How to Support Your Athlete When the Game Gets Tough

Sponsored by BODYARMOR Sports Drink

Everyone wants to win, but unfortunately with every game, there’s always a loser (unless there’s a tie!). This is both the beauty and heartbreak of youth sports—it’s a time of learning, exploration, and growth for so many young kids. But some are better equipped to handle the disappointment than others. Here are tips on how you can support your athlete when the going gets tough:

  1. Discover what motivates your child. Sure most kids want to win and earn a trophy, but getting better and learning new skills will also motivate many.

  2. Always remain positive. Give positive feedback and encourage continual growth throughout the season. Pick a goal for your child to work toward, and celebrate it when they reach it.

  3. Minimize criticism. While you shouldn’t ignore mistakes or deny that they happened, you shouldn’t punish or criticize your child for dropping the ball or striking out. Instead, use instruction, practice, and encouragement to help them improve the next time. And whatever you do, don’t be that parent who stands on the sidelines and screams at their kid. The parents, the coach, and the kids all hear you—but what you’re saying is not productive. The kids already have a coach they should be listening to. You’re just an annoying, critical noise that can have a damaging effect on your child’s self-esteem.

  4. If during a heated game your child appears extremely frustrated over an unfortunate play, take them aside at half time, rehydrate them with a BODYARMOR Sports Drink, and try to get their mind off the error. Be positive about what they can do when they go back on the field and tell them to not dwell on the mistake.

  5. Know your child. Talk about the game if your child wants to discuss it. If not, let it be. One child in your family may be completely unfazed by a tough loss and will have brushed it off, whereas another may need to analyze every single play. Knowing your child’s needs will enable you to act appropriately and not make the situation worse.

  6. Explain why they have to practice, why the drills are important, and why they may have to run so much. Once kids understand the “why” behind some of the unpopular drills and how it will pay off in the long run, they’ll be more motivated to attend these practices and try their hardest.

  7. After a tough loss, it’s important to point out the minor achievements that may have  during the game so that your young athletes don’t get too down. There’s always a good play that can be focused on, and the kids are most likely too young to be able to recognize it themselves. So this is your chance to talk up the positives that they or their teammates displayed.

  8. Even if your child isn’t the star athlete on the team, you can set up attainable goals that will make them feel successful—perfect attendance, mastering a basic concept, showing effort, improving a skill, being a team player, or helping an injured opponent on the field. There are endless opportunities for success…it’s just a matter of setting an achievable goal for each child’s skill set.

Molly Gregor is a writer and mom of four kids who is most often found at the ice rink.


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