The Positive Impact of Post-Game Parental Coaching in Sports

According to tennis great Martina Navratilova, “parents should be there to support their children’s dreams, not live out their own dreams through them.”

Let me preface this blog by reiterating the fact that I am a parent, a coach, and I am currently coaching my own son right now. My son is a junior on my high school varsity basketball team. This is a complicated relationship with a lot of ups and downs. Both of us are still learning how to build and maintain this relationship effectively.  Yes, it’s complicated.

This blog is meant to help parents of athletes who are not being coached by them on the court or the rink or the field. That is an important dynamic worth perfecting.

First, and most importantly, understand and acknowledge the coaches’ expertise. Trusting the coaches’ judgment and decisions is important for your son or daughter to build this special relationship. Avoid undermining their authority by openly questioning or criticizing their methods in front of your child.

This. Is. Not. Easy.

I realize that. I have made this mistake myself. A few times, to be honest. I’ve learned that once you have criticized the coach to your son or daughter, you have opened the door to mistrust.

The next one is also difficult. Be a supportive spectator. Cheer positively for your son or daughter. Applaud good plays regardless of the outcome and demonstrate good sportsmanship in the stands. It’s amazing how many adults start acting like children when a competition begins. Stop it. It’s not helping. Trust me on this. I’ve seen the embarrassment this causes in the locker room. Don’t do anything that your son or daughter needs to apologize to the team for. Trust me on this.

This also means — avoid coaching or directing your child from the sidelines. You don’t fully understand the strategy of the coach and your coaching can be disruptive and confusing. If you can’t do this, volunteer to do the score book or take photos at a game. This will keep you busy and prevent you from coaching.

If your child has issues or questions for the coach, teach them how to advocate for themselves. Show them the proper way to meet with the coach and gather information. Help them to build a positive relationship with their coach. This will have long-term benefits. Your son or daughter will understand how to navigate complicated relationships like with a future boss.

Lastly, and most importantly, how you engage with your child after a game/match can significantly impact their development and enjoyment of sports. Tell them how much you enjoy watching them compete. Kids love to know that parents are having fun while watching them. Even if they don’t get a lot of playing time. It’s fun to watch a team. Post-game coaching when approached, constructively and positively can reinforce positive values and foster healthy growth in a young athlete.

Avoid criticism immediately after the game. Instead, encourage self-reflection by asking open ended questions like, “what did you learn from today’s game?” Or “what strategies worked well for you?“ This helps children analyze their performance and foster self-awareness without feeling judged or pressured. Create an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their experiences without fear of criticism. Listening attentively and offering support builds trust and encourages open communication.

Okay, parents. We can do this. It’s important to keep perspective and manage expectations. Mistakes are part of the learning process. For the athlete and the coach. Coaches are not perfect. If we value effort over performance and focus on the joy of playing rather than winning — Everyone wins. For more great information about parenting happy athletes, check out Kirsten Jones book, “Raising Empowered Athletes”

According to basketball coach, Tom Crean, “the best thing parents can do is to instill in their children, a sense of confidence and discipline while letting them enjoy the game for what it is “

Let’s Do This.

linda smiling<br />

Written by Linda Martindale

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