Pushing Kids in Sports

A mother asks how she and her husband can motivate their daughter to get to the next level in sports.
My 13-year-old girl loves sports. She's been playing basketball since second grade and really enjoys it. We've never pushed her to play the game but we've sent her to camps and and driven her to out-of-state games and tournaments.

How do we motivate her to get to the next level in sports? My husband and I try to talk to her about how competitive high-school basketball can be, and if she really wants to make a team she must work harder. She tends to "yes" us to death, but when we see her play we know she can do better. How should I approach her without being demanding or preachy?

Your daughter is 13. She fully comprehends her talent level as compared to others her age and older. It appears she doesn't care as much as you do about getting "to the next level". Telling her she must work harder and that you know she can do more will only cause her anxiety and disappointment that you don't approve of her (she's not good enough for you). Although you protest that you never pushed her to play the game.

I think you are pushing her to play better. You both need to question why this so troubles you. I think you have too much invested in her sports success. Let her enjoy the sport for as long as she can. If that means she gets cut from a school team, there are always other recreational teams she can play on.

Please take the pressure off her. Let the natural consequences of how she treats this part of her life evolve. There are lessons to be learned if we let our kids learn them, without blame or nagging. I'm very sensitive about this parent-child area because I've seen far too many kids of all ages suffer in silence because they feel they have let their parents down by not measuring up to their parent's hopes. Thanks for listening.

Back to

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.