There are lots of reasons why a child may struggle to stay motivated with physical activity. Some children are just more easily discouraged than others, regardless of their actual ability. Others find sports difficult due to a lack of fitness, or difficulties with co-ordination.
A lack of motivation can set up a destructive circle. These children are more likely to walk away from the challenges offered by physical activity, making them less likely to develop sports skills, and therefore less likely to participate in the future, gradually falling further and further behind their peers.
Being a gifted sports person isn't essential, but being able to confidently and competently enjoy sporting activities is the foundation for good physical health and an enjoyable social life.
Here are some tips to help your little ones master the things that they find tricky, and help them stay motivated to keep trying.
Meet Them At Their Current Level
Work with the skill base as it currently is, not what it should be.
Maybe they should be able to throw and catch a tennis ball by now. But they can't. And continuously making them practice a skill they have very limited success at is going to be very discouraging for them. Take the skill they are struggling with and break it down into its component parts.
For example, to throw and catch a tennis ball they need to: - Be familiar with a tennis balls size and weight - Successfully apply force a direction to throw a ball - Successfully track the movement of a ball coming towards them - Position their hands appropriately - Apply the correct amount of force to catch it.
It doesn't sound so easy when you break it down into all the different stages.
Lucky for you your brain and body adapt to the situation in as little time as it takes for your friend to shout 'heads up'. For children it isn't that easy. So you need to make it easier for them.
Inspired by this post, there will be a series of articles this month about tackling basic sporting skills with children. The first of these will be learning how to throw and catch.
Part of making it easier will involve removing as many frustrations as possible. One of the worst things about learning how to play any ball sports is constantly loosing then fetching the ball.
Swingballs are a great way to practice hand eye-ordination as the child doesn't have the frustration of scampering after an errant ball.
Be Open About Your Own Challenges
One of the most frustrating things for children who struggle with sports, is to see how effortless it is for those around them. They probably feel like they are the only one. It's important to be honest and share stories about the things you struggle at. Maybe you have always been a natural at football but couldn't swim until you were 18. Talk about how that made you feel. Children do not have a very large circle of reference. If everyone they see around them is great at sports, they might feel like the only person in the world who isn't.
Mix It Up
Mix up your activities with something you know they excel at. Maybe they suck at rounders but are great at football. Make sure you switch between the too. Or maybe sports aren't their thing, so switch between outdoor games and board games, running about and arts and crafts. Whatever gives them a healthy balance of challenge and boost to their self esteem.
Nobody wants to spend all their time out of their comfort zone. Some of the time is great for personal development. All of the time would just about drive you crazy. As parents, you can help your children strike a healthy balance.