What to Say to Your Discouraged Athlete

By Janis Meredith | Posted 2/24/2020

It’s one thing for you as a parent to get discouraged, and quite another to watch your child get down. You, at least, can take control of your mindset and change your own thinking. But trying to pull your child out of their discouragement is a reminder of how little control we actually do have over the way others think.

I understand that you feel discouraged. Non-judgmental listening and empathy is the first step to helping your child recognize that all is not lost. In fact, that may be all that many young athletes need.

What is a positive way you can respond in this situation? If your child has been heard and yet still is discouraged, talk with them about positive ways that they can resolve the issue. Sometimes just having a plan will make them feel hopeful. 

This is a big deal to you, but please know that this too shall pass. This should not be the first thing out of your mouth because parents should be sympathetic when kids are struggling. But at some point, it is okay to reassure them that even though what they are going through is hard and seems like a big deal, it will pass. You want them to know that there is hope.

It’s time for a reset. Introduce your kids to the "Reset Button." Sometimes they just need to be reminded to stop, take some deep breaths and try again. The reset button may also come in the form of a snack, time with friends, playing games or even a good night’s sleep. Getting their mind off of the problem for a short time gives them time to recover and gain clarity. 

Let’s find something good. Encourage your child to look for the small victories. They are there in every game, every day, every season. But when negativity is clouding their view, they are blind to the good stuff. Help them see that there is always something—no matter how little it is—to celebrate.

Let’s break it down. Work with your child, little by little, until they feel more confident in themselves. Taking those baby steps may take 5 minutes or 5 weeks, or even 5 months but seeing incremental progress will help them feel better about themselves.

I see that smile. Sometimes, laughter and good times together are an antidote to your child being discouraged. You know your child; find what works for them, what will make them laugh or smile. Laughter truly is medicine for the soul.

Discouragement is a normal part of growing up. However, If your child starts isolating themselves, not doing things they used to enjoy, experiencing changes in sleeping and eating habits and declining grades, it may be time to talk to someone. Many adolescents struggle with mental health issues that without intervention can lead to self-harm or other serious issues. But, if caught early, kids can get the help they need.

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.


USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.