Key Ways to Encourage an Athletic Child without Pushing Them

Encourage your child to excel in athletics without putting on too much pressure with these simple tips. 

Tiffany Rowe, Seek Visibility (Partner)
4-minute read
student athlete

Do you have a child who’s a born athlete who can pick up any sport? Or perhaps your kid is incredibly skilled at a particular sporting field? Either way, it’s natural to want to help them succeed and pursue excellence. 

However, also be careful to encourage your child to further their passions and abilities without pushing them so much that they end up feeling excessive pressure. 

Too much force and too many expectations from parents can cause children significant stress and other emotional distress, and lead to them losing interest in a sport altogether. Avoid this situation by thinking about ways you can encourage your child effectively.

Foster experimentation and breaks

It pays to foster experimentation in sport. While some children find a single type of exercise they adore and want to focus on, many times they’re pushed into one particular sport by a parent or other adult. It’s fine for them to have a favorite, but instead of having your child only compete in a single sport year-round, encourage them to mix things up. 

If they diversify with numerous sports, they’ll not only avoid getting sick of their top option but also build up additional strengths and skill sets.

If they diversify with numerous sports, they’ll not only avoid getting sick of their top option but also build up additional strengths and skill sets that can help them across the board. Let your child test out new activities at school, on weekends through local clubs, and during vacation time via quality youth athletic training programs that cover numerous fields. 

It’s helpful, too, to make sure your child spends time doing other activities besides sport. When they have other interests in life, there isn’t an unbalanced focus on athletics. Plus, children need to have a break from sport at times to avoid burnout and stay healthy.

Provide affirmative feedback

Although you want to help your child become a better athlete who achieves great things, you can’t do this by only ever criticizing and critiquing their performance. It’s better for their self-esteem and long-term abilities if you take care to provide affirmative, positive feedback more often than negative comments. 

Don’t just tell a child what they want to hear—they’ll pick up if you’re false, and this will hurt them in the long run. Always stick with genuine, warranted praise. With athletic children, finding things to compliment generally isn’t hard. Your positivity will encourage your child and help them achieve their potential more than continually pointing out their flaws. 

Do be careful, though, not to take this too far by coddling kids or by blaming their errors or setbacks on others (such as teammates, coaches, selection committees, other players, etc.). Children need to learn to focus on what they can control and be clear about what does and does not fall into this category.

Be positively involved

Be positively involved in your child’s sporting life in other ways, too. For example, attend their games and practices, cheering them on from the sidelines. Showing an interest in the sports your child participates in gives you a prime way to connect. Stay up to date on what’s happening in their athletic progress and get to know their coach and teammates or other relevant people in the sport. 

Showing an interest in the sports your child participates in gives you a prime way to connect.

Also, remain their parent, rather than turning into the coach. Don’t continually try to tell your child what they need to improve or which decisions they should be making on the field; this is a coach’s job, and one you should steer clear of. This separation helps you be there as a trusted, reliable supporter that the child can vent to when needed. 

Also, deemphasize outcomes when talking about athletic pursuits. It’s much healthier to discuss whether or not your youngster is having fun with their sports activities, and learning new things. Focusing on whether they win games, beat their personal best week after week, or make certain squads only puts more pressure on them that they don’t need. You can chat about this side of things when they want to, but don’t be the one bringing it up and harping on it. Instead, make it clear you love them no matter how they perform. 

Suggest self-reflection 

Another way to encourage your athletic child is to talk to them about ways they can take responsibility for themselves. For example, suggest they reflect on their performance after each activity and notice what they can improve. Teach them some questions to ask themselves to help them identify these things. Also, encourage them to set their own goals, so they motivate themselves to the level that feels right for them. 

Having an athletic child in your family can be exciting, fun, and rewarding, yet as a parent, be careful not to push them too hard or fast. The tips mentioned above will help you navigate this area and ensure your young one stays enthusiastic about exercise and seeking growth in their skills and enjoyment as time goes on.