Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Inspiring Athletes

Dealing with the youth of today can be challenging.  We are in the midst of the NOW generation.  They want instant gratification and if there is nothing in it for them, they wont do it.  Finding a way to keep them motivated is tough.  You have to get into their mindset and think about how they see it.  We can no longer coach them to simply love the sport.  First you must hook them in.

I coach at a school that is dominated by what was once the minority.  These kids are family oriented and many of them are going to be the first ones in their family to graduate high school, let alone go to college.  Putting in 10-15 hours a week for sports is hard because that is time that they could be working to help their families or helping to watch the siblings.  Some of the parents understand the value of school and extra curricular activities, but many do not.  Unfortunately, this dynamic also means that we get very little parent involvement.  At any given basketball game, of the 30 cheerleaders I may have 5 parents in the stands.  Sad for the students they don’t seem to get the support from home that they may need.

When I am recruiting for my program I push the value of hard work, family, friends, travel and the opportunity to help out their fellow students.  Each student is treated the same, but coached differently.  The expectations are always the same and the discipline is the same, but the motivation for each student is VERY different.

Some kids thrive on positive reinforcement.  They need to know that what they are doing is right.  Even the smallest accomplishments must be praised.   So students need tough love.  Yes, tell them when they are doing something right, but make sure you push them each day to get better and work on their skills.  Then there are the students that are fine with being mediocre.  They are happy with simply making the team.  These are the hardest.  They require the most effort to find what makes them work hard and want to improve.  Sometimes it is bribery, sometimes it doesn’t come out until they are in front of a crowd and either look good or bad and get the feedback from their peers.

I use many avenues to inspire.  Bringing in trophies from years past and showing videos push some.  Showing videos of teams that are competiting at the national level and comparing what we do to the national teams can help too.  Some teams need to play games to motivate them to work hard.  Bonding games that allow them to get to know each other help because it shows them how to motivate each other. 

The best thing you can do when trying to inspire your athletes is share your love and enthusiasm for the sport.  Listen to them and find out why they tried out in the first place.  Make them feel at home and accomplished and soon they will learn to love it and keep working hard.


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