Motivating Kids to Excel in Sports and Life

photo (14) Dads will do strange things to encourage their children to excel. I recently read that Doug Flutie motivated his daughter’s soccer team to win a game by allowing them to paint his fingernails. John Elway likes to motivate (or perhaps, demotivate his children) by promising to bust out his awesome dance moves. Although I probably wouldn’t do either of these things (okay, I would show off my sweet dance moves), I have done other things to challenge my children to give some extra effort.

A couple of years ago, I coached my daughter’s basketball team. My daughter was a skilled player, but she was timid and lacked enthusiasm. I racked my brain to figure out ways to motivate her. I finally decided to take her to her favorite restaurant if she scored a basket.

For the next several games, she was more aggressive, but she didn’t score any baskets. I cheered her efforts and told her that I admired her hustle.

“But I still haven’t scored a basket,” she said disappointed.

“Just keep playing the way you’re playing right now and I’m sure you’ll score soon,” I said. “I have faith in you.”

My daughter smiled and I gave her a big hug. I think my words had a stronger effect than the promise of a meal. During the next game, she was on fire. She scored two baskets. I was so proud of her and I could tell that she felt a sense of accomplishment.

“See what happens when you believe in yourself,” I told her after the game. She gave me a shy grin and nodded her head.

“Just keep giving your all and good things will happen.”

“I’ll keep doing my best,” she said.

“That’s all I’ve ever asked of you,” I replied. “Now let’s go and get that meal.”

My son recently started his first year of playing football. This is a momentous occasion for any Texas father because football is an obsession in this state. Although he was a bit nervous about playing, he quickly became a stand-out player.

As I watched him run the ball, he reminded me of Houston Texans player, Arian Foster. He was fast and able to shake defenders with some impressive fakes. He never backed down from a challenge and always asked the coach to pair him against the best player on the opposing team.

At the beginning of the season, my wife promised to buy him a slush every time he scored a touchdown and he scored in every game.

I was a bit concerned that getting a slush was his only motivation so I pulled him aside to have a chat.

“I like that you’re playing hard out there, but I want to be sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Don’t do try to score touchdowns for the slush. Do it for the personal satisfaction that it brings you.”

“I will, Daddy,” he said. “But the slushes are just a bonus.”

“I need you to understand that you won’t get rewarded for every accomplishment in your life,” I said. “Your motivation has to come from inside.” By then, his focus had shifted to some shiny thing in the distance and I sent him on his way.

Whether it’s in sports or in life, fathers play a huge role in preparing their children for success. Our words and actions impact our children more than we’ll ever know. That’s why it is so important for us to encourage them with kind words and let them know how much we believe in them. A father’s love is a strong motivator.

Stay Strong,

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Join the conversation: How do you motivate your children to excel?

About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at

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