How to Motivate Kids in Sports

How to Motivate a Losing Team

Motivating a team who is on a winning streak shouldn't be too difficult. However, keeping a team on a losing streak motivated may be one of the toughest challenges in sports. This especially applies to young children because their self-esteem can be fragile. As a parent or coach, providing positive feedback is essential after a loss.

Kids want to win, and they can be just as competitive in sports as any adult can. Let them know that it's OK for them to feel disappointed; however, you should emphasize that you are not disappointed in them. Focus on what steps the team will take to come back and earn a win next time. Although you may be tempted to go with a stern talk, try instead to keep in mind that these kids probably did not join little league or the youth soccer team to pad their stats. They most likely joined to have fun and stay active, so don't take the enjoyment out of it for them.

In addition to the personal aspect of motivation, you also have to consider the social aspect. For example, although being competitive in sports helps kids learn to set goals and work hard, sometimes the focus shifts from having fun to doing whatever it takes to win. Older children often have a better understanding of the nature of being competitive than the younger ones do, but it is important for the adults involved to assess the situation and make sure things don't get too heated [source: Johnson]. It is crucial to teach them that even in the event of a loss, good sportsmanship must be maintained.

You should also be consistent in your approach. For example, if you tend to be a laid-back type of coach, try to maintain that style even when the team loses so that you don't confuse or frighten them.

Kids involved in sports look to their coaches and parents to give them support. If they receive the support they need, it will encourage them to set goals and stick to them. With understanding and motivation, the young athlete can gain the confidence it takes to pursue his or her passions and have fun doing it.

Visit the links on the following page for more information on how to motivate kids in sports.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Center for Kids First. "The Facts About Youth Sports." (Accessed 1/4/10).
  • Gould, Daniel Ph.D. "Are High School Sports Good for Kids?" Institute for the Study of Youth Sports. Michigan State University. (Accessed 1/5/10).
  • Harris, Robert. "Some Ideas for Motivating Students." Virtual Salt. (Accessed 1/4/10).
  • Kids Health. "Keeping Kids Active." (Accessed 1/4/10).
  • Let the Kids Play. "'Let the Kids Play' Fact Sheet." (Accessed 1/5/10).
  • Johnson, Cynthia E. "Children and Competition." North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. North Carolina State University. (Accessed 1/4/10).