Will had been taking batting lessons from me for about a year. He was a really nice 11-year-old kid with average athletic ability — and very respectable. We got along great! But he was progressing at a very slow pace, and it seemed like the instruction just wasn’t sinking in.
Finally one day, I asked Will if he had any interests other than baseball. He perked up and said, “I like acting.” He went on to tell me about the school play he was in last year when he played a lead role. He told me about an acting class for young actors he had heard of in Nashville ― I couldn’t shut him up!
We spent the rest of the baseball lesson talking about something Will had a genuine interest in. Will liked baseball OK, but he just wasn’t motivated to learn. If he follows his more honest path of acting, I’m guessing things will be different.
Without self-motivation, enthusiasm fades and most goals are never reached.
Will had a good reason for lack of motivation ― he wasn’t interested. Others who come to my gym for instruction have lots of interest and talent but lack the ability to show respect and give a good effort. There’s no excuse for this, and we have some work to do before any progress can be made on skill development!
When kids are not motivated for whatever reason, any attempt at learning technique is going to fall short. On the other hand, when players have an interest and are self-motivated, they seem to learn with ease. When self-motivation is encouraged every step of the way, kids will eventually learn to depend on themselves instead of expecting others to make things happen for them.
The sooner kids become self-motivators the better. This is the No. 1 lesson to be learned in youth sports if an athlete expects to continue to higher levels.
Here are a few things to consider that can help your young athlete get motivated and stay motivated:
• Attainable goals ― Focus on your inner journey more than your outer journey. Your outer journey is the long-term goal. Your inner journeys are the steps to get there. It’s much easier to motivate yourself and stay motivated when your goal is to take the next step instead of trying to reach the top all at once.
• Timetables ― When placing timetables on long term goals, you can lose your way because you lack patience. Failures happen on every journey. Understand this truth and frustration won’t get the best of you. Timetables are useful for short-term goals which are easier to reach and can help you stay motivated.
• Comparing yourself to others ― Be careful here, as you will probably compare your current abilities with someone else’s more advanced abilities. Instead, be motivated by the success of others and get to work. In the words of Derek Jeter, “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.”
In our modern, instant gratification society, becoming a self-motivator can be difficult. To do it, you can’t follow the norm; you must follow your own path.
Remember, it’s a lot easier to teach the concept of self-motivation to a young child when they have a genuine interest in what they are doing. Help them find a sport or activity they enjoy. When it comes to other responsibilities such as chores, help them understand why it’s important and self-motivation will follow.
When not feeling motivated to do something, the most important lesson I have learned is this: if you can convince yourself to do something important for yourself or others, you are “never” sorry you did it. You never say to yourself, “What was I thinking? Why did I help that person? Why did I help myself by going through that tough training session today?”
You will always see the value and be glad you were able to motivate yourself, and in time it will become easier to do what needs to be done. You will come to trust that it works, and you will become a self-motivated person!
Order a signed copy of Coach Chuck’s book, “How to Play Baseball: A Parent’s Role in Their Child’s Journey,” at www.chuckschumacher.com.