Why Do So Many Kids Play in Soccer Leagues? May 16, 2009Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Motivation.
Tags: Ideas, Motivation
I had three kids in soccer leagues this year. Our city league is always packed full of players. I got to thinking a lot about why so many kids play soccer, especially when it’s obvious that some of those kids are so not cut out to be soccer players. Many times it’s because the parents think the kids need some organized sport. The kids need exercise. They need to learn about competition. And in fact, many of the children who play soccer beg their parents to sign them up. However, from my observation, few play because they absolutely love the game. Some do, of course, but most of them play because they love the treats at the end of each game. And the trophy or medal at the end of the season doesn’t hurt, either.
An interesting thing is that as kids get older, they choose to play soccer because they like it. They don’t care so much about the treats and the medal is silly to them. They play because they want to.
So why am I posting this on my math blog? It’s because it’s all about motivation. Many of the kids that stay in soccer throughout the years until their teen years learned to love soccer in the early years because they kept playing, even when they were pretty much in it for the treats. Some kids naturally loved soccer because they were good at it from the beginning. Others may not have been gifted at the sport and weren’t motivated by the treats and thus quit at an early age (or didn’t even try.) Still others may have tried it, not liked it, but then tried it again later and found they really did like it.
It’s just like this in learning math, too. Some kids will stay with math if they get rewards like food or trophies and learn to like it. Others naturally love it because they are good at it. Some kids won’t seem to be motivated to learn math if they don’t catch on quickly, and the motivator offered isn’t right. And some may decide they don’t like it or can’t do it – and those are the kids that need to do something different for a while before they come back to it and find they really do like it.
For a while, I felt like kids should just do their schoolwork and learn just for the love of learning. I felt like “external rewards” shouldn’t be given because they weren’t related to the task at hand. It should simply be reward of feeling good about accomplishing something that should be the motivator. But I soon found out that doesn’t always work, especially in kids. Sometimes learning or exercise is hard work and is boring, and it’s the rare kid indeed that will work hard on something just for that inner satisfaction. What works better is not only offering incentives and rewards but to praise children who work hard and tell them how good they must be feeling for accomplishing the task.
I really wanted my kids to love playing the piano. My oldest son did not enjoy it. I knew he loved playing computer games, so we used that as a motivator. For every minute of piano he played (1/2 hour minimum, 1 hour maximum), he earned an equivalent time on the computer. Talk about motivation! He started playing a lot, so I had to double the piano-playing requirement. Within a year or so, he found that he actually enjoyed playing the piano MORE than computer games. The same can be done with math.
My 8 year old son loves to have money. I gave him a math workbook, and thinking it’d take him about 4 months to finish, I wrote on the last page of the workbook that he could earn $5 if he finished it before the 3 months were up. He zipped through that workbook so fast – one week he did about 35 pages. Some of the pages were more difficult than others so some weeks he went a little slower. He finished it up in just 2 months. He says he loves math, even though he did struggle on parts of it.
Think about what motivates your child. Write these things down so you can use them to motivate your kids. Keep adding to the list!