The 'Post Game' Chat

One of the trickiest things about being a sports parent is knowing what to say after your child has suffered a setback in a game or when his team has been defeated.

Likewise, reacting in a measured way after a momentous win can be equally as important.

When adolescent athletes are still recovering from the intensity of a match, they may be elated, upset, confused or angry. Equally, your emotions may be stirred-up just as much as theirs. Knowing what to say, and how to say it, will facilitate positive parent-child relations. 

Therefore, thinking through what you are going to say prior to seeing your child is important. Next, are eight tips for communicating in a positive manner following a tough loss or an exciting win.

  • First of all, be an unconditional source of support. Save the critical evaluation of player performance for the coaches, they are the experts. 
  • Be a great listener! We all love to explain our competitive experiences to others, so allow your child to talk about the game. First, listen to understand your son’s thoughts on the game and how they enjoyed it, and then reply.
  • Along those same lines, and this is a common mistake we are all inclined to make, allow your child to start the 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 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?” or “How do you feel about the game today?”
  • Avoid undermining the coaching staff after the game. 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 as to what he or she should do next and ultimately may affect performance. 
  • Following poor or indifferent performances, 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 up- and-down nature of competitive youth sport.
  • By saying “good game” or “you did your best” when your child does not think this is true, you will likely receive a sarcastic remark back, or even worse, an unresponsive son. Be supportive in your comments but do not lie or exaggerate. Children will see through your well-intentioned attempt to support.
  • Stick to a normal routine no matter the outcome of the game. If you go out to lunch after good performances, do the same after an apparent poor performance. Otherwise, your child might relate the activities after the game with outcomes of the game or their performance.
  • Avoid comparing your child to other children; this can create unnecessary pressure and lead your child to focus more on others and lesson their own development.
Ultimately, you should aim to have a plan for post-game. Get your emotions under control and check your body language. Remind yourself of what matters –that your child becomes a polite, respectful and hard-working teammate who consistently gives their best effort, even in the face of the many obstacles along the Academy journey.
Lewis Charnock
Academy Performance Psychologist