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Why Is “SHOOT” the Most Overused Word in Youth Sports?

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a sports parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt yell “SHOOT” from the bleachers. If they only knew the harm it does!

I actually lost track of the number of times I heard parents yelling  “SHOOT” at my kid’s ball games.  Hmmm. “SHOOT”.  Is that a cheer?  Or is that a word of encouragement? Or maybe even just a nervous tick as you watch your child’s game on the edge of your seat.  

Actually,  “SHOOT” is a command. It is generally yelled by a parent. Above the volume of anyone else in the bleachers,  to get their child to shoot the ball. And usually yelled in basketball, lacrosse, hockey, field hockey, soccer and more. I’m very familiar with this command because I was the un-informed parent shouting it dozens of times to my daughter in her early years of travel soccer and basketball.

Youth Sports Parent Yelling, Shoot!

The Magical Lesson

But then I learned a magical lesson from a sports psychologist friend. To shoot, or not to shoot, is a decision that our children must learn to make on their own. When developing the player, parents need to let their players make their own decisions on the court, field or ice. This helps them develop critical thinking skills, urgency and autonomy to make them a great (and smart) player.  And yelling “SHOOT” will only distract them, freak them out, hurt their confidence and smother their ability to think and make decisions on their own. While we all love when our kids score, the long term impact of yelling “SHOOT” is the opposite of growth.

Reasons Why We Want to Yell “SHOOT”

To be fair, as a sports parent, there are many reasons why we have felt compelled to yell “SHOOT” in the past:

  • You may be overwhelmed with nervous energy brought on by competition, emotions and the stress hormone Cortisol.
  • You may be frustrated that your child doesn’t score goals and baskets.
  • You may have insecurity about your own child’s ability to make this decision without your help or the coaches help.
  • You may be impatient because you feel  that the coach is not providing guidance.
  • Or, the word “SHOOT” just came flying out of your mouth without even thinking about it (a symptom of a sideline parent in “fight or flight” mode with elevated emotions and stress hormones).

Believe me, I’ve been there!

Better Way to Help Your Child

But the bottom line is, there’s a better way:  Instead of giving in to the impulsive urge to  yell  “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 and your voice is likely drowning out instructions that the coach is calling out to your child.  So next time you find one of these words flying out of your mouth at your child’s game, try to smother that impulse and 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.



About the Author:

Ian is a passionate sports dad, youth sport coach and Founder of iSport360. He spends more time at the ballfields than most, but considers it valuable R&D for the company. As the Editor of the iSport360 newsletter and thought leader in the youth sport industry, Ian is a frequent speaker at industry events and was recently invited to join the National Advisory Board for the National Alliance for Youth Sports.



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July 10, 2023

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