Parent Behavior: We Won! Now What?


Much of the joy of being a sport parent comes from watching children compete in games. Most children also appreciate their parents’ interest and attendance. What youngster isn’t bolstered by looking up into the strands and seeing Mom and Dad in spellbound attention?

Certainly, parents are encouraged to attend as many games as possible, but their behavior must conform to acceptable standards─prior to, during and after sport events.

What are some guidelines for parent behavior after a win?

Post-Game Follow-up

  • Compliment the coaches and sport officials for doing a good job, and be sure to thank them for their contributions.
  • STOP focusing on whether your child won or lost.
  • LOOK for signs that indicate how your child is feeling (facial expressions, tears, body language).
  • LISTEN to what your child has to say before you provide input.

Begin with a supportive greeting, and then ask open-ended questions:

“What part of the game did you enjoy the most/least?”

“What was the best/worst thing about your performance?”

“Were you satisfied with your effort?”

If not, “What do you intend to do about effort in the future?”

“What was the most important thing you learned from the game?”

Tips for Moms and Dads

  • Let your child know that athletes should feel good about winning and enjoy it.
  • Tell your child to show consideration for opponents. Good sportsmanship includes being a respectful winner and giving opponents a pat on the back or a “high five” in a sincere manner.
  • Remind your child about the importance of continued effort and striving for improvement.

If your child played well, here are some things to say:

“Way to go! You showed a lot of effort and improvement. Keep it up.”

“You must feel satisfied with your effort and performance. I’m proud of you.”

“You met the challenge really well. Is there anything in your game that needs more work and improvement?”

If your child played badly, here are some things to say:

“That was a good one to win. Is there any part of your game that needs work?

“Let’s enjoy that win. Keep focusing on your effort and learning, and you’ll do better next time.”

Ask your child, “Did you learn anything from this that you can apply in school and in other parts of your life?”

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Frank L. Smoll, Ph.D., and Ronald E. Smith, Ph.D., for this article. Drs. Smoll and Smith are sport psychologists at the University of Washington and co-directors of Youth Enrichment in Sports. To see previews of their Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports and Mastery Approach to Coaching DVDs, visit


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