The Canadians call it “chirping.” The Americans call it “trash-talking.” We can assume it is called something different in other countries. The question is – is there a place for it in youth sports?

First of all, trash-talking occurs in almost every sport and at every level. It’s certainly not limited to the players as you’ll hear the spectators too and they have plenty to say. Plenty of parents may worry about the effects that trash-talking opponents and even people in the stands will have on their children. They may even worry that their own kids are the ones doing the trash-talking.

While we’re not endorsing trash-talking particularly at a very young age, we’d like to explore the psychology of trash-talking and why it exists in sports today. And cruel as it may sometimes feel for parents of young athletes, why no one has really stood up against it.

Dealing with Distraction

Playing sports requires physical skill and mental strength. Athletes don’t choose their opponents. They have to be emotionally ready for an opponent who, without knowing anything about them personally, may say things to their face about their town, school, teammates, team stats, and skills – all to get inside their head.

A player who learns how to deal with trash-talking is developing the vital skills of managing distraction, ignoring the nonsense, and focusing on their performance. They learn how to keep their cool and avoid frustration.

These are all great skills that they can use in life, well after they leave the field and the sport, should they choose. Dealing with trash-talking requires patience, confidence, a sense-of-humor, and an understanding of the unspoken rules of sports.

Sharpening More Than Just Athletic Skills

While there are those who silently play the game and let their skills be their voice, there are some athletes whose trash-talking is an essential part of their strategy. Some might say that trash-talking is a skill in itself. Effective trash-talking is both funny and mean that aims to push the right buttons.

It takes a certain amount of wit to trash-talk, in fact. Trash-talkers have done their homework and know enough about their opponent to know what to say to rattle them. It also shows their deep love for their team that they go to these extents of trash-talking just to win.

Know the Limits

However, as a parent or coach, know that there are limits. Some things can be said that are below-the-belt and are outright inappropriate. If they must trash-talk, be smart about it. Be funny, a little insulting, maybe – but never cruel.

Professional athletes have an unwritten rule when it comes to trash-talking. What happens on the court, stays on the court.

“Trash-talking is part of the game,” says Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry.

“You have to give it. You have to be able to take it. It’s just that you don’t want to see it ever cross the line and become personal, because the game of basketball is never that serious in regards to disrespecting people. So you have to leave it on the floor.”