The one word your athlete should not say

By Janis Meredith | Posted 10/6/2014

What is the one word that will get an athlete into competitive trouble?

The word is: Can’t.

In our house, “can’t” is almost as bad as a swear word. My husband – coach for 28 years – always corrects our children when they start to say it. Shoot, he even corrects me when I use it.

When your young athlete uses the word “can’t,” he’s admitting defeat. He’s doubting himself. He’s giving up. He’s decided that it’s not worth the effort.

Ask your child when he says, “I can’t,” if he is actually saying: “I am struggling,” or “I don’t want to do this” or “I need help.”

Then you can help him with his frustration, instead of allowing him to shut the door on amazing possibilities.

  • “Can’t” will keep him from knowing the exhilaration of a hard-earned victory.
  • “Can’t” will stop him from seeing rewards from all her exhausting workouts.
  • “Can’t” will rob him of the joy of knowing he gave his all on the court or field, in the pool or on the mat.
  • “Can” may not an Olympic medal or a college scholarship, but it will surely give him the satisfaction of knowing that he did not back down and that no one can stop him from giving her all.

When was the last time your child said, “I can’t,” in sports and how did he work through the frustration?

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.