While perseverance sounds like a very serious skill, it can be fun to learn for your young athletes if you make persisting through tough challenges into a playful activity. Here, board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, is sharing activities for every age group that will spark conversations around perseverance while encouraging experimentation and play. Remember, perseverance isn’t just about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a new result: It’s about making small tweaks to your performance and eventually pivoting if needed.
Elementary school students will still typically find non-sport-related games a fun activity and enjoy a challenge.
Experiment with Non-Dominant Practice
With elementary school aged athletes, you can ask them to do something that they’re definitely not going to be great at, like non-dominant hand fine motor skills. “This is not a sport-specific game,” Gilboa says. “The point here is not fine motor skill practice, it’s perseverance.” Ask athletes to carefully write something in cursive with their non-dominant hand. (You can make it applicable to the season by having them write out a team goal or mantra!) Have them write it out over and over until they manage to legibly reproduce that sentence. This shows them that practicing skills and making small changes ultimately leads to success.
When playing games with middle school athletes, be careful: They’re at a fragile age where it’s easy for them to feel like they’re being patronized. It’s also a difficult time developmentally, Gilboa notes. Middle schoolers are more likely to see things in black-and-white, and create identities based on results. “Middle school is when kids start to differentiate from their family of origin and figure out who they are as an individual,” says Gilboa. “Everything they do is building their own reputation with themselves. They’re constantly socially hyper-vigilant. So, understand that you may need to take care when pushing athletes to persevere if they’re struggling.”