By Jack Perconte
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
This is a frequent request I receive from parents, “Would you make him a major leaguer?” My response is usually something along the lines of, “Only he can do that, but I will try to instill the correct fundamentals and impress upon him the importance of a great work ethic.”
To avoid having regrets later and to reach one’s potential, a great work ethic is mandatory in sports. Playing youth sports is a great avenue for parents to teach their kids the importance of a good work ethic.
Legendary coach John Wooden said “Many athletes have tremendous God-given gifts… Who are these individuals? You have never heard of them and you never will.” There are a lot of gifted athletes that never reach their potential as coach Wooden alludes to. What is the missing ingredient that prevents many athletes from reaching their potential? – A good work ethic. The good news is that this can be developed in kids and stressing a good work ethic in a positive way is one of the best things that adults can do for kids in youth sports.
Many people believe that a love of sport must be necessary in order for players to work hard. I have found in my years of coaching that this is not always the case. Many of my students work hard even when it is not their favorite sport because they have developed a work ethic and a dedication to give their best at all endeavors. Often, it is only when their hard work turns into success that a love for that sport develops; the hard work came first.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Display a great work ethic in their own life.
2. Learn to praise effort and not results.
3. Avoid false praise which congratulates kids for a job well done when the effort was apparently lacking.
4. Make a point of noticing other hard-working athletes, telling such athletes how their effort is appreciated and using these athletes as an example to others.
6. Explain to kids that it is not the natural athletes who usually succeed in the long run but the steady, methodical athletes who continually work at their skills.
7. Let athletes know that they cannot usually control the outcome, but they can control their amount of effort and preparation, which usually helps determine the outcome.
8. Encourage athletes to keep positive images in their mind and remind them to try to keep the bad moments out of mind.
9. Explain that you consider them a success when they display the “will” to prepare to be their best.
It is important to note that with this emphasis on preparation over results, players develop a positive self-esteem regardless if they are successful or not.
It is also important to note that adults who constantly “harp” on kids to work hard usually turn them off rather than motivate them. Finally, kids who develop a good work ethic in sports generally recognize the importance of hard work in every endeavor they pursue, which is ultimately the goal of preaching a good work ethic in sports.
Jack Perconte played 12 years of professional baseball. After retiring in 1987, he opened a baseball training academy in Naperville, Ill.