Talking To Your Athlete After the Game

After a long and hard fought game, the car ride home may be the toughest part of the day for your young athlete.

As spectators, it is every parent’s temptation to debrief their athlete on their big game after its done. As parents, we may have our own ideas about the coaches’ plays or how the team could improve.

Yet your criticisms may be adding fuel to a quiet fire.

Your athlete’s coach and their teammates are a constant voice in their ear throughout the game. They may already be feeling the weight of the outcome and their performance from their comments.

Creating a safe space in the car will help your athlete cope with the worst loses and celebrate hard-earned wins.

Know what to say after the big game. Here are some tips to help with the car ride home from a loss.

The Car Ride Home - Do and Don'ts

Words of encouragement come easily before a game.

We hope the team will try their best and have fun on the field. As the game progresses, however, it may be harder to remain a confident voice in the crowd.

As athletes begin to come off the field, it is important to meet them where they are.

As you get them in the car, be present to what they need.

Catch them in their Triumphant Moments

To be present after the game, be sure you are in the moment during the whole game. Kids will check to see if you caught them taking a big shot or scoring a goal.

Put down your phone and give the game your attention. This will allow you to recall your favorite plays on the ride home.

Celebrate those moments with your athlete. Keep the focus on what they did well.

Do Not try to compare them to other players

Be proud of the team as a whole instead of undermining other players. Your child will not feel better by listening to their teammates being put down.

Don't undermine the coach or the officials

The coach and officials are there to make the game fun and safe.

Undermining their decisions could confuse and upset your child, who looks to their coach for instruction.

Support the coaches decisions and speak well of rules. Kids learn sportsmanship through example and should always be encouraged to play fairly and be respectful.

Make it Safe for Your Child to Fail

You may have plenty to say after the game but take a moment before you speak and imagine what they must be thinking.

Create a comfortable space to have an open conversation.

Don't Monologue

Create a space for dialogue, not a monologue.

Let them start the conversation. It may not be immediate, but the may need to reflect. Taking a moment of silence in the car for you and your athlete may be necessary.

They may be analyzing their game and reflecting on how they played. As they gather their thoughts, keep an open ear.

Don't Discourage with Disappointment

Many feelings may emerge with the outcome of a match and disappointment is a natural feeling in any competitive sport.

Soothing feelings of disappointment may be a parent’s first instinct. Yet, allowing our kids to feel loss and talk through those feelings are an essential part of growth.

Parents should be prepared to be receptive to those feelings and empathize with them.

Kids should not be afraid to fail and understand that this is a part of growing and learning; they are still validated and loved regardless.

Allow Your Child to take Ownership of the Outcome

It can be hard as parents not to share everything with our kids, even their victories and loses.

We have all witnessed the overly excited parent at every soccer or baseball game. It is important to step back and detach yourself from their successes and defeats.

Let them approach you about their thoughts and feelings on the game.

Do Not Put Words in Their Mouth

They will find the right words in their own time.

You may have thoughts on the game, but they should be the first to express what is on their mind.  Ask for their input on the game so they can evaluate their own performance.

Whether good or bad, their gameplay belongs to them to celebrate or learn from. The experience is not for parents, but for your athlete to take ownership of.

Don't Excuse Poor Sportsmanship

Shielding our kids from harm causes more harm than allowing them to take responsibility for their actions.

Tantrums and trash talk are often excused away because their team lost. Some parents may even take part in poor sportsmanlike behavior, reaffirming the child's behavior.

Speak to your athlete in the car if you catch them behaving like a bad sport. Never let there be an excuse for offensive words or aggressive behavior.

There is no formula for the right thing to say after a game. Every defeat and every victory will bring new challenges to your athlete. Be prepared to meet their emotions by controlling yours. Meet them where they need you, and lead by example.

Raise a good sport by being a good sport in the most challenging game to every parent... the car ride home.