How to Handle a Child's Frustration with Sports: Advice from the Experts in Rockland County, NY



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. As Ellen Goneconti, owner of Premier Fitness in Nanuet, says. "Every child at some point in his life was the last one picked for the team. Why? Because someone will always be older, bigger, or stronger than you during your lifetime." But 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 Rockland County, NY, area:

"From the perspective of a coach, I would want to emphasize the positives of the situation. I would start by talking to the child privately and picking out something he has done well. For example, Johnny Smith is not a strong player and is having trouble hitting a baseball. I might say, 'Hey Johnny, I see you're a very fast runner. That's going to come in very handy for us this season. I also see some things in your swing I think can help to make you a better hitter. Can you come to practice 15 minutes early next week so we can work on it together?" In my experience, the child will take pride in the aspects he does well and will stay interested enough to give you some time to work with him in other areas. A good coach should be able to teach a child enough tools to build a base for improvement in the short-term over the season and keep him excited about playing in the long-term."

-Jeffrey Jacobs, JCC Rockland, West Nyack, NY 


"Being the last one picked for the team in no way determines who will become the best. The perfect example is Michael Jordan, who some consider the best basketball player ever to hit the NBA. Michael Jordon wasn't picked for his own high school basketball team! But he wanted to play basketball. And he not only wanted to play - he wanted to be the best basketball player there is. So he did just that by putting his mind to it. How did he make it happen? He began to work at it through training hard and playing basketball often. Michael Jordon became the best basketball player in the NBA. Some athletes train for speed, some athletes train for agility, some athletes train for power. But make no mistake: All athletes train!"

-Ellen Goneconti, owner, Premier Fitness, Nanuet, NY


"We all have good days and not so good days. Being part of a team is a great learning experience. It is important to remember to take something positive from every game, practice, or any other activity, whether or not it is sports based. Learn from each activity and use that knowledge to improve yourself for the next time around - and you'll find that the bad day last week really wasn't so bad."

-Matt Citardi, partner, The Sports Place, Blauvelt, NY


"You can tell your child anything to make them feel better temporarily, but you would merely be creating a false sense of self esteem. Someone's true positive self image and confidence - the kind they need to succeed in sports and in life - comes from within, a true belief that they are good at something. If your child is actually going to get better at something, he or she must want to improve. When children take the initiative, they are more likely to have a full emotional tank (in coaching, I'd call it Positive Mental Attitude, or P.M.A.). You can help fill your children's "e-tank" by putting them in charge of their own development as an athlete. Let your children know you are willing to work with them - to practice free throws, or swinging the bat, for a child who is always striking out. Give them advice if they ask for it. The hard part is:  Only offer that advice when they ask!"

-Tom Collins, director of education & athletics, Pearl River School District, Pearl River, NY (and former H.S. Varsity coach)

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