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How often should you push kids to practice?

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

How often should parents push kids to practice?

The answer depends entirely on the goals of your child for their sport and the level of previous commitment you have agreed upon as a family.  

For example, if your child is under the age of 10 and is just starting a sport, the goal should be to maintain the fun and joy of playing.  Instead of asking them if they have practiced, ask them "do you want to go play (insert sport) with me?!"  Frame the practice as an opportunity to literally play and have fun with you.  Don't overly focus on providing correction and coaching, just engage in the sport with them.  

On the other hand, if you have a teenager who is trying to make the varisty squad and they have said it is really important to them, then you can certainly ask them if they have practiced yet.  You can offer to run them through drills or help them.  

No two situations are exactly alike.  What we do know is the many kids quit sport because it is no longer fun.  Not every moment of sport is fun. As kids move up in competitive levels and age they will eventually have to "work" at getting better.  Work isn't always fun.  But kids should always enjoy the overall experience of playing and competing in their sport.  If this enjoyment is lost because the feel like their sport has turned into a job they are less likely to stick with it. 

So when decidiing whether to prompt or remind your kid to practice consider these tips:

1. Different Goals, Require Different Approaches:

Align Expectations with Goals: Parents should base their expectations of their child's practice time on the child's own goals for the sport. It's crucial that the child's commitment matches or exceeds the parent's.

Casual Participation:
If the child is playing for fun without a competitive drive, practice should be optional and based on their interest.

Serious Participation: For children aiming to play at higher levels, such as on travel teams or varsity squads, practicing outside of regular team activities and coaching is essential.

Avoid Adding Pressure: With many kids already having packed schedules, parents should avoid becoming overbearing about practice. A non-judgmental approach, like asking if they’ve had a chance to practice, is recommended.

2. Support and Challenge:

If the child hasn’t practiced, parents should offer help or support to facilitate their practice sessions.

Challenge: If a child consistently neglects practice despite serious ambitions, it’s appropriate to challenge their commitment by questioning if their efforts align with their stated goals. Kid's don't always make good decisions.  In fact their critical thinking brain doesn't fully develop until ~22 years old.  They do need help and guidance to make good decisions from time to time.  

Respecting the Child's Autonomy: Parents must accept if a child decides not to pursue a sport seriously. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink.  It's really ok if your child doesn't want to be "elite" and you need to be ok with that decision if it's is what you child wants. This might lead to a family discussion about reallocating time, resources, and money spent on the sport which is also appropriate.

​This approach emphasizes a balance between supporting and motivating a child in sports, while also respecting their individual interests and pressures.

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Hi, I Am ValErie Alston

Certified Mental Performance Consultant

Resilience Trainer and Performance Expert for the Army


Former D1 Softball Player

Crossfit Enthusiast

Avid Traveler and lover of food

And Awesome Auntie!