“You have so much potential!”
How many times have you said that to your child? Teachers often say that about students. Coaches often say that about athletes.
The word potential is such a vague term to me. In fact, I often feel that coaches and teachers use it simply because they have no other way to explain why a child isn’t performing well. It’s an easy default to explain everything from your child needs work to your child just doesn’t have what it takes to play and that’s why he’s on the bench.
What exactly does it mean to perform to one’s potential? How can you help your child play up to his potential in sports?
Every child’s potential is different
What is potential anyway? The dictionary definition describes it as a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.
First of all, everyone has some skill or ability. If it’s latent, it means it’s not being used.
The question is, what is your child’s skill or ability that can be developed?
Is he quick? Strong-armed? Does he have good vision on the court or field?
In order for a child to have potential, there has to be a seed of some skill or ability. Potential doesn’t grow out of nothing.
The first step in helping your child reach his potential is being honest about his skill or ability. We must not compare our kids to other athletes or siblings.We must recognize that each child has unique gifts. We must not try to make our child into someone that he cannot be.
We must recognize that each child’s potential is his alone.
Look for the seeds
In order to determine if your child truly has potential, look for the seeds of that latent skill or ability.
- Spend time playing with him outside, trying different sports: baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, tennis. Let him choose what he enjoys and look for ways to teach him new skills. As you watch him play and have fun, you will begin to see seeds of potential.
- Listen to what his coaches and teachers say. They are objective observers who can pick up on latent skills and abilities.
Water the seedling
When you see that little seedling of skill or ability, then it is your job to water it–or have it watered by others–so that it keeps growing.
We water the seeds of skill and ability–the potential–by:
- Praising even the smallest step in the right direction. No improvement should go unnoticed and unacknowledged.
- Show interest in your child’s achievements by paying attention to his thoughts and feelings.
- Encouraging and supporting your child’s dreams, even if you inwardly doubt them.
- Encouraging him to set his own goals; do not put your expectations on him.
- Providing opportunities for your child to learn how to develop his talents.
If you think your child is not reaching his potential, ask yourself why?
Is he bored? Unmotivated? Burned out? Is he not seeing improvement? Is he not having fun playing?
When a coach or teacher uses that phrase next time to describe your child, ask them for specifics. Don’t let them off the hook with the pat answer–your child has potential–that many coaches and teachers often give by default because they can’t think of anything better to say. Make them explain what they mean. Ask them what they really see.
What do feel he has potential in? What latent abilities or skills do you see in him? How can I–how can WE–help him develop those skills and abilities?
When you ask those questions, you are well on your way to helping your child grow his skills and abilities and realize what it truly means to reach his potential.
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