How To Give Constructive Feedback to Sports Kids

It’s no secret that many young athletes aren’t very open to constructive feedback during games. That’s because they often take it personally. They think that what you say about their performance as athletes reflects on them as people.

What does this mean for you as parents and coaches?

It’s your job to make sure you give kids constructive criticism in ways that allow them to learn and grow from it.

If, for example. you’re a coach and you yell at kids from the sidelines every time they make a mistake, then yank them from the game, they won’t necessarily learn and grow.

In fact, they’re likely to feel afraid of failing again, which will make them play tentatively. That’s not what you want from your sports kids.

Youth sports parent and football coach James Jackson has a great idea about giving feedback to young athletes after they make mistakes. We recently interviewed him for our popular “Ultimate Sports Parent Radio” show.

First of all, Jackson lets kids and parents know at the beginning of the season how he handles mistakes. That way, there are no surprises.

When a young athlete makes a mistake in a game, he takes them out of the game, then tells them he wants them to chat with one of the other coaches to understand how they could better handle the situation. After the chat, he puts them back in the game, and gives them lots of praise.

“You want to give them the opportunity to go back and do it differently,” he says.

That’s not all coaches and parents can do when young athletes make mistakes.

After a loss, they should find some positive things to say about the game. Then they should wait at least a day before giving any constructive feedback.

In fact, coaches and parents should make sure that the ratio of positive to negative feedback is high: Say something positive about five times for every one time they give negative feedback.

Parents should avoid talking about the game in the car on the way home after a loss. Again, this only makes the young athlete feel bad.

Want to learn more about how to be the best coaches and sports parents, and how to help young athletes make the most of their physical talent?

At Kids’ Sports Psychology, members have access to lots of resources for doing just this. For example, if you’re a member, you can download these and other e-books for free:

  • Kick Fear of Failure and Perfectionism (for kids)
  • Teaching Young Athletes to Get in the Flow of Sports (for parents)
  • Post-Game Checklist for Parents: Boosting Kids’ Confidence

But that’s just the beginning. At Kids’ Sports Psychology, you can download more than 17 e-books written for parents and sports kids…

You can access audio and video programs and articles that help your young athletes have fun, improve their confidence and perform better.

You can also download our latest series of videos, “Inside The Minds of Young Athletes.” In this series, we interview athletes, then provide tips for improving their mental game—and your young athletes’ mental game.

Want to help your kids improve mental toughness and learn more tips from top youth sports experts? Become an exclusive member today:

Kids’ Sports Psychology


Patrick Cohn Ph.D. and Lisa Cohn

P.S. If you’re a Kids’ Sports Psychology member, please visit this page to listen to the interview with Jackson:

Youth Sports Expert James Jackson Interview

1 thought on “How To Give Constructive Feedback to Sports Kids”

  1. I absolutely agree that constructive is essential. And no yelling. I coached many club teams as my child grew up and I saw too many bad examples of ugly sports parents.
    No one responds well to yelling.
    Sports is supposed to be fun. Some kids struggle enough with the skills part. Let’s not give them another thing to be anxious about.

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