Competition, even at the youth level, is emotional and riddled with pressure. It’s in the heat of the moment that parents often speak words—meant to motivate—that add pressure to young athletes who are already anxious. These five phrases may be the honest truth, but they do not need to be said before a game. Your child most likely already understands the implications of the moment and does not need the added pressure of your words to distract them.
5 Phrases That Put Undue Pressure on Young Athletes
“This is a must win!”
You may be in the playoffs, facing a do-or-die situation, but your child already knows that it’s a “must win.” Winning a big game is very rewarding, but what happens if your child loses? It will not be the end of the world. It may be the end of the season, but life will go on.
They will play another season, there will be other games, and reminding them that this game is a “must win” will not help them play any better. It will only intensify the pressure they feel to succeed, which will almost always lead to more failure. This is youth sports we’re talking about; there’s way more riding on the game than winning or losing. There are lessons to be learned and character to be developed in young athletes.
“Watch how your teammate does it…you can do it too!”
Comparing your child to another athlete is not a positive motivational tactic. It’s a subtle way of suggesting that they are not good enough, and can be damaging to their psyche. Even if it is unintentional, there’s a good chance that is how the message will be received. Always avoid comparing your young athlete to others.
“You’re the best player out there! Go show them how it’s done!”
Your child may be the best player on the team, but reminding them of that may create unrealistic expectations. Your athlete already feels pressure from the standard that their coach and teammates have set for them. Further suggesting that they meet and exceed those expectations may have a role further down the road, but there is no room for it in youth sports.
“Remember what happened last game?”
Yes, they do. Hopefully, their coach can help them learn from past mistakes, and teach them to move on. When times get tough on the field, the best thing a parent can do is offer support. Better yet, try offering tips that will help them navigate the pressure that they feel. Reminding your athlete of their past failures will never help them succeed.
“Destroy the other team!”
Parents, this is not the Super Bowl. And even if it was, the object of the game is to win (with integrity) and not to intentionally hurt opponents. Encouraging your child to “destroy” the other team puts the focus on the other team instead of on your child and their team’s performance.
Encourage them instead to play their best and be a team player, and hopefully the result of their efforts will be a win.
How to Encourage Youth Sports Athletes
Next time you take your child to a game and they leave you to join the team, do away with any last-minute motivational phrases. A simple, “I’ll see you after the game!” or, “have fun out there!” is really all the motivation young athletes need. Avoid these five commonly to keep additional pressure off of your child.
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