Motivation is one of the words we hear all the time when we talk about athletics. We all have an understanding of what the word means, but I think there are many things we need to consider when we talk about motivation. One is where does that motivation come from and second what do we do when the “motivation” of our kids is lacking.


We all hear parents getting after their kids to work harder or run faster or make a better effort or to compete at the ballpark. There is nothing more aggravating to a parent than to watch their child give, what they think, is a less than maximum effort. We are always reminded about how much has been invested and the least that should be expected is that the kid give it her all. Right?


Well, there are a lot of things that might impact the amount of effort a player is giving and getting to know that list is a great step forward in trying to maintain some parent mental health!


1. Are your expectations age-appropriate? Kids do just want to have fun and getting yelled at to work harder isn’t much fun. The younger the player the more likely that they will have an off day and while your yelling at them might snap them into giving the effort you want for the short term it probably is damaging their long term future in the game.


2. Are there underlying issues? Before you assume that your kid just doesn’t “want it” enough be sure there isn’t something contributing to their effort swings. I’ve seen kids who appeared to be lazy only to find out they had asthma. I’ve seen kids who appeared to not care be diagnosed with severe cases of ADHD. Both kids ended up being great players, after the issues were identified and the proper adjustments were made. But how much time was spent yelling about motivation? A lot!


3. Is she in the right sport? Many of us choose to start our kids in T-ball and soccer because they are offered to young kids and we want to get our “athlete” into the game. My wife and I lied about our sons age to get him started in t-ball so I understand where it comes from. Just because they appear to enjoy these entry-level opportunities does not mean that they are equally excited about making softball their lives. They are often sticking with it because they think you want them to!


4. Are they burnt out? Kids experience burn out just like professional athletes do. They have a lot going on in their lives, thanks to our efforts to “give them every opportunity” to succeed. Burnout isn’t just caused by over dedication to a single sport it can also result from getting stretched too thin over a wide variety of activities. They really only have a certain amount of gas in the tank. 


5. Are they afraid of failure? We all mean well when we praise our players and tell them how special or gifted or talented they are. They take that to mean that they are expected to succeed all the time. They should be great because we keep telling them how great they are. When they struggle, and everyone struggles in Fastpitch softball, they become very confused and can often conclude that if they hold back they aren’t really failing they just aren’t trying. Fear of failure can also come from parents or coaches setting a bar that is too high to reach, even for the talented players, who can also choose not trying versus giving it their all and disappointing someone they love or respect.


Give this list some thought the next time you want to get after your kid or one off your players for what you think is a lack of effort. motivation is much more complicated when you dig in a little bit!


About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.