by Elizabeth Wickham
At a high school swim meet, I heard coaches say that kids today don’t like hard work. One coach mentioned that kids are spread so thin with school, homework, volunteering, sports, etc. —and many of their activities are done to check a box.
I am thankful for the work ethic my kids gained through swimming in a year-round club program. Many kids who don’t have that experience won’t learn the lessons and rewards of hard work like our year-round swimmers do. The ability to work hard carries over to other aspects in our lives. We might not reach our goals through hard work, but without it, we will fail.
Here are my tips about hard work:
Hard work is a core value.
Participating in youth sports develops character. Lessons learned at a young age will stick with our kids throughout their lives. A strong work ethic is an integral element of character. Because of the nature of swimming and the hard work required, our kids are exposed to this value early on.
Talent only takes you so far.
We all have seen super talented kids who jump in the pool and get whatever cut they’re going for. Yes, talent is wonderful. But, at some point, hard work catches up with sheer talent. Sometimes, the kids with the most ability miss out on learning to work. There are no short cuts in swimming and being a hard worker is a talent in itself.
Hard workers make great teammates.
Our kids are so influenced by their friends. We can only hope they are with kids who have fun and aren’t afraid of hard work. When kids are in it together, tackling a hard set and pushing each other, it’s more rewarding than being with teammates who don’t give it their all.
Coaches are inspired by hard workers.
I believe hard-working kids bring out the best in their coaches. Coaches need inspiration too, and the lane goes both ways. How great is it for a coach to have a group of kids who want to do more work, who are passionate about improving and working hard?
Hard work needs to be taught.
As our kids’ first teachers, it’s up to us to instruct our kids about hard work. The best way to do that, besides signing them up for a swim team, is to lead by example. Are we hard working—whether it’s in our careers or other passions such as gardening, writing—or volunteering for their team?
Praise effort not talent.
If we encourage hard work, our kids will know we value it. If we praise a child for being smart, it doesn’t mean he or she will work hard and get their homework done. In fact, studies show that if parents praise talent rather than effort, we’ll end up with kids who don’t work hard.
How do you encourage a strong work ethic in your kids?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.