There is a phrase that every athlete loves to hear.
“Wow, you won the game!”
“Awesome, you scored the goals!”
“You were the best one out there!”
Well, at least it shouldn’t be…
Yes, it can be exciting to hear about how awesome someone thinks we are. However, the statement that every young athlete, universally, swells with pride upon hearing is…
“I love to watch you play!”
Such a simple statement…yet so very powerful. These six words compliment an athlete for the things they truly have control and impact on – their effort, their hard work, their resiliency, their dedication, their “try”! Those are the things that should receive the highest level of recognition and praise. Furthermore, letting any young person know that you had a genuinely enjoyable time watching them have fun and work hard is guaranteed to accomplish two things – 1) make them smile (what’s better than that?!) and 2) repeat, repeat, repeat. Yes! You’re praising an athlete for their effort encourages them to put forth effort of equal or greater measure each time they participate in their activity.
I wish I could take credit for coming up with such a powerful statement. Alas, I can’t. You see, I used to one who yelled “Yes, you won!” or, worse yet, muttered, “No worries, you’ll get ‘em next time.” It wasn’t until I read the encouragement of the phrase “I loved watching you play today!” that I realized the flaw in my prior approach – conditioning children to believe success only equals winning, only winning equals success. NOT TRUE!! Success is playing a better game than the last one, running just slightly longer, or sometimes, simply taking the floor/stage/mat/field/test when your nerves scream “RUN the other way!!”
So the next time the athlete you’re watching approaches you after their latest event, give it a try – slap a smile on your face and say, “I loved watching you today!” and watch them smile right back!