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What happens during the car ride after soccer?

As parents we want to be as supportive as possible for our children as they navigate the sport landscape. Our reaction to our children’s sport accomplishments, or lack of, makes a difference. Paying attention to the words we use and the exchanges we have is important.

If you are anything like me, you move around in your seat and talk to yourself when watching your son or daughter participate in a sport – whether it is a summer camp, a clinic, or a team practice/game. All parents want their children to actively listen to instruction and perform well. Some of us may even get a little competitive and want our children to be the overachievers and outperform the rest of the group. No matter where you fit into the spectrum of a parent fan, one item remains true, we need to be mindful of what we say and how we say comments or criticisms during that car ride home.

As a coach, we can sense which parents do not really understand that their role as a “parent” is to not be a coach or even try to be one. Rather they need to be that guidance counselor who can listen to how the athlete felt about the game and practice. Listening is not an easy skill to master when you have so much to say. There have been times as a coach where I would actually speak to a parent after their child had a poor showing at the field, just so I could help frame what should be discussed during that car ride home.

There are a few points we need to consider when an athlete makes a mistake. The coach will point out the mistake and most times the player knows they blew it! Here, the coach becomes the teacher, explaining and resolving the concern so that the mistake does not happen again. The game or practice will go on and many more “good” plays will probably happen on that field of play.

The focus for parents is to be positive. The coach already remedied the mistake, and the team has moved on. I have witnessed time and time again that parents cannot move on. We do need to preserve and appreciate that what goes on at the soccer field must also be resolved on the soccer field. A car ride home is not the time for parents to be coaches. The car ride home is when the athlete reflects, relaxes, and gets ready for the next series of events in their day.

My message to parents is to understand that what we say to our children, and how we phrase what we say to our children, impacts their performance. If an athlete feels like practice never ends because they re-live it during the ride home or during dinner, we are creating more challenges for that young player. Coaches have signed up to be the game’s teacher, and parents should remember they signed up to be the children’s greatest fans and supporters.

If you enjoyed this article, check out another recent article on Parents Role on the Soccer Sideline.