Posted by Jodi Murphy
Every coach has their own style of coaching. And while plenty of coaches yell from time to time most would probably agree that constantly screaming and swearing at their team is not the best way to motivate players. When you are working with younger players it’s important to keep practices and games fun. We’re not suggesting you let your team do whatever they want and encouraging them to be competitive is not inherently a bad thing, but if we want to encourage kids to keep playing sports for years to come we can’t scare them off! There is a difference between being rough around the edges and just getting mean as an attempt to push your players.
Find out what drives them as individuals.
This might be a little harder with a huge football team, but on a small basketball team it doesn’t take much time to talk with each player and learn what motivates them as individuals. Is one kid looking to follow in the footsteps of a big brother or sister? Is another player just excited to be part of a team and wear a uniform? Maybe some of the kids need a coach that is a little harder on them, while some players need the coach to have a little more patience. Just like coaches have different coaching styles players have different internal motivations. If you can figure out what drives each athlete you can use that to encourage each individual player to reach their maximum potential.
Set smaller, more attainable goals.
Hitting 9 out of 10 free throws is a pretty high goal for anyone, even a professional basketball player. So instead of setting the bar so high your team will hardly be able to reach it (which can be very defeating), why not set slightly smaller goals that work them up to that big one? For instance, instead of going for 9 out of 10 free throws why not look for better mechanics when shooting? Or focus on getting players in the right position for a rebound. These are little things that young players have more control over and as they meet these little goals it boosts their confidence and they get one step closer to achieving the big ones.
Positive feedback is almost always a good fallback.
Dr. Chris Stankovitch made a great point; Genuine, positive reinforcement should always be your default approach when dealing with tough kids who seem like they are not very motivated. Even if the results are not there, if you see a kid working hard be sure to offer genuine praise.
Just about everyone responds well to praise and support. A well-meant “good job” goes a long way in motivating your team to keep up what they are doing. Let your team know what they are doing well, even when you are critiquing their performance, so they don’t feel like they can do nothing right.