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Ensuring Kids Love their Sport

Positive Mindset for Young Athletes

What’s one of the best ways coaches can communicate with young athletes?

Give them high fives, and stay silent. That’s the word from Jarrett Robertson, former pro hockey player and author of “Make It a Great Day: How to Feel Awesome So That You Can Help Others.” He recently talked to us as a guest on our Ultimate Sports Parent podcast.

A high five, he says, is worth much more than verbal praise. It’s more motivating and inspiring. When coaches high five kids, they’re often telling them that they’re seen and heard. Nonverbal communication, it turns out, is more powerful than words.

“I give high fives and fist bumps,” he says. “No words, I go around and say nothing, it’s just affirmation.” The physical contact of a high five, or hug, or tap on the head says much more than words.

Being loud and having fun is another way to motivate kids. One of the coaches encourages kids to skate, fall, and get up as fast as possible. That’s one example.

“Most communication comes from non verbal. The words I say mean little,” says Robertson. “With my body language, how I look, I want that energy to come across at the end of the day and motivate kids to always want to get better. They will push themselves if they’re having fun.”

In addition to focusing on non-verbal communication, Robertson lays out expectations for the parents. He tells them his plan, for example, is to ensure kids can skate backwards, make passes and shoot hard. But, if at the end of the day, they still want to play but haven’t mastered these skills, he has succeeded as a coach.

“If they just love the game, that’s fantastic,” says Robertson.

Overall, he wants kids to focus hard and embrace each moment.

“I tell kids, ‘When on the ice, I want you to work as hard as you can. When you color (on paper), I want you to work as hard as you can. Focus and give your all at that moment.”

Listen to the Full Podcast:

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