5 Things Kids Want To Tell Parents about Team Sports

I know you guys are thinking , “Tell me something I don’t know” as many of you parents know, communication with your young child  or teenager can be a daunting task in the social media world. We have given up on the face to face connection that we were raised with in the past for the cell phone replacing the spoon in the utensil line at the dinner table… As I talk with most of the kids who I coach or teach in may classroom, I speak about ” The words that were never said”, speaking about the importance of concentrating on the little things when It comes to communication. Key points, how you begin a conversation, how you receive advice. These things are essential in building those relationships with kids. Bad practices in youth sports both as a coach and/or parent help create a negative outlook for children.  Common negative habits include:

  • Children who lack necessary development of interpersonal skills
  • Fear of playing sports in the public setting
  • Anxiety about attending practice
  • Lack of personal motivation
  • Lack of Confidence in personal decisionsBasketball

This brings me to the 5 things I think kids have a hard time communicating with parents about when it comes to participating in team sports.

“I want to be in an environment where I have a really good relationship with the coach”


Coaching is important in youth sports…Period.  Beyond the fact that most youth coaches are not trained in sports and skill tactics of the game, youth sports coaches need to understand the importance of relationship building with children. “The coach–athlete relationship is embedded in the dynamic and complex coaching process and provides the means by which coaches’ and athletes’ needs are expressed and fulfilled (Jowett & Cockerill, 2002). “It is at the heart of achievement and the mastery of personal qualities such as leadership, determination, confidence and self-reliance.” I can tell you from experience as a Division II Coach, Junior College Coach, High School Head Coach, relationships are the foundation of success in youth sports. As a Coach, this year in which my team won a regional championship and finished the year 22-6. In talking with players in exit interviews, we heard statement like ” This is the best year I’ve had since I’ve been playing basketball”. “I love you too coach”I can tell you this is a direct reflection of our coaching staff’s commitment to servanthood and being mentor to the guys we work with. Its about relationships in sports ….

“I actually like being on a team where I’m being challenged to learn about myself, my teammates and game I play”

“Social and interpersonal skills help youth accurately interpret the behavior of others. The set of skills includes interacting positively with peers and adults and effectively navigating social situations. Social and interpersonal skills build on emotional competencies. Children must be able to use these skills effectively in order to contribute to a team, resolve disagreements and coexist peacefully with others” . In my experience in sports, I learned about how to connect with people. The shy kid that doesn’t look at people when he speaks, doesn’t speak up when he has questions in the classroom and doesn’t look like he is having fun around others; that kid has a great opportunity to practice developing those skills at an early age in sports. The right learning environment has four (4) essential principles :

1.Environment where coaches and parents continually let their child know they believe in them

2. Team culture where honest feedback is accepted and practiced

3. A program where coaches are always eager to learn as well

4. Bandwidth for athletes to make mistakes

Image result for african american coach

“I lose concentration on the game when I hear you arguing in the stands”

Parents can unknowingly create a stressful sports environment by placing an emphasis on success  through winning and individual statistics rather than a positive experience through personal growth in youth sports.  Many times Parents shouting from the sidelines mistake this for encouragement and support, its more likely to put a stress on the team, your child and the coach.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Parents have the unique power to help aid in facilitating  a positive sport experience when they focus and motivating kids to achieve goals that are related to improving skill.

“These valuable skills learned from sport have also been shown to transfer and facilitate development in other areas of life, such as school and extra-curricular activities (Jones & Lavallee, 2009). This skill transfer is more effective when the child has a greater self-awareness of their own life skills. Therefore, parents can further assist skill development by encouraging their children to think about what skills they are gaining from sport.”

“Start talking to me now about my dreams and how I can turn them into goals”

Young athletes grow skills sets in environments where goals are process driven. Athletes need over-arching main goals but they also need smaller goals that lead up to the big goals.  It very encouraging for parents to support their children and the dreams they have, I would offer this piece of advice… Write the Goal, Create Pathways to Achieve the Goal, Re-work the Goal.  Providing alternative pathways to achieve those goals keep children motivated to reach the finish line. In the early stages of competitive sports, your child’s goal should be based on improving  a ridge range of skill sets, think bandwidth versus depth. As they become older they should be working to improve on skill sets with a specific target goal to accomplish. I would offer this advice, Realize that your child would actually benefit from goals outside of sports. Its positive to offer up academic goals that work in concert with athletic goals as well.

“Hold me accountable for my off the court decisions as well as my on the court decisions”

In general , parents should never be told how to instruct their kids when it comes to their own personal goals; However it should be know that the positive coaching alliance states the following as it relates to building successful habits in youth sports:

  1. Reinforce the behavior you want
  2. Ignore the behavior you don’t want
  3. When you can’t ignore the behavior you don’t want, intervene in a ‘least-attention’ manner.

Number 2 & 3  seem the to be the biggest challenges for most parents to understand. We all were raised a different way, taught to complete task a different way so being able to be flexible with our learning takes time and a consistent effort. “When certain kids learn that their misbehavior gets the attention of their parents, teachers and coaches, they start to believe that this is the only way they can get attention.” ”The Discipline of Three C’s The experts at PCA advocate a concept of ‘the discipline of three C’s’ – Calmness, Consequences and Consistency. Coaches should promote an environment that operates with calmness, have a plan in place that has consequences for each action that is a distraction to the team. Providing consistency  is what every child needs to be successful, no matter if they are 5 years old or an impatient 17 year old, every child wants structure.

Image result for african american coach


What are your next step actions? How are you planning to have the conversation with your child? The coach of your son/daughter ‘s team? It starts with promoting an environment at home where children have an optimistic outlook when it comes to participating in sports.




  • Jowett, S. & Cockerill, I.M. (2002). Incompatibility in the coach–athlete relationship. In I.M. Cockerill (Ed.) Solutions in sport psychology (pp.16–31). London: Thomson Learning.
  • The Influence of parents in youth sport. Mary Quinton, 2016
  • https://www.playinfo.org/news_article/show/234218

By: Christopher Mayshack

An author of children’s book titled Light Year Dreams – Becoming the Athlete, Building The Leader    , former college athlete and current college basketball coach.  He lives in Washington, DC with his wife.  Please visit the website  Here.   Find him on twitter  @CoachMayshack

Published by cmayshack

Light Year Dreams LLC. is a consulting firm committed to encouraging positive youth development outcomes through sports and recreation. Our goals are to work with non-profits, city governments and individual families as we train coaches, mentor youth services associates and educate families on the importance of sport and the positive outcomes associated with sports participation.

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