“Shoot”: The Most Dangerous Word in Youth Sports

Ian Goldberg is the Founder and CEO of iSport360, a SportsTech company that is helping 12,000 coaches, parents and kids set goals, share player feedback and track player development….all so our kids can have more success, more confidence and more fun.  Try iSport360 for free here.

I actually lost track of the number of times I heard parents yelling “SHOOT” at my 9 year old’s basketball game this weekend.  “SHOOT” …hmmm. Is that a cheer?  Is that a word of encouragement?  Is that an instruction?  Actually,  “SHOOT” is a command, and it’s generally yelled by a parent, above the volume of anyone else in the bleachers,  to get their child to shoot the ball… in basketball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer and more. I’m very familiar with this command, as I shouted it dozens of times to my daughter in her early years of travel soccer.

But then I learned a magical lesson:  To shoot, or not to shoot, is a decision that our children must learn to make on their own.  And yelling “SHOOT” will only distract them, freak them out, and hurt their ability to think and make decisions on their own.

Youth Sports Parent Yelling, Shoot!

To be fair, as a sports parent, there are many reasons why I have felt compelled to yell “SHOOT” in the past:
—Overwhelmed with nervous energy.
—Frustrated that my child doesn’t score goals and baskets.
—Insecurity that my child can’t make this decision without my help or the coaches help.
—Or, the word “SHOOT” just came flying out of my mouth without even thinking about it (a symptom of a sideline parent with elevated stress hormones).

Believe me, I’ve been there!  But the bottom line is, there’s a better way:  Instead of going for the short term reward by yelling “SHOOT”, focus on long term development and work with your child to attack the goal, release the ball quickly, be more aggressive and have more field/court awareness.  Worth mentioning that half the time you yell “SHOOT”, “PASS” or “GO TO THE GOAL” it’s probably not even the right coaching instruction.  So next time you find one of these words flying out of your mouth at your child’s game, try to put that energy towards building their skills, instead of building their ability to respond to your commands.  It worked for me.

Wishing you a great Sports Season.

Ian