The general train of thought has been to find something the child is good at and encourage them. It sounds good, but I am not sure that's the way to go because this is basically giving the child the message that they are of more value if they can do something well. A child needs to know he's of value because of who he is not what he can do, or his abilities.
I have seen families where one child is a gifted piano player, another excels at sports, and the other has no particular external, popular or well esteemed passion or gift. The parent then enrolls them in this thing then that thing and the child is not good at those, or has not interest, so continues to feel bad because the to her kids gets so much attention for their ability. If the child finds something he's gifted at, he often pressures himself to be perfect to keep up with the sibling.
My feeling is that kids with special gifts, talents, or abilities should be recognized much more for their character or just who they are. Perhaps the football player is a good sport and a team player. That's character and more special than being able to get the most touch downs. They also need to be told they though they are exceedingly good at what they do it does not make them more special.
We need to demonstrate love and appreciation for the child just because they are precious.
I think parents need to be careful not to tell the child they love as a reward for obeying or doing something good. They need to hear their obedience and cooperation are appreciated. I love you is of course an essential a child needs to hear it a lot and shown it. But I knew a mom who whenever her child obeyed, or did something well would hug them and say "Aw, I love you." The kid thought in order to be loved he had to do something to earn it. If the child does well, let them know and do the I love you's at other times. Just my thoughts. This is a good question you ask. I like what Lori P said about role modeling. Essential also.