Post-Game Pep Talks

Win or lose, boost your child's self-esteem with supportive comments.

The post-game handshake is a youth sports tradition.
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No pressure, Mom and Dad, but the post-game chat can make or break your child's youth sports experience. After a game, race, or other competition, you want to:

  • Build your child's confidence
  • Reinforce sportsmanship
  • Show unconditional love and support
  • Help your child set expectations for the future
  • Learn about problems your child is facing

You can use the post-game conversation to do all of these. In turn, you'll make sports participation more meaningful for your child, and strengthen your relationship with him too.

Post-Game Goal: Confidence

To boost your child's confidence and self-esteem after a game, offer praise that is specific and sincere. Say: "I noticed that you really tried hard to point your toes" or "That was a nice pass to Taylor in the 2nd period." Don't say: "Great job!" (It feels false and unearned.)

Post-Game Goal: Sportsmanship

Being a good sport means being gracious in victory, but also in defeat. So avoid trashing opponents or officials if your child loses a game or performs poorly. And if she got a win, steer clear of boasting too vehemently. Say: "Your team really worked well together today" or "The other team had some great shots on goal." Don't say: "That ref was terrible. Your team should have won!"

Post-Game Goal: Support

Your child needs to know that you're not angry or ashamed if he loses or performs poorly. He also needs to understand that your love isn't dependent on his successes in sports.

That sounds far-fetched, but it happens, and can quickly lead to anxiety or burnout. Say: "I am so proud of you" or "I love to watch you run." Don't say: "I'm disappointed."

Post-Game Goal: Future Success

Use the after-game debrief to encourage your child and guide her upcoming efforts. But don't do a play-by-play analysis, especially immediately following a game; save that for the coach.

Say: "Your practice seems to be paying off!" or "I know you're sad that you lost. Is there something you want me to help you practice before the next game?" Don't say: "You're not practicing hard enough."

Post-Game Goal: Diagnose Problems

If your child is struggling in his sport, you can sometimes sniff out a problem during your chat. Proceed with caution, as his emotions are likely running high at this time. You may need to follow up after a cooling-off period. But you can get a sense of what issues are cropping up with sensitive questions. Say: "Did you have fun?", "Did you learn anything new?", or "Did anyone say anything funny in the locker room?" Don't say: "How come you don't like your team anymore?" or "Did the coach yell at everyone?"

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