How To Encourage Your Young Athlete

Do you understand how and why your young athlete receives love and encouragement in his (or her) youth sports and why it matters?

In 2007, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages.  His premise is that every person has one love language, one that speaks more loudly and deeply to him or her.  The love languages are: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, giving and receiving gifts, and acts of service. To your child, one of those speaks of your love more clearly than the others. Determining which love language, will help you communicate love to your child in a way he truly hears and allow you to effectively communicate your support for your young athlete in a way that will make him feel proud.
young boy playing soccer

5 Ways to Encourage Your Child In Sports:

PHYSICAL TOUCH

Some athletes respond to a hug of excitement after a good game or a hug of consolation after a bad one. Do you know if your child is one of those?  Mine weren’t. Hugging was the last thing they wanted from me after a game. My job was not to take that personally and to find out what they did want from me.  If your child is a hugger, then by all means, hug them before, after games, and often in between.

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

Maybe your athlete only needs to hear he did a good job. He worked hard. He is improving. He’s a leader on the field. If words of affirmation are his love language, then be frequent with your encouragement, avoiding fluffy flattery and focusing on words that are sincere and heartfelt.

QUALITY TIME

Some kids just want your undivided attention. They want you to play catch with them, shoot baskets with them, take them to the batting cages, and of course, come to their games. Spending quality time with them is enough to fill their love tanks.

GIVING & RECEIVING GIFTS

Parents are tempted to speak this language almost exclusively because it’s easy. But the fact is, some kids do not feel loved by the gifts showered on them. Although gift giving is not the love language of all kids, for some it speaks loudly of love.  A new bat, sports bag, glove, basketball. A volleyball net in the back yard. Or think outside the norm and hide small gifts in their lunch or sports bag. When a youth athlete knows his needs are met above and beyond, he feels loved.

ACT OF SERVICE

As our kids grow, we strive to teach them independence. They learn to wash their own clothes, help with chores, make their own lunches, clean out the car.  This is as it should be.  When we know that our child’s love language is acts of service, we should’t feel we are robbing them of their chance to learn independence when we serve them. When we do acts of service as an expression of love with a caring attitude, rather than a duty, we are communicating love.  Go ahead, wash her uniform for her while she does her homework. Clean her room while she’s away on a team trip. Make her lunch when she’s had a rough night of practice. Not all the time of course.  Acts of service are gifts and we don’t have to give gifts all the time.

Our young athletes need to receive love in all five languages, but focusing on the primary love language of your child will fill his love tank much quicker and more effectively.

Janis B. Meredith writes a sports parenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.

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