3 Important Things To Say To Young Athletes Before and After Games

things to say to young athletes before games and after games

Here’s a list of the three most important things to say to young athletes before and after they’ve played a game. Jot these six total things down and keep them readily available to use as a guide so that you can communicate effectively with your child before and after their games.

Some say that they’re the most important two hours in a young athlete’s life: the ride to the game and the ride home from the game. If you’ve ever wondered what to say to your kid before a game, you’re not alone.

In our quest of trying to figure out how to be a good sports parent, we stumble quite often because we let our emotions get the best of us.  It’s hard to keep a calm head being a youth sports parent because we tend to not see things myopically as we’re on our way to the game. You’ve seen how hard your child has worked and the time they’ve put into their development.  You know how much they want to perform and how bad they want to win. You understand that the game means a lot to them, so in turn, it means a lot to you too.

Related: Lawnmower Parents are the new “Helicopter Parents” in youth sports

But in order to put your child in the right state of mind, you need to understand that the leadership comes from you. As a parent, you’re the one that they look up to and want to please. And, they just want you to be proud of them when the final buzzer sounds.

According to Dr. Tim Elmore, who is the president of a nonprofit called Growing Leaders and specializes in developing young leaders, there are proven guidelines in his book that you can practice in order to make sure that YOU are emphasizing what is important about participating in sports to your young athlete.

Dr. Elmore suggests that there are some important things to say to your kids before and after a game. And, when you make these statements to your child, you have to keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if its a loss or a win. What’s important after the game while you’re driving home is establishing the foundation of effort, enjoyment and integrity for your child.

What To Say To Your Kid Before a Game

1. Play Hard.

If you’re looking for inspirational things to say before a game, just tell your child to play hard. And, mean it when you say it. Let them know that you value their effort instead of telling them what they need to focus on during the game. Young athletes don’t have the ability to remember your tiny little tips (no matter how good you think they are) while they’re out there playing the game.

Emphasize effort and try to establish that hard work is the most honorable character trait that an athlete can have. You’ll be setting a foundation for a lifetime of success because your child can control how hard they work during a game.

2. Have Fun.

Telling your child to have fun is one of the most important things you can say to a child before a game. The main reason why children choose to play sports is because they have fun doing so. As a parent, the hardest thing to do is teetering that fine line of performance and fun. You can’t cross it because you’ll suck the life right out of your child. Instead, tell them that working hard with their teammates and having fun playing the game are the two most important things they can do. Playing sports is supposed to be an enjoyable experience that will give them memories for the rest of their lives. It’s imperative that you don’t take that away from them.

On your way to the game, try to take a lighter (not too light) approach to the game by keeping them relaxed. Play some tunes and show them that you care about them. Your child is going to feed off of your energy. You can tell them to have fun a million times, but if you’re nervous and stressed out when you’re saying it, its not going to reach them.

3. Be A Good Teammate.

One of the best things that you can say to your kid before a game is to tell them to be a good teammate.  In a world of overbearing sports parenting, private lessons, travel teams and performance coaches, too many kids today believe that the game is going to be their ticket to fame and fortune. They believe that the game owes them because they’re a star, which causes them to think that the game is all about them.  They leave their teammates behind and use everyone around them as stepping stones to continue to climb their proverbial ladder.

The problem is that young athletes aren’t born with these traits. They learn them from the adults around them that are saying “they’re the (insert braggadocios adjective) player on the team/in the league”. Too many parents are failing to teach their children about the importance of teamwork and forming quality relationships with the people who are invested in their lives. It’s created a generation of athletes who think that they deserve success because everyone around them has told them so. Don’t be that parent. Tell them to be a good teammate and help everyone they can before every game.

What To Say To Your Kid After a Game

1. I’m Proud of You and Your Work Ethic

If your trying to figure out what to say to an athlete after a loss, the best thing that you can communicate to them is how proud you are of them. You need to take the emphasis off of the final score or their failed opportunities because in the long run, those things don’t matter. As much as you don’t want to hear it, nobody really cares whether your child’s team won the 10 & under thanksgiving tournament or league championship. In the entire scope of their athletic career, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is setting the foundation for your child to be a hard working young athlete that has the determination to improve every day. What you need to understand is that empahsizing and rewarding an admirable work ethic is what will set them up for success.  That’s because they’re going to learn how to shrug off a loss and continue to move forward.   What your child wants to hear after a game is that you’re proud of them and the effort they put forward.  They don’t want to hear your opinion on anything else. If they do, then they’ll ask you – children are usually pretty inquisitive little things.

2. Did You Have Fun?

If you want to know how to be a good sports parent, you need to know that emphasizing fun at a young age is what drives the passion that is necessary for them to succeed in the future.  Playing sports is fun.  It always has been and it always will be. When playing sports stops being fun for your child is when you start to take it too seriously.

When you’re driving on the way home, ask your child if they had fun and then ask them what was fun about the game. Share their enthusiasm and show them that you’re excited about how much they enjoy the playing the game. If they say that they didn’t have fun because of a loss or because of how they played, you need to take a leadership role and let them know that the game is over with and in the past. Inform them that they need to forget about the game and look forward to what they want to do in the future. It teaches them how to build grit.

3. I Love To Watch You Play

You can either say it or you can show it, but the most important thing that you can say to your child after a game is that you love to watch them play. You need to communicate to them that amongst all of the chaos (getting to the game, playing hard, parents yelling, coaches yelling, etc.), the one thing that you love is watching them enjoy playing the game. You are the one that they turn to and try to read when things get tumultuous, so exhibit that unparalleled leadership they’re looking for at hard times by showing them that you’re truly proud of how hard they work, how much they enjoy the game and how well they treat their teammates.

When researchers polled collegiate athletes on what they loved to hear from their parents after the game, the consensus across the board was “I love to watch you play”. It’s even more important to say to young athletes after the game because it communicates that you don’t care about the wins or losses, you just care about them.  It’s important to teach your young athlete that wins and losses come and go and that no matter what, they’ll always have you in their corner to lean on.

There’s six important things that you should say to young athletes before and after games to put them in the right frame of mind.  

In your never-ending quest in trying to figure out how to be a good sports parent, just keep in mind that being there for them is the most important thing that you can do.

What To Say To Your Child After A Game