The Right Questions Parents Should Ask After a Game—and the Ones to Avoid

13 July 2022

Youth sports can get pretty competitive these days, and every team encounters a rough game here or there. Maybe the ref made some bad calls. Maybe the coach missed an opportunity. Or maybe your kid just had an off game—hey, it happens.

Win or lose, the way parents react after a game will shape how their child perceives sports. “I think it’s critical for parents to be coming from a growth mindset place with their children,” says Carol Dweck, a PCA National Advisory Board Member, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

She explains that many parents are focused on winning, having talented kids, or wanting their kids to shine above the others. “This is putting so much pressure on youth athletes and is probably accounting for a lot of them dropping out, becoming anxious, or not enjoying sports.”

So, what should parents do instead? Ask the right questions, she says. “Did you win? Did you lose? These are the wrong questions.” Instead, parents should shift their mentality to focus on what matters, like did their child give it their all.

To help you approach this kind of mindset, we created five positive questions you can ask after a game.

  1. “What was most fun about today’s game?” Don’t get technical and break down the game, or explain what your child did wrong. Instead, simply ask them what they liked. Their answers may surprise you.
  2. “What did you learn?” We always suggest trying to set goals with your child when they play youth sports, and this kind of question can help your child realize that teamwork and camaraderie is important, not the scoreboard.
  3. “How do you feel about your contribution to the team today?” Basketball is a game where every player on the court can make an impact. This question gives your child a chance to reflect on their responsibilities to the team and what their own personal strengths are. However, it’s important to make sure this question sounds genuine, so that they don’t feel judged.
  4. “Which teammate or coach deserves a shout out today?” It’s not just about them. Helping their teammates reach their goals, listening and respecting their coaches—these are valuable life skills that they’ll get out of youth basketball and should be worth noting after a game.
  5. “I love watching you play.” It’s not a question, we know. But it’s worth putting it out there, isn’t it? Let them know that no matter what, you enjoy watching them try their best—win or lose.

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