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Well, it’s official, the holidays have come and gone. Hopefully you have fond memories to hold on to and new toys to play with but for athletes, the next two months are often considered the hardest. Sometimes it is difficult to find motivation when it is cold, there is snow on the ground, and the days still feel shorter than they should. It makes it just a little bit harder to go for a run or gear up for another practice. It’s important for young athletes to seek inspiration from the little things and for coaches and parents to encourage them to do so.
Set small, short-term goals: If you are gearing up for a spring sport, sometimes it is hard to be inspired when the season still feels so far away. Encourage young athletes to set small, short-term goals like “I want to juggle the soccer ball 50 times” or “I want to play wall ball two times every week.” This gives them something tangible to focus on in the short run while they are still improving their skills.
Recognize improvements: Think of every workout or practice representing another brick in the wall. It’s impossible to think that an athlete can go from a rookie to an all-star in a matter of months but recognizing their progress and improvement is crucial for building confidence. As an athlete, this means paying attention to the little things like being able to throw the ball just a little bit farther. For coaches and parents this means pointing out these improvements, “You are doing a great job keeping your eye on the ball.”
Look to teammates for support: If athletes have a hard time getting motivated on their own, it helps to have someone else there to practice with and commiserate with. Encourage kids to pair up with a friend to go for a run or for an impromptu throw-around. It is inspiring to have someone else working hard alongside you and motivation is contagious. It’s also more fun to have a companion cheering you on and often you will get more out of the workout.
Keep it fun: Sometimes, you just have to mix it up a little bit. If it has been a long week of practice, throw in an unexpected game or a completely different activity. If you coach a hockey team, have the team meet at the basketball court and if you coach basketball, have your girls lace on some ice skates for a fun and different workout.
Don’t let the long, cold days get you down, just stay positive and keep focusing on the small improvements. And if all else fails, look at funny things that make you laugh, like the motivational poster below.