“Do you know… my Dad gives me $5 for every try I score.” (8 year old kid)
Sound familiar? Dishing out money is a common incentive parents will use for their kids, but should it be? When parents reward outcomes such as scoring tries, goals and points, it will come from a place of love, usually in an attempt to increase motivation for their child. However, money incentives do very little to increase intrinsic motivation, foster positive team play or enhance a growth mindset.
Team sports are great mediums for teaching our kids about life skills such as teamwork, working hard, cooperation, communication... If a young player is rewarded through money, they are more likely to play selfishly. You may have seen it… they have players in better positions to score points, but decide to hold onto the ball and do it themselves.
Money incentives are an extrinsic motivator, to show what success is and isn’t. The message that may be received is… if you don’t score tries, goals or points then you have had a poor game. This can lead to a lack of self-esteem and motivation, especially when they don’t score.
We may not even need extrinsic motivators, but could just rely on praise. There is a fair amount of research (check out Carol Dweck) to show that if we praise effort then our kids are more likely to develop a growth mindset and demonstrate higher resilience, try harder when things get tough and adapt following mistakes. Where if we praise talent the opposite will occur. So as coaches how can we foster an environment that encourages a growth mindset and increases intrinsic motivation?
For starters consider how you observe practices and matches and what actions are important? No doubt it will be easy for us to notice and praise the players who score the tries, goals and points, but what else is important to observe and praise? Although a player may score a try, goal or points, praise / acknowledge the other players who did the ‘unnoticed’ work such as tackling, clearing rucks or making a pass to a teammate. Acknowledging efforts like these are so vital in team sports.
So let’s consider how we frame any rewards, incentives or feedback to the kids. Although money incentives come with good intentions, they may do more harm than good?
And of course inform your parents and bring them on the journey too.