• Kate Allgood

Mental Performance for adolescent athletes: What to say after a game

Mental skills training for adolescent athletes is a rapidly growing area of athletic performance. Parents are often looking for ways to help their child get the most out of their sporting experience, and a big part of it starts at home. This is why mindset training for adolescent athletes is looking more and more into ways to not only help the child but also helping parents to support and encourage their child in ways that will build them up and not create unnecessary pressure.

Sports provides many great things, one of which is the opportunity for a child and parent to bond. I know my strong relationship with the Father is what it is today because of the many hours we spent driving to and from my hockey games and practices. However, there were times when I was about 12 when the relationship became strained because of his communication with me after my games. Many times parents do not realize how what they are saying or doing can impact their child in a negative way. While not intentional it can still have a major impact on a child and shape not only their view of sports but also their relationship with their parent. 

Majority of parents have good intentions but just don’t know what to do or how to support their child. It is one of the reasons we do implement sessions with parents, because once they are guided in the right direction it improves many aspects of the parent/child relationship, and ultimately the kid gets more out of their sporting experience. 

8 Tips for better communication

The below 8 tips for communicating with young athletes comes from an article by the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (

1. Be a positive source of support and encouragement.  Save the critical evaluation of player performance for your coaches, they are the experts. Be an unconditional source of support. Criticism will break down parent-child bonds.

2. Be an attentive listener!  We all love to explain our competitive experiences to others, so allow your child to talk about the game. Listen to understand first, and then reply.

3. Along those same lines, allow your child to start conversations about their performance. Try not to get into the details of the game as your child is still dealing with the emotions of it. If this is later that night or the next morning that is okay. They may just need time to get over it. If you do feel the need to speak to them about the game then wait a few hours and then ask “Would you like to talk about the game?”

4. Avoid undermining the coaching staff in post-game conversations, even if you think your coaches are out to lunch. You may not always agree with the coaches, but they are the leaders of the team.  Second-guessing the coaches in front of your child can confuse him or her as to what he or she should do and ultimately may hurt performance. Also, you are undermining team chemistry and negatively affecting each person involved with that team.

5. Following tough losses or poor performances (or riding the pine) remind your child that their worth as a person is not related to their abilities as an athlete. Helping them recognize that tomorrow is a new day and that with hard work they can overcome what is keeping them from their goals will help your child deal with the frustrations of sport.

6. Be honest and sincere. Some parents get into trouble by saying “good game” or “you did your best.” If Billy does not think this is true you are going to get a sneer or sarcastic remark back. Be supportive in your comments but do not lie or exaggerate. Children will see through your well-intentioned attempt to support. If you attempt to hide your disapproval for your child’s performance your body language will signal the truth. Remembering that the goal of sport is to have fun and improve should help you in providing positive support and maintaining positive body language.

7. Stick to your normal routine no matter the outcome of the game. If you go to lunch after a win, do the same after a loss. Otherwise, your child might relate the activities after the game with winning and losing.

8. Avoid comparing your child to other children even as it relates to training methods or skills. It can create hurt feelings and pressure.

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