Someone once said that having a child is like deciding to let your heart walk around outside your body. And if you’re a cheer parent whose heart is about to walk into a big competition, you’re probably feeling the truth of that statement right now.

You’d love nothing more than to see your child succeed and want nothing more than to support him or her as best you can.

So, what do you say in those final moments before her performance?

Many parents try to pump their child up with comments such as “Just do your best!” or “I believe in you!” or “You’ve got this!” However, when your words focus, even indirectly, on the outcome of your child’s efforts, what she hears is that a win (or doing her personal “best”) is important to you and consequently takes that to heart.

According to sports psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor, statements such as “you can do it!” right before a big performance simply “create pressure, make them nervous, shift their focus to results, cause them to think about you, cause them to think about their competitors, reduce their motivation and confidence, and make them afraid [to perform].”

Words Sharks FBBasically, in trying to encourage your Shark with phrases like these, you’re actually achieving the opposite. It’s a little unsettling to consider, isn’t it? But don’t worry. It’s not too late to change your strategy.

As Dr. Mara Smith, a former competitive gymnast and mother of four, writes, “Our job as sports parents is to enjoy watching our children play. We need to help them understand that playing [or performing] isn’t about things being perfect, always turning out the way they want, or winning. But rather, being equipped to handle what comes their way.”

The best way to support your child is to make sure they know you will always be there for them, whether they win or lose. His or her confidence on the mat will come from the knowledge that, whether they blow the judges away---or just plain blow it---your feelings for them will stay exactly the same.

So, the next time your Shark is heading into a big competition, skip the “motivational” speech and try these three words instead:

“I love you.”

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