5 Things to NOT Say to Young Athletes

5 Phrases That Put Undue Pressure on Young Athletes

No doubt about it, competition is emotional and pressure-filled, and it’s in the heat of rivalry that parents often speak words—meant to motivate—that add pressure to young athletes who are already anxious. These 5 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 upcoming competition and does not need the added pressure of your words to distract him or her.

“This is a MUST win!”

You may be in the playoffs or facing a do-or-die situation, but your child already knows that it’s a “must-win” if the team is to keep playing.

Wanting to win is not wrong, working hard to get the win is very rewarding, but what happens if they lose? 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, other games, and reminding them that this is a “must-win” will not help them play any better; it will only help them worry all the more about messing up. This is not the Pro's or even college. It’s YOUTH sports, which means that there’s way more riding on the game than winning or losing; there’s lessons to be learned and character to be developed in young athletes.

“Watch how (insert name here) does it...you can do it too!”

Comparing your child to another athlete or sibling is not a successful motivational tactic. I’ve tried it, and I know that it only makes young athletes feel worse. It's a subtle way of saying “you’re not good enough, so be like _____”.

Even if that’s not your intention, there’s a good chance that’s how it will be received.

“You’re the best player out there! Go show them how it’s done!”

Your child may very well be the best player on the team. But reminding him/her of that may make him/her feel like he/she must live up to a certain standard. He/she knows you are expecting a lot from him/her and he/she assumes others are, too. That mindset may work for older athletes, but for young athletes it is an unnecessary burden to bear.

Remember what happened last game?”

Yes, I’m sure he/she does. Hopefully, his/her coach has helped him/her learn from past mistakes, and now it’s time to move on. He/She does not need to be reminded of them by you, the parent!

“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 his/her team’s performance.

Encourage your child instead to play his/her best and be a team player, and hopefully the result will be a win.

How to encourage young athletes:

Next time you take your child to a game and he/she leaves you to join his/her team, why not do away with any last-minute motivational phrases? A simple “I’ll see you after the game!” or “I love watching you play!” is really all the motivation young athletes need to enjoy the game.

One of the best ways to equip your young athlete with the skills he/she needs to perform at the highest level is through one-on-one training. Let us help you make it happen!


CoachUp is the safest and easiest way to find a coach for personalized training. With our 100% money-back guarantee and vetted coaches, anyone can achieve their full athletic potential. Find your perfect coach today and become the athlete you want to be!

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