Motivation for Your Athlete | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: Motivation for Your Athlete


About Me

Hi everybody. This is Q&A with Coach Rebecca.  Today’s topic is motivation. I’m here to answer any questions that you guys have live on Facebook and also to answer some questions from members of the Perform Happy community so that I can help you guys along your sport journey. I am part of a team of coaches, the “fab five” of us who specialize in things like fear and anxiety and all sorts of sports, including gymnastics, baseball and more!

On our coaching staff we’ve got a collegiate baseball player, a pro soccer player. We’ve got former elite and collegiate gymnasts. A lacrosse coach and specialist, football players, wrestlers.

So we’ve expanded beyond just my insane passion for gymnastics into this really cool group of coaches who are very, very qualified to help you or your child with whatever is keeping you from being happy, healthy and successful in your sport.

We do that in two ways:

  1. Of course there’s the Perform Happy Community which is the virtual training center. You can get information at on all of the virtual courses.
  2. You can book a free consultation with any of us here and that will, it will give you a taste of what we have to offer and if we might be a good fit for working with you or your kid.

With that said, let’s dive into our first question. Now the theme is motivation today. I’ll just read a couple of these questions and then I’ll give you a general answer to both.

One person who’s a gymnast parent said that their biggest problem right now is keeping her daughter excited and motivated to go to practice. She says,

Q: “We switched gyms and (my daughter) is having a very tough time adjusting to a much tougher coaching style. I want to help her better handle the practices so she’s happy to go to the gym again.”


Okay, when you’ve got tough coaches, it can be really hard. When you’ve got anybody who’s riding you and not cheerleading for you but more just pointing out the negatives, you can lose motivation and it’s not as fun. The first question is how to help her daughter actually want to go to practice.

Then the next question is from a swim parent and she said that she’s been backing off talking to her son about swimming. She’s relaxed with other expectations also. We’ve been working with her on not needing to push so hard. It can be something that actually unmotivates your child. Anyone who has a teenager, you probably know this already: if you push them, they will push back and they will do less. If you want them to do more, they will do less. If you don’t care then they’ll do probably more. So pushing less is almost always more motivating, strangely enough. She says,

Q: “Where do I go from here? He’s receptive when we talk about expectations with swimming. There aren’t any goals right now and motivation I would say is low. What can I do to help him along?”


A: Why your Motivation Drops

You’re not working toward anything

Okay, so that’s a big clue. There aren’t any goals right now. Now if you think about what motivates you, I am very goal oriented. I know not everybody is but I like to have something I’m aiming for. Because let’s face it, I have my dream job and there are days when I’m like, “Ah, I don’t feel like it.” I couldn’t have a better situation but there are still days where I’m like, “I’m tired.” Or I just want to whatever. We all get there. Even doing a sport that you totally love. You’re going to have days where you just don’t feel like it. I’m going to give you guys some tips. I’ll let you know a little bit about why that happens, why the motivation drops and then some things that you can do to make it better.

If you want, I have a whole cheat sheet of 101 ways to just keep swimming, my little Finding Dory reference. It’s based on motivating swimmers. I’ve done a lot of work with swimmers over the years but it applies to anything. So feel free to grab that download. You can find it here. and that will help you just to have some idea. It’s like a ton of ideas of what you could do. Okay, so why do people lose motivation? Here are the main things. Not having fun, number one. Number two, fear of failure. You don’t want to put your emotional, you don’t want to take emotional risks every single day unless you’ve got something you’re aiming for that feels bigger and better and worth it.


Fear of Success

Okay, then there’s fear of success. Now for anyone who is a little bit overwhelmed by pressure, you might find that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, if I do well, then I’m going to be expected to keep doing well and that’s too much pressure. Oh my gosh, I just want to kind of stay the same so I don’t get stuck doing the same thing over and over.” Or like heaping, continuing people expect more and expect more then I’m scared and they expect more then I’m scared. So those two fears can really get you, success and failure.

Unmet needs, another thing that takes motivation down. If you need some positive feedback and you are not getting any from your coach then you have to get it from somewhere. You have to get it from your teammates, from your parents, from yourself because that’s one of our needs is we need to feel validated, we need to feel like what we’re doing is okay, we need to feel like we belong. If you’re feeling kind of alienated by people on your team then that will make a big difference in your enjoyment factor and your motivation. If you feel like an outcast who doesn’t have friends, whose coach is mean to them, I wouldn’t want to go either.


Training is boring

Then the other one is monotony of training. Sometimes coaches get into rots and they do the same thing over and over, over and over. Sometimes you got to mix it up in your own mind if it’s not being mixed up in reality. Okay, so those are the reasons why people really start to lose motivation. There are more than just those five but those are the kind of the big ones.

Here, so I’m going to give you tips for athletes first and then for parents second because I don’t want to give you this is what you should do athletes and the parents, you’re like, “Okay, kids you got to do this and this and this,” because the athlete has to do it themselves. Motivation has to got to come from within and then parents I’ll give you a separate set of tips.

Motivation for Your Athlete | Q&A with Coach RebeccaTips for athletes:

  • Set goals.

Have something you’re aiming toward, something you’re excited about. I like to do 90-day goals. You guys might know that about me. I like to know three months from now I can set a pretty big goal. I can make a lot happen in three months, and I bet you can too. If you think about just like today or this week, it’s not as exciting as you feel like, “Well, three months from now, I can have a lot of things going.”

Then you break it down and you realize like, “All right. I got to get to work if I’m going to get that in three months.” So I have a 90-day vision planner for anyone who’s in the community that you guys can grab a copy of and otherwise you can feel free to email me, and ask me for that, I’ll give you that too.

So set goals. Big goal, three months. As big as you really need to go for now, for the purposes of this. Then you break it down into monthly, weekly, daily. “What am I going to do today?” Then you do that and then it feels good and then you want to go back and set another one and get it. Everyone in the Perform Happy community, I ask you guys to set goals every week so that then I could see them, I could get your feedback. I can help you along and I can also go, “Let’s get more specific,” or, “I don’t know. That seems really huge.” Or I like to help you guys along to make sure that they’re really effective goals.

  • Positive self talk.

If your coach is being mean, you have to be really nice to yourself. It can definitely be a tall order. Be nice to yourself. The best you can and one of the best ways I like to do this is actually have you keep a journal of everything negative that you’re saying to yourself. Once you start to see what you’re saying to yourself, you might go, “Oh my gosh. That’s not nice at all.” Then come up with new things to say to yourself instead in those moments, things that are true, things that are kind, things that you would say to a good friend. You probably wouldn’t even say to your worst enemy what you say to yourself when you’re feeling down. It’s crazy how easy it is to be negative to ourselves.

  • Change up your training routine.

I know it’s not always within your control because obviously the coach is in charge of practice. That’s why you pay them the big bucks to do that. But see if there’s things you can do like play a little game with yourself, personal best of the day on this event or on this. Like, “Today, I’m going to try to get 10 in a row,” or, “I’m going to try to get better every time.” Have it be different so it’s not just like you show up same assignment, “I’m failing here.” Negative self talk here. Do something different. Make a commitment.

  • Set a reminder.

Now here, you’re going to have to set yourself a reminder because you’re not going to remember to do something different. You’re going to walk in and you’re going to start practice the way you always do it. Put a sticker on your water bottle, put a wristband on, write something on your hand, set an alarm on your phone. Whatever you need to do. Come up with something silly that can be fun for you that will be a little different and then figure out a way to remind yourself.

  • Create a vision board.

I have, above my computer, this big, beautiful collage of words and images. Every time I look at it, I’m like, “Oh yeah, okay. Hoo. This is what I’m creating.” I love when kids create them for themselves or adults too where you basically pull out some magazines and you just rip out anything that calls to you, any image that kind of like to speak to your soul. You don’t have to know why.

You just rip it out and you put it in a pile and then you go back through and you cut out the little parts that you really like and you put them together on a board and then you put it up in front of you and you’re like, “Wow, I had no idea that I really wanted an airstream trailer until that called to me.” Then I’m like, “Okay, let’s see if I can make that happen.” That can kind of get you motivated, can get you like, “Yeah, I don’t feel like working right now but darn it I want my airstream trailer so I got to get to work.”

Whatever it is for you that excites you, that little carrot that you can chase yourself. Then another thing I like to do with groups is I actually will have them sit and close their eyes and visualize what it was like when they were really happy in their sport, when they were super motivated and everything was going great and they were just in love with their sport.

I’m sure everyone can kind of flash back to a time where things were good, things were really good and you just loved it and you wanted to do it just because it was great. That’s what you got to tap into and then ask yourself, “Why was I doing it then? What was my motivation? What was driving me? What got me on fire for this?”


101 Tips – Free Download

I always, always get brought back to this 12-year old image of me being a sports psychologist. When I was 12, I was like, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” When I would get like, “School’s so hard. My gosh, maybe I just want to do something else. Maybe I’ll just coach gymnastics. I love that.” But then that 12-year old in me was like, “That’s not what you want.”

Then I would get back on and be like, “Okay. Stick with it. Get through school. You’re going to be okay.” So those are some tips. I’ll give you guys access to that download here. You get 101 tips. It’s written for swimmers but everybody can benefit. There’s lots of good kind of different ideas how you can mix things up.


Parents: Praise Effort

Now we’re moving on to parents. Make sure, parents — I can’t say it enough — reward effort, not outcomes. If your athlete thinks that only good outcomes count and mistakes are bad, they’re going to have a lot at stake every time they walk into the gym or dive into that pool. They’re going to feel like, “I could fail, and that is not okay.”

What you have to reinforce for them is that effort is what counts.  Tell them, “You showed up and you tried. I don’t care if you didn’t get a best time. I don’t care if you didn’t get a single medal. You’ve been working hard and I know that you’re trying and I am so proud of you. Let’s go get ice cream.” Praise effort.

Help them see the big picture

Think about Michael Phelps, if he would have made an overly big deal about his first Olympics, he might not have done so well. You can think of it like this: his first Olympics was just practice for the second Olympics, which was just practice for the third, which was practice for the fourth.

Not everybody’s going to get four Olympics but what if you approached every meet like practice? This is just a chance to practice competing, see what happens, see what I can learn about myself. If I make a mistake, then my opportunity is to learn from it. If I learn from it, then that failure becomes an asset.


Failure and Success

Failure and success are both really valuable tools that help you get your goals. If you don’t have goals then you’re not going to be really willing to rethink failure. Have goals, rethink failure. Let your kids fail. That’s one of my actual things on here. Let them make mistakes. Embrace imperfection. Now, a lot of you guys are probably athletes yourself who are like, “But I wasn’t supposed to make mistakes and I didn’t get to be imperfect.” I know. Let your kid be imperfect. Let him make mistakes. Let them not win. That’s going to light a fire into their butt way better than you saying, “You know, you really should practice.”

Okay, Alexandra is saying,

Q: “I agree with what you say, however, it’s very, very hard to do so when coaches constantly are downers.”



Coaches can be a major demotivator. I talked to a little eight-year old sweetie pies whose coaches are saying the most awful things to them and it is hard to be eight years old and to be able to look at an adult who you respect and trust and really want them to appreciate and love you. It is so hard to look at somebody like that. Okay, when your coaches are downers and say things like, “That was bad. What’s wrong with you? That’s an eight.”

Okay, so these little sweetie pie eight-year olds, they need to learn that their coach is trying the best they can to get you motivated and what you need to listen for is what’s going to help you. What you need to let go of is what makes it feel impossible and makes it feel like you’re not okay. So if your coach says, “That was not okay. What’s wrong with you? If you can’t get your arm straight then you’re going to get an eight.”

If you can focus in on, okay, what are the things that are useful in that sentence from the coach and what things make it impossible, the only thing you would actually let in is get your arms straight. You would let the rest of it go because that’s their stuff.


What is Going to Help You?

It doesn’t feel good to be mean so you can just feel bad for them, go, “Oh you poor coach, it doesn’t feel good to be mean. I’m going to get my arms straight. I’m going to do my best.” Then you as parents can go, “Yeah, coaches seem like they’re being a little bit mean and you are working hard and keep working hard and keep working on those arms and you’re going to get it.” Yeah, I’m a big fan of communication. Like, “Hey, that’s not really okay to say to my kid. Can we work on that? Can we work on how that’s phrased? It’s not motivating. She’s having trouble getting to practice because she doesn’t want to get yelled at. Can you do your best to limit the sarcasm?”

I mean, it’s not always coaches can have egos and maybe that won’t work. But if you teach your kid to have a filter. Let in the stuff that’s helpful. Don’t let in the stuff that isn’t and if it gets bad enough, consider other gyms.


Communicate & Have Meaningful Conversations

Okay, then last one is have meaningful conversations. Listen. Don’t go in with like, “Here’s what I want you to do,” or, “Here’s what I want you to understand.” It’s, “How are you doing? Talk to me. It seems like you’re having a hard time going to practice. What can I help you with? What was going on before that was allowing you to have fun that isn’t happening now? Oh, your friends have switched gyms, okay. Why don’t we have some other friends over for a sleep over so that you can get to know them?”

Figure out what you can do within your control and then just give them a neutral ear and maybe they just want you to back off and they want to just have a mellow year and they don’t want to try so hard and that could be devastating for some of you parents who are like, “But you need that scholarship.”

Let them learn. Then they don’t get their times. Then I promise you, given enough time and you let them be the master of their own sport. Of course, you make them keep going to practice. It’s not like they get to just not go whenever they feel like it. If they made a commitment, they follow through. Okay,

The coaches, they might not change. But I like to look at what’s within your control. You can control the way you speak to them. You can control what you ask. You can control communication. You can control how you react to what they say. You can’t control them. So they might not change.


Talk to Your Athlete

That’s definitely true and you have to talk to your kid about, “They might not change. This might not ever be different and it’s not your fault. This is them. So what can we do to try to filter out that bad stuff that’s not useful, that’s not helpful, that isn’t helping you to be a better gymnast and just let it go.” You can even write it on a piece of paper and crumple it up and toss it, like physically let it go and just go, “That is no longer going to plant in my head. Only just the corrections. You can’t change the coaches unfortunately.

So go ahead and grab that freebie download here. You can download that for free. If you guys have any questions for me or any of the other Complete Performance coaches, please reach out at you can do or you can find us on the Complete Performance Facebook page where we all do live sessions kind of here and there and you could find me every week, Mondays at 4:30. All right you guys. Thanks for tuning in and I will see you next week. Bye.


Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.