“Try your best.” We have all heard this hundreds or thousands of times in our life, and like anything else that you hear over and over, it can quickly become white noise and lose its true meaning. Especially when you haven’t ever sat down and thought about what it means to truly “try your best”. It is the first part of the slogan for Coach Chris Sports. I mean if you don’t try your best whats the point of trying at all? Whatever it is, sports, school, life, art if you’re going to do it and care about the result you should give your best effort. One of the reasons I think sports are so powerful is that sports imitate life. I know, I know, the familiar saying is “art imitates life” but sports do too and often much more clearly. In one word, trying your best means: FOCUS! If you have truly tried your best and FOCUSED then you will have no regrets. To focus on something requires: setting a specific goal, planning, practice/sacrifice, performance, and reflection.
Setting a Specific/Realistic Goal:
This is the start of truly trying your best. You have to know what, specifically, you are trying your best to achieve. It sounds simple but without clear goals, children are just wandering. Your child will improve just by playing and participating but having a clear goal gives them benchmarks of achievement to strive for and helps them build confidence. Whether your child wants to score more points in basketball, make fewer errors in baseball or lower their time personal record time in a particular swimming event you must start with specific, realistic, achievable goals with a clear endpoint. Map these goals out and WRITE THEM DOWN! Help them to keep a log of how much time, effort and focus they allocated to the goal. For strategies and tips on how to set appropriate goals for your child, see my blog post: Setting Goals and Achieving Success
So now you have a clear goal, great! For your child to improve and achieve their goal, they are going to have to dedicate time, energy and effort to practice. Ask, their coach what the best way for them to improve on that skill would be and make a clear plan. If they want to bring their batting average up they will need to spend more time in the cage “taking cuts” so maybe 100 extra swings each day after practice is a solid place to start. If they want to improve their math scores they need to spend twenty extra minutes a night doing extra sample problems. Make the parameters clear and agree to what the minimum EXTRA practice will be to achieve their goal and agree to it. When they have met their end of the agreement (done their extra 20 minutes or taken their extra 100 swings), then they are done and the practice for that day is over. If they decide on their own that they want to do more, fantastic, but if they don’t, congratulate them on keeping their end of the bargain and let them walk away from that practice session. This way you acknowledge their effort and avoid burning them out because it is no longer “fun”.
With only so many hours in the day, it likely means they are going to have to give something up. They may have to spend less time playing video games or hanging out with their friends. It might mean getting up earlier to get extra work in before school. Whatever sacrifice they might have to make to reach their goal, make the sacrifice and the duration of that sacrifice as clear as possible beforehand. While they are in that period of sacrifice, use positive reinforcement to keep them energized and consistently remind them of how much they have improved. This is where a clear end or sacrifice/practice duration is key. If they have an endpoint in sight it will be easier to keep them on track if the goal is too open-ended, they might give up because it feels like it will never end or is unachievable.
This is where all the hard work comes together and it is time to see their efforts pay off. If it is their next basketball game (where they are trying to score more points) or the day of the math test (if they are trying to improve their grade) this is where it all comes together for the big finale. But performance isn’t just actually playing the game or taking the test, it includes final preparations leading up to the performance. Things like getting a good night’s sleep, making sure their equipment is in good condition so you are not scrambling the next day, having quality food the day of the event, reminding them of all the DOCUMENTED extra work they have put in and taking a moment to visualize their success. Setting them up in this manner will leave them feeling confident that what they are putting out is their best work. That alone can have a huge effect on the final performance.
Immediately following the game or performance, after it is all done, regardless of the outcome, acknowledge their sincere effort and tell them simply: “I love watching you play”. Do not poke and prod or even heap praise immediately following the game or performance. There is no need to analyze in that moment. Why? Because your child knows whether they achieved their goal or not and if you, and your child, have done the work, then they will want to discuss when they are ready. When that time comes be ready, willing and available to listen.
What If they achieve their goal:
One of the best things about setting goals is achieving them. If you child reaches their goal congratulate them, celebrate it and remind them that their dedication paid off. This should serve as a perfect example that they can accomplish any goal if they focus and give it the proper attention and effort. Make a big deal of it! Even a little mini celebration will reinforce their success and build confidence. Get ice cream at their favorite place, let them have extra time doing something else they enjoy, take them on a special outing whatever it is recognize these facts:
- They had a part in setting a realistic goal
- They agreed to the work that needed to be done
- They committed and did the work!
- The work paid off
This is a very powerful lesson and process for the child to be a part of. This blueprint will transfer to other facets of their life and will have a lasting positive impact on them, long after their sports career is over.
What If they don’t reach their goal:
Congratulate them on their effort but also be realistic. Failing is nothing but a step toward success so you don’t want to harp on the negative but you can’t ignore it either. You do want to drill down and analyze, what they could have done to better prepare? Did they put in the work they agreed to? Did they focus? Get their input as much as possible. Ask them if they feel like they truly committed to the process and if they held up their end of the bargain. Most kids, believe it or not, will acknowledge when they have been slacking or they didn’t give their best effort. If they admit that they could’ve done better in one aspect or the other, don’t admonish them for it, just acknowledge it and begin to work with them to offer ideas/solutions to how to get it done next time.
Now it is time to set a new goal and go through the whole process of setting a specific goal, practice/sacrifice, performance, and reflection all over again.
Trying your best in any activity whether it be school, sports, work or anything else is not just about what the child does in that the moment on the field, the day of the test or the afternoon of your big presentation: it is about creating a mindset that allows them to achieve the best result possible, as frequently as possible.
Anyone who has played any amount of sports has had games where you “left it all on the field” the game is over and you have nothing left; physically, mentally or emotionally. They had a clear goal, prepared, sacrificed, visualized and came up short but still walked with their head held high because there was nothing more they could do. Sometimes you come out with a win, sometimes with a loss but knowing that you truly did “try your best”, is extremely powerful and pays dividends in endless ways, for the rest of their lives, no matter what the “scoreboard” says.
If you are a parent, or parent coach, looking for some guidance on navigating the waters of youth sports. I offer online consulting to answer your questions and help you create a positive experience for you and your child to get the most out of youth sports. You can find out more information here: Youth Sports Consulting or email Chris@coachchrissports.com