How to talk sports with kids

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Parents, how do you communicate with your child about their sports activities? Try the following questions and see if it sparks some dialog. After each question is additional information that can help your child get the most out of youth sports. Look for part two of this

column next month.

1. Do you and your spouse use open- or closed-ended questions when discussing your child's athletic experiences? "How was the game today?" (open), "Did you win?" (closed).

  • Try to use as many open-ended questions as possible. They prompt your child to talk freely, which in turn helps with communication skills, confidence development, and positive emotional development
  • By tuning in to what your child is saying, she will take more pride in playing sports. Try not to get caught up doing other things, like talking on the phone or listening to the radio when your child is talking about all her great plays that day.

3. Do you and your spouse use positive reinforcement or punishment as teaching tools?

  • Positive reinforcement is a great way to keep your child interested in sports. Try to reinforce your child's efforts, even if the results aren't always stellar.

4. Do you and your spouse work cooperatively with your child's coaches, or do you tend to "coach the coach?"

  • It's easy to get caught up second-guessing the coach. Instead, help your child process the experience and maybe even talk a little about what strategies your child might have considered if she was the coach.

5. Do you and your spouse help your child balance school and sports?

  • Your child will benefit tremendously from having a healthy balance with all his activities.

6. Do you and your spouse mandate breaks and down-time from sports?

  • Taking breaks may be the best medicine when it comes to addressing youth sports burnout. A short break from the action usually allows kids to recharge their batteries and get excited about playing sports again.

7. Do you and your spouse attend most of your child's games as well as some of her practices?

  • Kids take great pride in seeing you in the stands, so make it a point to attend as many events as possible.

8. Do you and your spouse assist with your child's goal setting? Are his goals realistic?

  • Before every sports season be sure to sit down with your child and write out all his goals for the season. To make this an even better experience, try to develop goals in different areas of development, too - such as academic and social.

9. Do you and your spouse model pro-social behavior when it comes to resolving conflicts in youth sports?

  • It's easy to become emotional at youth sporting events and parents can run the gamut of emotion while watching all the ups and downs of great plays and routine mistakes your child makes. Keep in mind how many people will see your reactions if you allow yourself to get out of control, and how embarrassing that will be for the kids. Especially yours.

More resources

Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360! The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development.

Dr. Chris Stankovich offers individual athletic counseling and team/league seminars. Read more of Dr. Stankovich's articles on ThisWeek and Call (614) 561-4482, or visit for more details.