What you should and shouldn’t say to your sports kid

Nowadays you can’t hardly find a kid who is not involved in many activities; and a lot of these include a variety of sports. Too many times parents can be their best and/or worst supporter. My son played MANY sports and we were there to support but after reading this I wonder if I always was the best “supportive” parent I could have been. Healthy Kids has some great info for all of you “sports” parents:

Don’t say “Good job”

Well-meaning adults say this to kids all the time, right? That’s why it’s meaningless and could even have a negative effect. Not what you intended at all. “Good job” sounds hollow, even to kids. They can tell that you’re just saying it because you want to offer up some praise. And it doesn’t feel good to receive praise you haven’t earned. So save the praise for situations that merit it, and then explain what you mean: “I noticed that you really worked hard during that drill” or “Nice catch! Your practice really paid off.”

Don’t say: “Why Didn’t You …”

With this phrase, you’re noticing what your kid did, but not in a good way. You’re picking out shortfalls instead of opportunities for improvement. Let’s say your basketball player needs to work on her dribble. “Instead of saying ‘your dribbling skills are weak’ or ‘you shouldn’t try to dribble out there,’ try saying ‘You know, with a little dedicated effort on your dribbling skills you would have a really well-rounded overall game,'” says Jordan Fliegel, the founder of CoachUp, a private sports coaching company.

Don’t say: “That ref should have”

Red alert! Officials are there to help keep everyone safe and play by the rules, so sports are fun and fair. And most of the time, they are volunteers?or getting paid so little they might as well be. So it’s not good sportsmanship to hassle them from the stands (95 percent of youth sports coaches surveyed by CoachUp say they’ve heard this!). Knocking them down later in private isn’t any better. It sets a poor example for your child, and allows him to avoid taking responsibility for mistakes he or his team really did make. Rude parents AND grandparents were such an irritation that he ended up not doing it anymore

Don’t Say: “How come your coach can’t …”

Just like the refs, coaches are participating in youth sports because they love the game. It’s definitely not for the big bucks. But they are the leaders here, so stand back and let them lead. Your child needs you to be unconditionally supportive. That won’t happen if she feels caught in a conflict between her coach’s advice and her parent’s.

Here are a few things You SHOULD Say:

Did you enjoy practice? If not, what didn’t you like? What part of it?

Did you learn anything? What did you learn?

I noticed you working hard, putting in great effort.

I am proud of how hard you are trying.

I saw you encouraging a teammate, that made me feel proud of you.

I noticed that after the other team scored, you had the courage to keep trying.

With so many children playing sports at much younger ages, remember, they are small children, not elite competitive athletes, so make it FUN for them; let them have a good time and become a team player; teach them to respect their coach and fellow players; if you do that then sports can be a truly wonderful learning experience and create an atmosphere for success!


Sue Junge is an early childhood support specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, visit www.iowarivervalleyeac.com