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Reward Effort Until Effort Is Its Own Reward

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David Jacobson (@CoachDaveJake) is a PCA trainer and has coached children ages five to 15 in baseball, softball and basketball (including his own son and daughter), and has officiated baseball, softball, basketball and flag football.

Among the most important life lessons youth and high school athletes can take from sports is the value of effort. Throughout their lives – in sports, in school, in family and friendship and career – success will require tremendous effort. Eventually your players may come to view effort as its own reward. They may enjoy the sheer exhaustion of sprints or the reassurance that seemingly endless rote repetition of skills has prepared their minds and muscles to perform at gametime.

However, most youth (and adults!) balk at this type of work. Until they learn to experience effort as its own reward, you will need to coax and cajole players into making the necessary commitment during practice. Here are a few approaches:

  • Introduce Competition
  • Targeted Symbolic Rewards
  • Keep “Emotional Tanks” Overflowing
  • Provide Continual Inspiration

To keep your players inspired, have a ready supply of examples of hard work paying off. Inspiration may be drawn from pro sports or other high-profile endeavors, but it can be even more effective to discuss a local example or one close in age to your players. That may make your players’ long-term goals seem more achievable so that they are sold on the idea that with extra effort, they can succeed, too.

Along the way, emphasize that effort is its own reward. Players may not believe or understand this at first, but when they start to see results from their efforts, they will catch on and improve as athletes and as people.

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