Parents: The Car Ride Home
There is a moment of big impact for athletes after the competition is over, and that is the conversation, feedback, and interaction with their parents. As serious as youth sports have become, we have to remember that it’s just a game, and it’s a game that should be used for development in a multitude of areas. First, I want to point out some truths, then I want to offer some advice.
-Most athletes say the WORST part of the game was the car ride home with their parents when they discussed what went wrong.
-If they played bad, they are already frustrated and disappointed in themselves, and the last thing they want is to also think they let you down.
-The last thing most kids want to do on the ride home is rehash each moment of the game with you.
-Athletes don’t gain much, if anything, from hearing parents (or other adults) questioning their actions, the other players’ actions, or the coach’s decision making.
-Conversations driven by the parent about a game (or practice) make the child feel like their value is tied to their performance, or wins and losses.
How to do better:
-Most important thing to provide: the safety of your love, which is not tied to performance ever. Tell them “I love watching you play.”
-Let them drive any conversation about the game. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t try to. Maybe they need a distraction or to forget about it and you can help provide this.
-If they do want to talk about it, use questions more than your opinions. Praise effort over result.
-Be a source of confidence and comfort when your athlete has been in a difficult situation (tough loss, played badly, didn’t play).
-Remember, it’s not just what you say, it’s also your emotions. Be mindful of how you are acting.
Your reaction after a game has an impact on your relationship with your child, and your child’s relationship with the sport. Be mindful of what they need, and make sure you keep the long game in perspective of why they play and their joy in the journey of the sport.
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