to praise the other less pumped-up kids.
Try a cheer or other motivational ice breaker before the game or activity. Create your own chant, use a popular song or do an "all hands in" cheer. Repeat the cheer to build up momentum and pump the kids up for the big game.
Tips & Warnings
- Get moving. Use physical activity such as energetic warm-ups or a few dance moves to pump up the kids and get them ready for action.
- Use a light-hearted approach to your pre-game pep talks. Adding levity to the event will help the kids relax and get ready for the game.
- Avoid lecturing or yelling at the kids. Berating them won't pump them up -- it will only serve to make them feel badly about themselves. Yelling at your fifth-grader's soccer team about the poor showing that they made at last week's game will only shame them.
- Don't overload the kids before a big game or important activity.
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