What do you talk about during the car ride home from practice? What do you focus on after a game or competition while you head back home or to the hotel? How well do you FUEL your athlete with the conversation or do you DRAIN your kid with analysis and interrogation?
Research of college athletes
Research results from college athletes reveals their worst memory from youth and high school sports is the car ride home with parents. YIKES! That is not good news for you as parents of athletes.
Here are some FUELING conversation suggestions in parenting athletes so that you generate cherished memories:
- Ask about what he/she learned. Find out what helped him/her improve.
- Avoid pointing out the things he/she did wrong or the mistakes made during practice or a competition. Quick clue as to why--they already know and do not need you telling them.
- Use this simple phrase to get them talking instead of you; 'tell me more about that'.
- Ask them 'what' or 'how' questions to help them figure things out rather than telling them, 'what do you think you should do when you face that situation?'; 'How could you change that so it goes better next time?'
- Just listen! Sometimes kids just need to process or vent and do not need us to fix it.
- Do not force your kid to talk. Sometimes kids simply need to internalize what happened at practice or during competition, consider the coach's feedback for improvement, and learn to collaborate with their coach (not you and the coach, especially if you are saying something different than the coach).
Final thoughts on the car ride home
Your job in parenting athletes is to reinforce and teach character and life skills to your children using their sports experience. Empower and guide your athlete but do not lecture. This leads to you being approachable and safe to download their victories and struggles. And, trust me, you want that kind of relationship as your kids get older.
Parenting athletes is hard work. There's an entirely new and different set of dynamics at work. You have to be mom, dad, or mom and dad, coach, counselor, EMT, equipment manager, engineer, and seamstress all before dinner! You are not alone and maybe, just maybe, we can help each other navigate this never-ending path to glory. Hey, what is your biggest challenge with your athlete?