Your Body Language Never Lies

As parents, we're communicating every single second of every single day. Mouth open or mouth closed, the message is getting out. Your attitude about your child and her play, your sense of admiration or not, and what you think about her efforts are transmitted in subtle ways for her and everyone else to read.  Approximately 55% of all communication is transmitted by body language.

I'm amazed at how many parents continue to behave as if they are invisible, or as if their children can't see them at the soccer field or from the tennis court! The dad who drops his head after each strikeout; the mom who looks away after each unforced error; and the shuffling walk of disappointment after a missed kick are seen, interpreted as personal, and noted by your child.  The fact that you are not disappointed in them, but actually for them, does not come through as you intend.

Let's think about the possible ways your child may interpret body language messages being sent from the bleachers.

  • You blew it again.
  • Your performance is embarrassing me.
  • I'm disappointed in you.
  • You're not good enough.
  • You're not trying hard enough to please me.
  • I don't want to be here.

The reason your body language is of such importance to your child is this: The opinion that matters most to your children is what they think you think of them - that includes during a competition.

For your athlete to perform up to his or her natural potential there must be a consistent assumption in place: unconditional love and total acceptance no matter how the game goes. Children are free to be their best when the fear of disappointing their parents is not even remotely on their mind. When parents maintain supportive in word, tone, and posture 100% of the time regardless of performance ups and downs children have one less critic to worry about. The internal critic is already giving them a hard enough time as it is!

We can accomplish this by monitoring our responses to the ebb and flow of the game or match. Conscientiously check yourself during the five seconds that follow any play or error. Those are the most crucial five seconds of the game! Remember, you are a supporter, all the time, not an evaluator! While it's true your child should not be looking at you during a game anyway if they are looking perhaps it's because they've grown accustomed to receiving Dad's play-by-play feedback of thumbs-up or thumbs-down after every play. Take yourself out of the role of evaluator and your child will always assume the best about your opinion of her.

Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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