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Giving Teens Feedback in Sports: Ask Their Permission

Should parent involvement in sports include giving feedback — and advice — about your teenager’s  performance?

Jim Bucci from Positive Coaching Alliance offers helpful advice for parents and youth sports.


When your child is out there competing, whether it’s sports, or musical theater, or cheerleading, or dance, or whatever it is, you always want the best for your child. You don’t want to see them fail. You know, when I see something out on the court, I want to help him. But when I try to tell him, he doesn’t want to hear it. He tunes me out.

So the advice that I have heard and that I use now with my son, is that I’ll ask for his permission first.

This is a great rule of thumb when it comes to parent involvement in sports.

I’ll say, “Hey Joey, you know, I really enjoyed watching you guys play out there, you guys played a great game. In the second quarter I noticed something that I think might be able to help you later on going forward in the next game. Do you mind if I tell you? Do you want to talk about it?”

And if he says yes, then he’s basically giving me that permission to talk to him about it. And obviously you do it in a positive manner. You don’t say “Well you shouldn’t have done this” but you know, “Maybe try this instead.”

If he says no, then you as the parent need to just drop it and forget about it. And nine times out of ten, when he does say no, a couple of minutes later, he’ll circle back, or when we’re shooting around outside he’ll say, “Hey dad, what were you going to tell me about the game?”

So it’s just that asking for permission sort of diffuses the whole thing rather than just getting after him right away and saying “Hey you shouldn’t have done this this and this.”

Jim Bucci is the former Executive Director of the Positive Coaching Alliance

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