Let’s have a discussion about how to motivate kids in sports whether they win or lose.
Naturally, most of us understand the importance of this discussion when someone loses, but it’s equally important when someone wins.
Our discussions with our children when they win, whether in school with the Honor Roll or in sports with the trophy, are just as important (if not more) when they lose.
We recently spoke with John O’Sullivan, author of Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids. He shared the importance of focusing on the process a child goes through as they’re training for a sport, rather than just the outcome.
As he explains, “If you praise only outcome, kids start seeing only the outcome and lose sight of the process. When we praise the process, kids start to embrace the process and work harder and accept failures.”
In her famous Ted Talk, Carol Dweck explains the importance of praising the process — the effort, strategies, focus, perseverance and improvement — which will create kids who are hardy and resilient. Take a look below.
How to Motivate Kids in Sports (Win or Lose)
As you heard in Carol Dweck’s Ted Talk, praising the outcome won’t motivate kids to work harder. In fact, it only motivates kids to run from difficulty.
The way to motivate your kids to work hard is to praise the process they’re going through as they compete.
These conversations are easier to have when your child doesn’t win the game.
You can sit down and look at things that could have been done differently.
It’s just as important, if not more so, to have these types of conversations when your child wins the game.
John O’Sullivan points out, when your child wins, instead of just congratulating him or her on the win, point out all of the extra time and effort that was put in that helped your child achieve that result.
That will keep him or her focused on the effort that was put in and less on the outcome achieved. And, as Dweck points out, will help your child to become more resilient and less afraid of taking risks or trying new things.
In other words, it will help build that growth mindset.
Another reason it’s so important to praise the process over the end result is that your child may perform at his or her best but still not achieve the desired result.
She could be a competitive swimmer, for example, and achieve her best times during a race and still lose. And yet, achieving your personal best is still something to be celebrated… even if the desired result wasn’t achieved.
Conclusion: How to Motivate Students for Sports
When parents make the mistake of focusing on the end result over the process, they’re often making their child more fearful of taking risks. The child doesn’t want to risk losing if all that matters is the win.
So why take risks? Why do things that are hard?
However, if you praise the process and the effort that went into achieving the result (win or lose), your child will be more motivated to work hard to get better.
Asking questions like, “What went right?” and “What can we learn?” are going to develop the growth mindset that will serve your child not only during school but for the rest of his or her life.