Idol Acting- Motivation for Young Athletes

Do you have the motivation to be great? A few […]

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June 10, 2015

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Do you have the motivation to be great?

A few weeks ago I sat down with a 13-year-old who has been through the gamut of sports over a matter of four years. He had played basketball, baseball, soccer, football, and is now is a swimmer who has been described as having athletic talent, but little drive when things get tough. I asked him what his biggest dreams where in sport and he simply said, “I want to be the best.”

This was interesting as he wanted to be the best but as soon as he had any push back, he LOST motivation. I have seen this happen in many athletes, where they want something big but as soon as they face ANY kind of push back in the form of a tough workout, a tough coach, a disappointing performance or otherwise they lose interest and move onto something new.

However, after talking through his situation we came up with a pretty blatant discrepancy between what he wanted and what he was DOING to get there. This issue was initially based in his motivation as he found quick and easy victories as a natural athlete, but lost motivation once he realized more work had to be done.

Have you had an athlete who has gone through this or even find yourself going through this kind of fluctuation in motivation for sport?

Here is a recommendation to help foster motivation for these kinds of athletes and help them find a focus on the process.

Idol Acting. Most every athlete has an idol in the sport(s) they play. The idol holds an ideal of a person who has gotten to where the athlete wants to possibly go. This makes for a fantastic person  for your athlete to compare and contrast their high performing behaviors and actions.

Simply asking an athlete to tell you who their sport idol is and how their idol would approach particularly hard practices, difficult teammates, or even tough coaches will help them deliberately emulate those high performing behaviors.

For example, what do you think Michael Jordan would do if he felt like he didn’t want to come to practice? What would Missy Franklin do even when she trained with her high school team in her Olympic year? What do you think Usain bolt would do approaching practice at your age?

An important note: Be sure to use this tool to help an athlete develop motivation for what is to come or what is happening in the moment. I know this is hard to understand so let me explain. It is very easy to use this tool in a way that negatively impacts the athlete by way of comparisons. For example, I witnessed a parent asking their child if what they DID (past action) in a soccer game was what their idol would have done. As you can see, this comparison can easily degrade the child and cause very hard feelings of their overall performance as the athlete has no control over what they have done at that moment. Be sure to focus on where they are or what is to come. If your child makes a mistake and is taking the error hard, ask them what their idol would DO if they were in a similar situation. That way, the athlete has an opportunity to choose their response to the error and move forward rather then back.

In today’s society, kids are being exposed to experiences that are geared to take advantage of their innate motivators causing a predisposition to rewards and praise from little work. For example, a naturally athletic boy begins to play soccer at 13 years old and, due to his natural athletic ability, has instant success and is praised for it.

When we talk about Mental Grit, we talk about the skills we need to make the toughest decisions. Here is the truly hard decision our young athletes need to make. They must make the hard decision to work over the long term vs. make the easy decision to quit and start something else. Even knowing they will get the praise and adulation they want from the easy decision because, let’s be honest, a quick success is rewarded and praised much more than years of work and failure.

To whoever is reading this blog post right now, I challenge you to use this information to play a positive role in the lives of those performers you affect. You know the difference between the right decision and the easy decision. I challenge you to always make the right decision.

W.I.N the Day!

Get Grit? Got Grit!





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