Soccer pastures across the world are filled with hopes and dreams.
The scent of freshly cut grass.
The fierce glow of the afternoon sun…
Not to mention the symphony of cheers, gasps and at times…the profanity from the sidelines.
But look closer…
Dive deeper beneath this surface and you’ll discover the beauty of intrinsic soccer motivation. You’ll discover a secret power pumping in the heart of every young player.
It’s not the skills…
…or even the coaches.
It’s the grit of the teeth and the hell bent enthusiasm to win.
We want the best for our kids. We want them to score goals, win games, build resilience and nurture the winning mentality.
But what truly drives them? What ignites the eye of the tiger?
Beyond Trophies and Applause
At its core, intrinsic motivation is about playing for the love of the game, not the applause or praise. It’s about the internal rewards, the feeling of accomplishment, growth and passion.
Kids driven by intrinsic motivation aren’t chasing after external validation. They’re on the field because it’s home…
…because the game stirs something deep within them.
They bounce back faster from defeats.
Because their self-worth isn’t at stake or attached to the scoreboard.
…regardless of the outcome.
The Unseen Perils of Extrinsic Motivation
Kids motivated by trophies, praise or external validation may crumble when these rewards start to fade. Their self worth becomes fragile, unstable and inconsistent. When players pursue accolades, the joy of the game can quickly transform into a relentless downward grind.
The game of soccer…
Just another task that keeps them away from the Ipad.
Ever seen a child so talented- the skills, the flair, the composure suddenly lose interest?
It’s heartbreaking, right?
That’s often the toll of being powered by external rewards…not to mention the nagging and demanding parent.
Cultivating the Inner Spark
Encourage the love of the game.
Celebrate the small moments, the brilliant passes, the clever tackles and even the failed attempts to dribble the whole team.
Allow them to discover their relationship with the game.
Not the score, not the wins but the game itself.
What do they love?
What challenges them?
It’s tempting to intervene, to control, to guide, to yell.
The magic happens when we simply step back and watch.
Have you ever asked your child what soccer means to them?
Their answers might surprise you…
The Power & Perks of Inner Drive
Players fuelled by intrinsic motivation often find deeper satisfaction in their journey.
Every moment on the field becomes a celebration of their passion, rather than a stepping stone to their parents approval.
Without the pressure of constantly seeking external validation, these players tend to be more open to feedback and constructive criticism.
A young player who, instead of lamenting a missed goal, marvels at the beauty of her well timed run. It’s not about what went wrong for her…
…it’s about the endless possibilities of improvement.
Every Step Beyond the Destination
The game of soccer can be fiercely competitive… even brutal at times.
There’s always a new trophy to chase…
A new coach to impress…
A new club to trial…
But the true essence in soccer lies in the journey… not the destination.
Players rooted in intrinsic motivation understand this deeply.
They relish the hard knocks…
The sheer joy of playing irrespective of the scoreboard.
Have you ever seen a group of kids playing in the streets… with no scoreboard, no audience, just the local cats and their shared laughter?
That’s the game in its purest form…
…and driven by the heart.
Guardians of the Flame
Winning feels great. But it’s vital to strike a balance…
…but honour effort, dedication and continuous improvement.
Always be the safe space.
When the game unleashes pain, pressures, expectations and judgements, let your presence be the sanctuary where your child finds unconditional support, love and understanding.
After a game, instead of asking, “did you win?”
“Did you have fun?” or “what did you learn today?”
Shift the focus from results to experiences.
We’re the guardians of their flame, the silent cheerleaders of their inner drive.
Our reactions can shape their relationship with the game, and by extension, with life.
5 Strategies to Ignite Intrinsic Motivation in Soccer Players
1. Foster a LOVE for the game
Encourage enjoyment: Make sure your child is playing soccer because they enjoy it, not because they feel they have to.
Watch matches together: Here’s a thought…. Spend time together! Watch games, discuss the Premier League and your favourite team. Add banter and have friends come over to watch the game.
Play Together: Engage in casual practice and soccer matches in the backyard or nearest local park.
2. Establish a Supportive Environment
Be Positive and Encouraging: Applaud efforts, celebrate achievements, and always provide encouragement, regardless of the outcome.
Healthy Balance: Help them balance soccer with other aspects of life, ensuring that they have time for other interests and relaxations.
Safe Space: Ensure they feel safe to express their thoughts and feelings about the sport without fear of judgment or pressure.
3. Set and Respect Boundaries
Let Them Lead: Allow the child to express their own interests and goals related to soccer, rather than imposing expectations.
Support, Don’t Push: Be there to support them but avoid pushing them into decisions or commitments related to the sport.
Acceptance: Be ready to accept and support their decisions, even if it means taking a break or stepping away from soccer.
4. Model Positive Behaviors
Exemplify Hard Work: Show through your own actions that hard work and dedication are important in achieving goals.
Show Respect: Demonstrate respect towards coaches, officials, and other players, emphasising the importance of sportsmanship.
Consistency: Be consistent in your support and involvement, showing that you’re reliable and invested in their journey.
5. Emphasise Development Over Winning
Focus on Growth: Highlight the importance of skill development, learning, and personal growth over simply winning matches.
Constructive Feedback: Provide constructive criticism that focuses on improvement rather than pointing out faults.
Celebrate Milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate the milestones they achieve in skill development, understanding of the game, and personal achievements.
The Last Dance
In the muddy fields where tiny feet chase after a checkered sphere, we find more than just a game.
We find dreams taking flight on every kick, every goal, and every miss.
It’s a universe where intrinsic soccer motivation isn’t just a phrase—it’s the heartbeat that pulses through every young player, guiding them to chase after more than just a rolling ball.
In our hands, we hold the power to mold a future where the spirit of the game is celebrated in its purest form—free, passionate, and eternally alive in the hearts of our young players.
Let’s step back, and let them play.
Let’s allow them to weave their own collection of experiences, triumphs, and failures. And when they look back, may they see not a path laden with pressure and trophies, but a journey illuminated by love, learning, and the eternal flame of intrinsic motivation.
“May the winds of destiny blow you to the stars”