Encouraging Sports Kids without Pressuring Them

Youth Sports Psychology

Encouraging Kids to Play Sports

Just how can sports parents encourage kids to take part in sports and support them—without pressuring them?

That’s a good question, and the answers are not so obvious. Read on to get tips from Olympic fencer Tim Morehouse, who says his parents knew just how to support him as he grew into an Olympic athlete.

“I was very fortunate,” he says. “My parents encouraged me to do different things that I loved.”

The key, when kids are very young, he says, is to start slowly.

“When your kids are first trying a sport out, make sure they have enough time to try it out and enjoy it. In the beginning, I didn’t like fencing. Over time, I realized I loved it.”

Starting slowly also means playing once a week or so, he says. Too often, kids start playing two or three times a week. That’s too often, in his opinion. “See how it goes, evaluate it. After three months, decide if you want to add practices.”

If your child enjoys the sport, it’s a good idea to focus on the importance of working hard. But that doesn’t mean micro-managing your child’s experience, he says. That’s where the delicate balance between supporting and pressuring comes in.

“My parents encouraged me to work hard,” he says. At the same time, they wanted him to develop his own passions. For example, he started out as a baseball player, then switched to fencing. When he decided to switch, they supported him 100%.

Micro-managing, on the other hand, would involve attending kids’ games and yelling at them, Morehouse says.

Here at Kids’ Sports Psychology, we agree that parents have to strike a balance between pressuring their kids and supporting them. We’ve got lots of additional tips for parents who aim to support without pushing.

For example, you should set high, yet attainable goals for your kids and offer them opportunities to fulfill their potential. Focus on small improvements. For example, golfers can learn simple tasks like keeping their heads down while putting. These small improvements will help kids feel successful.

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