The Ride Home


Emotions are high, disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion are heightened for both the athlete and parent, yet many parents choose this moment to confront their child about a play, criticise them for having a poor game.

There could not be a less coachable moment in your child’s sporting life then the ride home, yet it is often the moment that well-intentioned parents decide to do all of their coaching.

One of the biggest problems on the ride home is that a simple question from you, often meant to encourage your own child, can be construed as an attack on a teammate or coach by your child.

Many children suggest that parental actions and conversations after games made them feel as though their value and worth in their parents’ eyes was tied to their athletic performance, and the wins and losses of their team.  

Ask yourself whether you are quieter after a hard loss, or happier and more buoyant after a big win.  Do you tend to criticise and dissect your child’s performance after a loss, but overlook many of the same mistakes because he or she won?  If you see that you are doing this, even though your intentions may be well meaning, your child’s observations of your words and actions can be quite damaging to their performance, and to your relationship.

Parents should and need to be a source of confidence and comfort in situations such as when your child has played well in a loss, when your child has played poorly, and especially when your child has played very little or not at all.

Even then, it is critically important that you do not bring the game up for them, as uninvited conversations may cause resentment in children.  Give them the time and space to digest the game and recover physically and emotionally from a match. When your child is ready to bring the game up and talk about it, be a quiet and reflective listener, and make sure she can see the big picture and not just the outcome of a single event.  Help them work through the game, and facilitate their growth and education by guiding them toward her own answers. Kids learn a lot when they realise things such as “we had a bad week of practice and coach told us this was coming” remember that your child always loves hearing you sincerely tell them “I love watching you play.”

Not every child is the same, and some children may want to discuss the game on the way home. My advice is let them bring it up, and let them end the conversation. if you are unsure, ask your kids whether they want to talk about the game, and honor their feelings and their position on this issue. There is nothing that cannot be discussed at a later time. The best part is, you will likely have a far better conversation about it hours after a game, instead of minutes.

As many youth sports are entering the season of finals and championships, emotions are higher than ever, stress and pressure are more prevalent, and it is crucial that you let the Ride Home belong to your son or daughter. They will thank you for it.

So what do you ask  if you want to say anything related to the game at all, you might think about asking the following three questions:

1) What did you learn today?

2) What can we improve next time?

3) Did you have fun?

This focuses the relationship on improvement, enjoyment and continual development rather than the outcome negative or positive of the game or performance based on the outcome.

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