How to Handle a Child's Frustration with Sports: Advice from the Experts in Queens



father and son playing baseball; father teaching son to play baseball    As a parent on the sidelines, it can be challenging to watch your little competitor have a tough day on the field or in the gym. As Christine Phillips of Christy's Gymnastics notes, "So much of what children feel in sports has to do with expectations - both the expectations of the kids and those of the parents." No child expects to get picked last for a team, for example, but it happens; and it is the parent's role to help a child navigate the emotional fallout from such a disappointing experience. Remember that these heart-wrenching moments for you can also be valuable life lessons for your kids. To help you handle them, we asked local experts to answer the following question:



How should I handle it when my child is frustrated or upset after a particularly bad day with sports?


Advice from sports experts in the Queens area:

"We always tell our parents that it's really important to be a support system after rough days in class or after sparring. Tell the kids that the most successful athletes - and people - are the ones that pick themselves up after they fail and then get right back out there. Kids should be reminded to always make use of their struggles and to use them as lessons on the path to their success."

-Kathryn Sacoulas, program director, Progressive Martial Arts, Fresh Meadows


 "We find in gymnastics, certainly, that those children whose parents place less pressure on their children's performance often rebound from a poor competition better. I often tell our gymnasts that it's good to feel disappointed because you worked hard. There will be those difficult times, but there will also be good times. These notions have to be instilled very early in their training so they will be able to rebound when disappointed."

-Christine Phillips, owner, Christy's Gymnastics, Flushing


"To a child who had a disappointing day, I would say, 'I love you and I enjoyed watching you play. Are you hungry?' Distraction can be very powerful! And to encourage a child who wants to improve his game, I would say, 'If you are willing to learn and put in the practice time, then never give up until you are as good as you want to be.' "

-Joel Mansbach, owner, First Shot Basketball, Forest Hills


"Sports offer kids so much in the way of friendships and life lessons that it's important not to focus on any one game. What makes the activity fun is the competition itself - not the winning or the losing. If you won all the time, it would get pretty boring! We try to encourage our students to find joy in competing, and parents should offer the same encouragement."

-Steven Newby, director of junior tennis, Cunningham Sports Center


"If a kid isn't doing well playing baseball or any other sport, a parent should give advice similar to what they would if their child received a low mark in school. Assure the child that it is not totally his or her fault, but that if they put in an effort to do their best - through practice and paying attention to others who can help them - then they will improve. Ask the child to think about what makes an athlete. It is a person who not only practices and exercises, but who eats healthy food and gets a good night's sleep as often as possible, too!  If the child is invested in improving, you can play with him outside or take him to a batting cage, say, to help him learn. Remember that actions speak louder than words - so spending some quality time with your kid shows him that you care how he does."

-Steve Poliseno, owner, Astoria Sports Complex, Astoria

Do you have kids heading off to summer camp? Learn how to deal with the inevitable separation anxiety, and find other great advice from experts in your area at