| By Shakim Sadler

Whether you are a pro athlete, youth athlete or work in an office, something drives you to do your best. What is that motivational factor? For a pro athlete, it could be winning a tournament/championship and being recognized as the best. For a youth athlete, it could be winning a trophy and making their parents proud. If you work in an office, maybe it's that promotion or the recognition of doing a great job … all roads lead to you being rewarded for your achievements.

As a fitness coach and parent, I am always discovering new ways to motivate my kids. I work largely with junior tennis athletes who can be quite a challenge to coach, mainly because they don’t really understand why they need fitness. So my journey usually starts with first teaching/coaching the importance of a sound fitness program. The benefits of proper motor recruitment, muscle endurance, training consistency and mental toughness all play a role with them reaching their full potential.

On my personal journey as a father of an amazing eight-year-old girl, I find myself trying to be creative in my approach on getting her to clean up after herself. It’s something that I’m sure most parents deal with each and every day. And yes, as they mature, things will surely get better (we hope). One day, she called me excited about a specific toy she insisted I buy for her. After noticing how excited she was, I thought to myself, “Let's use this as leverage.” In order for me to buy this toy, she would clean up after herself, and it worked! This situation sparked another idea. The coach side of me thought to use the same method as a motivational tool for my youth athletes.

As a fitness coach, the challenge is keeping them focused within group fitness. Some of the methods we use at Magnus Potential at CourtSense Tenalfy Racquet Club are competition-based circuits. We refer to these as “TSCT” or “Tennis-Specific Circuit Training.” This training method allows us to follow an exercise science progression system, ensuring tangible results are seen. However, the catch with kids is that many of them need an outside motivating factor—in comes the prize/reward system!

We involve our youth athletes in the process of the reward system by taking a group vote on potential prizes, while setting a budget for them. We have found that having this open communication with our youth athletes has allowed us as coaches to be more than coaches. We are big brothers, friends—someone they can trust. As we build these bonds, our hope is to instill a passion for fitness and strong understanding that hard work and dedication to any craft in life will make them the strongest version of themselves. That, my friends, is the greatest prize of them all.