When my twins were in kindergarten, their friends asked them if they wanted to play soccer. I'd seen the registration flyers all over town, but hadn't thought much about them. Suddenly, both kids wanted to play, and I was happy to give them a shot.
Unfortunately, my daughter had suffered from delayed motor skills since birth. She couldn't run, jump, or kick like the other girls. When her team jogged around the field to warm up, she'd only make it halfway before the rest of the girls finished. She needed inspiration, like many young players do. Here are 10 ways I found to encourage her and inspire her to play her best.
1. Show up for the games
I don't think anything inspires a child to work harder at their sport than having their parents in the bleachers cheering them on. Go to your child's games every time you can.
2. Focus on the positives
Focus on all the things your child is doing right, even if they are still doing a lot of things wrong. My daughter couldn't kick the ball into the goal at first, but we cheered her on as she got stronger and the ball went further down the field. If she hadn't had our encouragement, she might have quit before she ever scored her first goal.
3. Embrace the whole team
If your child sees you cheering for the whole team, they'll feel better about being a part of a group and working together toward a common goal. Embrace the whole team and encourage positive teamwork.
4. Invest in quality gear
You don't have to go overboard spending on your child's sport, but by purchasing a good quality piece of equipment, your child will have tangible proof you are invested in their efforts. I purchased a pink soccer ball my daughter absolutely loved.
5. Watch the pros
Give your child a chance to see how the pros, or at least the college athletes play the game. If you can't attend a game in person, watch one together on TV. Your child will be excited and inspired to play harder.
6. Practice together
As your child learns new skills, go out and practice together. Have a game of catch, kick the ball around or run through some drills. Whatever the sport, you can encourage your child by playing with them.
7. Write to a favorite player
One way to get kids really excited about their sport is to make a connection with a player. If your child has a favorite player, help them write a letter and send it. Maybe they'll even get a reply encouraging them to stick with it.
8. Give back to others
Find a way to give back to others, either by donating your time to younger or disadvantaged players or maybe by collecting gently used gear to share with those less fortunate.
9. Take tons of pictures
Your child doesn't know what they look like on the field. Take pictures while they are in motion, capture their game face, catch the memories while you can. Seeing these shots can help inspire kids by showing them that they do look like they know what they are doing out there.
10. Listen to your child
One of the hardest things for many parents to do is really listen to their child. Your kid may come to a point where they no longer want to play, either because the sport is no longer fun or because they are just tired and want to try something else. Listen, and be supportive.