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Offering youth sport players a small reward is a great way to improve motivation and build self-esteem.
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Playing youth sports teaches children how to work as a team, follow the rules and build self-confidence. When a player positively stands out from others, it is important to recognize this to set an example for other team members. Rewarding a team player for their hard work can be as simple as just verbally telling them or as complicated as monitoring the children throughout the season to reward the player who contributed to the team the most.
Words of Encouragement
Encouragement and recognition go a long way in youth sports, especially for building self-confidence. Being firm and clear with children in sports may be needed in order to see improvement, but this should go along with words of encouragement. If a child is struggling but it is clear they are trying, pull them aside and tell them how much better of a player they have become and tell them you are proud. The reward of encouragement is the most meaningful reward that no price can be put on.
If your team worked hard during the last game or series of games, plan a team outing with parents and players as a reward for all of their effort. Team outing ideas include a picnic with a water balloon fight, an ice cream social or a trip to a local zoo or museum. Team outings give the children a time to relax, socialize and feel appreciated for their commitment to the team.
Dollar Store Rewards
Children usually do not care about the price of a reward; they are just excited that they received one. When you see a player go above and beyond during the game, let them pick out a reward from a basket of items from a dollar store. Include rewards such as stickers, foam sports balls and snacks. Do not make handing out rewards a frequent thing, as the children will grow to expect them every time they do something right. Make it a special event, such as when a play is carried out perfectly or when a player offers emotional support to another player during a game.
Most Valuable Player
At the end of each season, recognize one of the players as a MVP, or most valuable player. The child that you recognize doesn't have to be the best player. He could show teamwork skills that go above and beyond any expectations set, such as doing lots of outside volunteer work or fundraising with the team. Award him with a signed ball or other item from your game, with his name written on it in permanent marker, along with "MVP" and the date and your signature. This will forever be a special keepsake item.