How to Talk to Youth Athletes & Game Day Tips
Parents enjoy watching children participate in team sports throughout their youth. Watching youth athletes play with other kids on the field or the ice allows the opportunity to see kids grow and develop and utilize their skills and physical attributes to achieve a common goal.
Of course, in the midst of excitement and other emotions, either before or after a game, adults may find themselves giving advice about upcoming plays, pointing out mistakes made by players, or simply talking endlessly to about the performance. And, while this may lead to a positive outcome in some cases, on other occasions it can lead to hurt feelings and negative reactions.
Ultimately, it is important to understand that there are certain guidelines you may wish to follow when speaking to youth athletes. Consider these suggestions the next time you strike up conversation, and don’t hesitate to follow these game day tips when helping youth athletes get ready for a competition.
Let the Athlete Talk
Perhaps one of the best ways to interact with youth about sports, especially before or after a big game or match, is by letting him or her initiate the conversation. And for many adults, this can be incredibly difficult; often we have the urge to begin telling youth athletes how wonderful we think he or she performed, or what we thought of the plays on the field. However, doing so may make the child uncomfortable if he or she is not yet ready to talk about the game; they may be embarrassed about an error he or she made on the field, he or she may be sad about a loss, or may have other things on his or her mind that are more pressing. Either way, youth athletes initiating a talk about the game or his or her performance signifies that he or she is ready for a discussion.
Be Open with Your Questions
One of the easiest ways to lose a child’s interest while talking about sports is by asking yes or no questions about the game. For example, many will ask athletes if they enjoyed the game. In many cases the youth athlete may have had a blast, but this question is only asking for a yes or no, and nothing more.
Instead of asking this type, stick with more open-ended questions; for example, ask how he or she felt before coming out after halftime, or what went through his or her mind when the team took the lead. This type of questioning encourages self-expression and is more likely to lead to an elaborate answer.
Listen as Often as Possible
You may have so many different things to tell athletes about the sport that he or she loves. You might have a host of experiences to talk about from your youth, or you may want to tell him or her how to better execute a play on the field.
But here, silence may be golden. To be sure, allowing athletes to discuss his or her experiences from on or off the field allows them to express feelings to you openly, and is a way to allow you two to bond. There is a time to provide athletes with advice and retell stories from your past, but make sure that he or she has ample time to talk as well.
Consider These Tips for Game Day
Have a big game coming up this month? Then it’s important to keep certain considerations in mind when talking to youth athletes.
To begin, before the game make sure that he or she knows that you are proud and that you support him or her no matter what. And continue to be supportive throughout the game, cheering for them regardless of what happens. This also means that you should refrain from attempting to coach on the sidelines; while you may think you are helping, this ultimately undermines the authority of the actual coaches of the team.
Once the game is over, remain positive and allow athletes to initiate a conversation about the game. Also, remain respectful and thank both the coaches and the officials for helping out during the game. Doing so will help demonstrate good sportsmanship.
Have a Great Game
Talking to youth athletes before or after a big game requires patience and care. To help, follow simple guidelines both before and after an upcoming game and get ready to cheer athletes on to a championship.