MOTIVATION: 6 Tips To Ignite Her Fire Within Written By John Michael Kelly
In fastpitch softball today we ask a lot of our young athletes. Here in southern California we play over 120 games each year over nearly eleven months. The girls are asked to go through grueling three hour practices, sometimes twice per week, and play three to seven games over the weekend. Keeping up with school work means doing homework in the car or between games; having a social life…forget about it!
As your athlete becomes a teenager her motivations in her life can and likely will change. The little girl who would do anything mommy or daddy asked her to do becomes a distant memory. It is at this delicate time in your athlete's life that you need to accurately assess her softball motivation and do all you can to keep her motivation high.
The one caveat is if she truly no longer loves the game enough to make the continual time and energy commitment to do what it takes to master the very difficult game of fastpitch softball. My daughter chose to walk away from the game for this reason at 15 and, in hindsight, I respect her decision and having the courage to tell me how she really felt (as she certainly knew that I would be disappointed). She applied the same effort she gave in softball to her school work and was recently accepted to one of the finest private universities on the east coast!
However, statistics suggest, undeniably, that high school athletes are better students and more trouble free than their non-athlete counterparts, so doing all you can to keep her in the game make pay big dividends!
As a parent or coach it is helpful to understand that there are two kinds of motivation: internal (intrinsic) and external (extrinsic). External motivators can be things like rewarding your daughter with money or a new iPhone for good grades; while internal motivators can be things like self-satisfaction for a job well done, reaching the goal of making the varsity or playing in college, or being appreciated by friends, teammates, coaches or parents.
In reality by the time your athlete is 14 she needs to be motivated intrinsically. The game will only get harder and the pressures greater, so if she (like my daughter) is not prepared to make the commitment and really love the “process” of working hard at mastering the game and being her best…maybe it’s time for her to stop playing. After all, you are likely making a substantial investment in her sport, so if she can’t summon enough fire in the belly to justify your investment…(Well, I’ll leave the answer to that up to you).
So what things can you do as a parent or coach do to keep your athlete motivated to be the best softball player she can be?
1. Sit down and ask her a really important question: “Why do you play the game?” If she can’t answer that, or answers “because you want me to Dad” you’ve got some work to do. Thinking about that question might trigger in her a new excitement about the things she actually loves about playing! At least after the process you will both have a clearer idea of where her head is at. I do highly suggest having an annual chat to revisit the same question, particularly during the teen years.
2. Have her write down clearly defined softball goals she wants to achieve (in other words, have a plan!). Break her goals into shorter term (for the season) and longer term (over several seasons). They can include improved physical skills, improved mental toughness, making new friends, or traveling to exciting new places to play! Review these goals often as a means to keep her on track and motivated.
3. Write down a clearly defined game plan of action steps she can take to achieve her goals on a weekly and monthly basis. This will make the bigger picture goals easily to stay connected to and allow her to track her progress in several key areas. This could include pitching velocity, power, speed, making the backhand play, hitting the outside pitch, not getting flustered after an error, etc.
4. Have her write down all the things she loves about the game of softball. Again, it will serve to motivate her and likely bring up a few things she hadn’t thought about in a while.
5. Have her write down all the benefits (the payoffs) she receives playing the game (friendships, exercise, life lessons, opportunity to play in college, status in the community or on campus, etc.). This process will fuel her intrinsic motivation, the ultimate key to her becoming her best.
6. Review all these written statements with your athlete to be sure you are both on the same page and be extra careful not to judge her choices and how she feels about the game. If she is to play for “her” she must own the reasons why. Always encourage her and allow open communication so that if she ever needs to share her thoughts or feelings about the game with you she is comfortable doing so; free of judgment and criticism.
The bottom line, be sure that you accurately assess your athlete's motivation and have a sincere conversation with her about it and get her involved in the process. If your expectations for her commitment and performance exceed her own there will be trouble ahead…guaranteed!
Buy her a journal that she can use to record her thoughts, feelings, perceptions, aspirations and goals along her softball journey and you will find that her mental clarity and focus as to why she plays the game will be front and center and her motivation on track!
John Michael Kelly: John Michael Kelly, America’s Sports Confidence Coach, is known for skyrocketing the self-confidence and game performance levels for thousands of youth athletes and teams from coast to coast by reducing the stress and increasing the joy for playing the game! John also coaches travel softball with the 18u and 18 Gold teams for The Next Level (“TNL”) organization in sunny San Diego. You can follow John at SoftballSmarts.com and Facebook.com/SoftballSmarts.
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