Great competitors are motivated more by internal goals than by external rewards. To develop advanced skills, an athlete has to like to play the game.
Here are 4 ways that coaches can encourage every player to be a competitor:
1. Energize players by giving them difficult, but attainable challenges
Coaches should reframe the game from a win/loss win situation to a “challenge” scenario. The best competitors want to compete at a high level where their skills are tested, not at a level where they can succeed without risk. True development happens when players are trying new things and having fun. Coaches should encourage kids to set goals and then provide them with the tools necessary to attain them.
2. Encourage athletes to see development as under their control
Coaches can help players become better competitors by treating development as something that is under their control. Great competitors know that they can improve their skills through repeated practice. Coaches should emphasize that effort (rather than innate ability) is the key factor in determining improvement.
3. Promote Players as Decision Makers Rather than Order Takers
Kids learn best when engaged in the learning process. Coaches increase the number of teachable moments by putting players in charge of their own learning. Coaches should look at sports as an opportunity to develop thinking skills and that starts with expecting kids to think. Get athletes excited about learning by getting more of the “work” produced and directed by them. The best coaches are developers of people as lifelong learners.
4. Teach kids to Accept Success and Failure
Coaches can help kids accept success and failure by de-emphasizing the “win-at-all-cost” mentality. A win-at-all cost mentality makes it easy to overlook important lessons to be learned from losing. For example, it is difficult to develop resilience in the face of adversity without the adversity. You can’t keep getting back up, if you never get knocked down. Youth sports is the ideal venue for teaching kids that athletes get “knocked down” without getting “knocked out.” With a supportive coach, kids can learn that a loss is just a temporary setback and not a catastrophic event.