How To Encourage Positive Two-Way Conversations With Your Teenage Athlete

This blog will take you through how to encourage positive two-way conversations with your teenage athlete, along with some ideas on how you can turn some rather challenging conversations into open and honest conversations instead.

First, I want to remind you about our masterclass we have coming up on the 28th of September at 8:00 AM, AEST over five days. Plus, four days of bonus sessions. It is going to be a fantastic event. We are giving away a bonus prize to our registrants who register via the registration page. Simply click here and you will qualify for one of our bonus prizes. We will love to see you there.

Let’s talk about what we are going over this week in, College Bound Athletes and that is, how to encourage positive two-way conversations with your teenage athlete. You will likely need to be the one that starts the dialogue because a lot of teenagers have difficulty having a conversation with their parents. They often don’t find it very exciting, to say the least.

Opening The Conversation With A General Question

Encourage positive two-way conversation by opening with a general question. Ask them how their day was, what they got up to at school, and what subjects or exams they had. Just a very general question, and give them time to answer. Give them time to think about what they’re going to say to you. You’re their parent. They want to think about what they’re going to say. Ask them how their day was and give them a bit of time to answer so they understand you’re inviting them to a two-way conversation. You’re not there to Badger and meddle, nor are you there to give them a lecture or interrogate them.

You are there to engage in a two-way conversation because you’re interested. They have your support. You have to find a way to help them feel comfortable. Ensure they know they have your support at all times. Starting the dialogue with general chitchat questions gives them the option to answer you with more dialogue, but if they don’t want to, they don’t have to, they can just say, “yes, my day was fine, thank you, mum”.

Don’t Just Hear Them…Listen To Them

It is just as important that you know how to listen to your athlete. The most important element of this journey is communication. Communication between you and your athlete, between your athlete and their coach, and communication between you and the coach. Then there’s three-way communication, not to mention the communication with everybody else who will be involved in the journey. So it’s really important that you are not just hearing your athlete, but you are really listening to them. Sometimes they will have words come out, but it’s not necessarily what they mean to say. It is our job as parents to read the signs.

Look for eye contact. Are they avoiding eye contact with you? Does their body language say something entirely different from what they are telling you? Are they fidgety? Are they sweating? Take notice and pay attention to every small detail.  Now, if they don want to talk to you and you’re concerned about them, talk to their guidance officers, teachers, and coaches.  Ask how they feel your athlete is performing and if they see any changes to be concerned about.

Don’t ask your athlete heavy questions directly. It will make them feel like they withdrawing from you altogether. Listen to them very intently. Hold eye contact because its an effective way to let them know you are listening. You’re taking it in. You’re interested. You are not just watching the TV, looking on your phone or cooking dinner. You’re standing there looking at them and listening. That is one of the biggest things. Our athletes want to know we are willing to listen to them, not just talk to them. Positive two-way conversations won’t happen if your athlete feels like you are not listening to them.

Consistent Yet Subtle Check-ins

The next thing you should do is consistently check-in on your athlete. But, how do you do that without feeling like a pain in the butt, meddling parent? Again, it comes down to general chit chat. Using open-ended general questions that are going to help you. Be consistent in your check-ins. Your athlete won’t notice you’re “checking in” when its just general chit chat. So every day, just when you’re passing each other in the hall, or when they come home after school, ask them how their day was, or if anything special happened today. The one thing you’re going to notice, all you need is general chitchat to get your athlete leading the conversation. If they lead, they will feel like they are actually involved in a positive two-way conversation.

Feedback & Praise In Conversation

Any feedback you give your athletes needs to be constructive. Praise them regularly, whether they win or they lose. Don’t just praise them when they win. They need to know that it’s hard work, determination, dedication, drive, and a consistent improvement that equals success. It’s not winning every game. No matter what, as long as they are putting in maximum effort and consistently improving, they are succeeding.

It’s very important that any feedback you do give your athlete is constructive feedback. Don’t point out their failures. Do not ever point out their failures. Collaborate together, have a conversation and go over ideas together about how they can improve and gain maximum performance again, or what they need to do to hit that milestone they want to get to. Positive two-way conversations will occur when your athlete has the opportunity to speak their own ideas and point-of-view.

Tournaments, Games, Training Sessions

Whatever happens during a game or a training session, don’t say, “Oh look, you could have done this a bit better, but I’m proud of you anyway”. You are giving them a negative and putting them down first. What you should do is ask them how they felt about it and where they think they can go from there to improve in the future. Collaborate those ideas together. Let them feel like they are part of the conversation. Again, you’re having two-way engagement. You’re not just telling them where they went wrong and what they’re to do next time. You are talking together about how they can improve and what needs to be done in order to do that.

Realistic Expectations

As a parent, you have to be very realistic of your expectations of them. How do they perceive your expectations of them? Do they think that maximum effort and improvement is success? Or, do they think winning every game is success? I can tell you that if your athlete thinks winning every game is a success, they are being set up for disappointment. Unless they are part of a team that wins every single game, they are being set up for disappointment.

Now, if they know your expectations of them, they’re going to have more of a will, and more drive, to want to keep improving. Rather than feeling disappointed after each game, deflated, feeling like withdrawing, getting down in the dumps, or being angry at themselves. How do they perceive your expectations of them? That is going to play a very big role in this journey, especially leading up to college sports. Don’t set your athlete up for disappointment, let them know they have to put in maximum effort and consistently improve, which is easy to do if they work hard. This can be a positive two-way conversation with the correct approach.

Empathise and Understand

Understand your athlete’s feelings and emotions, empathize with their feelings and emotions. It will help them understand you really are there to support them more than anything else.  That’s a huge thing for an athlete to think. I used to have a very different relationship between my father and my mother when it came to sport. I always knew though, that no matter what happened, my parents were there to support me. They weren’t there to push me and never made me think winning is the only thing that matters. I thank them so much for instilling this into me because I know I’ve been able to take that to my children also. Empathize with their feelings and emotions. A positive two-way conversation depends on your ability to empathise and understand your athlete.

Trust Their Judgement

Now, you also have to let them know you trust their judgment. They need to know they are part of the conversation, number one, but they also want to feel like they are part of the decision making process. This is their journey. It’s your athlete’s responsibility to lead. They make the decisions. It will help them work on problem-solving skills they can take that through the rest of their lives. Always ensure they are making the choices, you can guide them, but at the end of the day, you need to let them make their own choices and let them have the final say.

Let Them Deal With Consequences

Just as important, let them learn from the consequences of their choices. If they decide they don’t want to go to training all week because they just feel lazy and they’ll be fine because they’re really good at what they do. Then, the coach benches them for the game and they don’t get any court time. This is where you want to let them sit there and learn from the choice they made. These lessons will prepare them for college. They will have to deal with consequences and be problem solvers. This will help them to do that successfully. Make sure they always know you trust their judgment. Trust them to make the right choices for them, and trust them to deal with the consequences of not making the right choice.

Your Athlete’s Point-of-View Matters

Ask their ideas in every conversation you have. Don’t just talk to them, but invite them into the conversation and ask their point of view and ideas. Before you put yours to the table, let them go first and collaborate together to find solutions. When your athlete can speak their point-of-view without feeling like it doesn’t matter, a positive two-way conversation is definitely on the cards.

Do Not Use Sport As A Punishment

One thing I want to stress, and this is a biggie for me, please don’t ever hold sport against your athlete. Do not threaten them with taking sport away. Number one, it’s not just your athlete that you are punishing, it’s the coach and the team also. It’s whoever else your athlete trains and performs with. If you hold them back, it will be detrimental to their performance, both academic and sports performance.

I know for a fact that when you take sport away from an athlete who lives for that sport, you’re doing damage. I know this because I’ve experienced what it’s like to have it taken away. My parents didn’t take it away from me, but I did suffer a horrendous injury that took me out for a very long time. It can be really detrimental to an athlete’s mental health. They lose their motivation, their drive, and they lose their will. It’s extremely hard to come back from that. Taking them out of training, even for the week, is still very significant to an athlete.

Sport is promoted as a healthy living. Why would we want to take that away from our athletes? Please don’t ever hold sport against your athletes, find something else, take away their phone. That seems to be the go-to thing these days because they’ve all got phones in their hands but they are not a necessity. If you take away sport, it’s a whole other kettle of fish. Keeping your athlete from sport is the last thing that will encourage positive two-way conversations between you.

Straight After Performance

After a game, performance, or tournament, congratulate your athlete, high five them. Win or lose, high five them. Open dialogue again with a general question, like how did that feel? How did you think that went? You invite them into the conversation. Now, if they don want to tell you or talk to you about the performance, they’re not going to. Don’t force them, just let them be. They will talk to you about it when they’re good and ready.

Don’t make observations. Avoid giving feedback. Don’t deconstruct the whole performance and tell them where they went wrong or right. Just let them be. If they don’t want to talk to you after that high five, then don’t force them. They may talk later. They may not. The best thing to do is to give them that high five. Let them know they have your support.

Make Tough Conversations Positive & Constructive

Two-way engagement is the way to making tough conversations positive and constructive. It has to be POSITIVE two-way conversations. You shouldn’t talk down to them, give a stern lecture, or interrogate them, because it will only make them withdraw. You’re going to get the exact opposite reaction that you were hoping for. Invite them to have a conversation with those general questions.

If you have concerns, ask guidance officers, teachers and coaches, how they think your athlete is performing. If they’ve noticed any changes, and if you are all concerned, then it’s time to investigate further. Otherwise, let them talk to you when they are ready. I can say that when it’s just general chitchat, you’re paying attention, and you’re listening with every bit of intent you have, they will likely keep talking. Show you are interested in everything they are saying.

You could say “Wow, That sounds pretty amazing”. Or, “Wow, that does sound like you had a challenge”. Try not to say things like, “Oh, you look disappointed”, but rather, let them tell you if they are disappointed. Your response when they tell you they are not happy with their performance could be something like, “I understand how you could feel like that, what do you think went wrong”? Being constructive with your approach is going to help encourage a positive two-way conversation, because again, you are inviting their input into the dialogue.

Wrapping Up

If you have any questions, concerns, or questions about the upcoming masterclass, shoot us through a DM and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Don’t forget, our masterclass is kicking off on the 28th September at 8:00 AM AEST. There is a special registrant’s bonus draw. Just register via the registration page and you will be in the draw for that bonus prize. It is going to be an amazing event. I always have tons of fun hanging with you guys. I love giving out lots of bonuses and giveaways, but mostly, I just love hanging with you guys, and I get to do that LIVE for five days straight.

We certainly have exciting days ahead. If you would like to book a 15-minute connect call, follow this link to my calendar and book a call at any time that suits you. Today’s blog content is just a little piece of what is to come this week in College Bound Athletes. We’ve got plenty of content coming up throughout the week on the topic of how you can have those honest and open conversations with your athletes, without feeling uncomfortable or having it end in a screaming match. Follow this link to head over and become a member today. Hopefully, today’s blog has given you some ideas on how you can encourage positive two-way conversations with your athlete. Yours in sport, Brooke Hamilton.

What do you find the most challenging part of securing sports scholarships and maximising opportunity from year 9 for your athlete?

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