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Sport and Competition

Essential Strategies to Set Your Child Up for Sports Success

Help your child succeed in sports: tips for parents.

Key points

  • Encourage reflection: Ask questions like, "What did you enjoy most about today's game?"
  • Highlight strengths: Identifying what they did well builds self-confidence and skills.
  • Show unconditional pride: Ensure your child feels valued regardless of game outcomes.

Parents with children in sports often love showing their support by attending practices and competitions. While this involvement is generally positive as you demonstrate to your child that you care about their activities, it’s not uncommon for kids to feel stressed by parental involvement. This stress often stems from how parents interact with their children before, during, and after a game or practice. So how can you set everyone up for success to make your involvement an asset to your child’s performance?

Think back to the last game you attended where your child’s team lost or they didn’t perform their best. How did you talk to them afterward? This postgame interaction is critical. Your response can either boost their confidence, making them feel connected to you, or add to their stress.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help your children thrive in sports and build greater confidence:

  • Do: Encourage your child to reflect on how they performed by asking them reflective questions. For example, you may ask, “What do you think went well?” or “What did you enjoy most about today’s game?” This helps build their self-awareness and allows them to understand themselves and their thoughts better.
  • Don't: Avoid giving unsolicited feedback or criticizing their performance. When a child is criticized, it can lead them to feel less motivated and start to doubt themselves.
  • Do: Identify something they did well. This helps them build their self-confidence and recognize their skills. Understanding one’s strengths can help one achieve higher performance, not only in their sport but also at school.
  • Don't: Do not dwell on areas where they need improvement right after a game. Constructive feedback can be helpful, but it needs to occur at the right time.
  • Do: Tell them that you’re proud of them, regardless of the outcome of the game or competition. This will help your child ultimately feel safe with you, rather than feeling like your approval is tied to their performance.
  • Don't: Never tie your level of “proudness” to a win or a loss. This will lead to your child feeling like their worth is conditional.

There is a tremendous amount of power in positive self-talk. Teaching your child how to talk to themselves is crucial for their success in all realms of life. Children learn their internal dialogue from those around them, which includes parents, friends, teachers, and coaches. If you want your child’s self-talk to be positive and motivating, you need to model this for them and surround them with similar dialogue. The good news is your words and actions can have a tremendously positive influence on how they perceive themselves and their abilities.

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