Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Recognizing Effort: The Key to Raising Lifelong Athletes

Parenting a young athlete is a rewarding experience, but it’s important to shift our focus from solely celebrating results to acknowledging effort. Studies have shown that praising children for their hard work rather than their natural abilities leads to more positive outcomes in the long run. In this article, we explore how recognizing effort can contribute to the development of well-rounded and resilient athletes.

Emphasizing the Value of Effort

Encouraging healthy and positive attitudes in young athletes is crucial. Instead of solely valuing winning, it’s important to highlight the importance of hard work and personal growth. The real goal should be helping athletes develop an internal compass that guides them towards continuous improvement. By emphasizing effort, we can instill a sense of fulfillment that goes beyond the outcome of a game or competition.

Recognition vs. Appreciation

Mike Robbins, author of “Bring Your Whole Self to Work and Focus on the Good Stuff,” emphasizes the distinction between recognition and appreciation. Recognition focuses on performance, while appreciation centers around connecting with people on a deeper level. As parents and coaches, we should take the time to appreciate the dedication and effort our young athletes put into their pursuits, rather than solely focusing on their achievements.

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Striking a Balance

While it’s important to emphasize effort, we shouldn’t ignore the results altogether. Winning and losing are inherent aspects of sports, and it’s vital to have open conversations about these outcomes. Discussing the game results honestly helps young athletes process their emotions and learn from their experiences. However, it’s equally crucial to ensure that young athletes feel valued and supported regardless of the outcome.

Authenticity Matters

When providing feedback, studies have shown that sincerity and warmth are more beneficial to a child’s self-esteem than excessively inflated praise. It’s essential to be genuine and caring when discussing an athlete’s performance, rather than sugar-coating the truth. Athletes can recognize when their coaches genuinely care about their well-being, even if they exhibit tough coaching methods. Building trust and showing that we value them as individuals sets the stage for constructive criticism and growth.

Prioritize Care Before Criticism

To effectively coach young athletes, it’s essential to prioritize their emotional well-being. By investing in the athlete’s emotional bank account through genuine care and support, coaches build trust that allows for more open and receptive feedback. Athletes who feel valued and supported are more likely to accept criticism and work towards improving their performance. It’s crucial to show athletes that we are invested in their development, not just the end result.


After a match or competition, finding the right words can be challenging. Start with a simple but sincere statement like, “I loved watching you play.” This acknowledges the effort and dedication put into the game, regardless of the outcome. Remember, we may not have control over the final result, but we can always control our attitude and effort.

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Q: How can recognizing effort benefit young athletes?
A: Recognizing effort helps young athletes develop a growth mindset, promotes resilience, and fosters a lifelong love for sports. It also contributes to the development of self-esteem and a strong work ethic.

Q: Should we focus solely on effort and ignore results?
A: While effort is essential, it’s important to strike a balance. Acknowledging both effort and results helps young athletes process their experiences and learn from both victories and defeats.

Q: How can coaches create a positive and supportive environment for young athletes?
A: Coaches can prioritize care and emotional support, provide constructive feedback, and foster a culture of trust and respect. By valuing the athlete as an individual, coaches can inspire athletes to improve their skills and enjoy the process of personal growth.

In conclusion, recognizing effort in young athletes is key to their long-term development and success. By shifting our focus from results to effort, we can foster a positive and supportive environment that promotes growth and resilience. Let’s celebrate the dedication and hard work of our young athletes to raise a generation of lifelong sports enthusiasts. For more expert advice and resources, visit our website