Posted on September 20, 2022
The car journey home for any child playing sport can sometimes put them off sport for life.
In this blog post, we explore some of what we should and, more importantly, shouldn't be saying to our children as they enter the car after a game.
The Car Journey Home From Sport
One of the worst memories for children playing sports can be the car journey home. I can always remember my car journeys home, especially after a defeat where you would say nothing and not want to speak to anyone. Then the adult in the car would start to talk about the game about what went wrong or who should have been playing, and who shouldn’t have. Most of the time, I zoned out, probably thinking about what I was going to eat when I got home, but there were times when it did affect me. Being so young and hearing a word or a phrase from an adult about yourself, your teammates or your coach can very easily leave a lasting negative impression.
I was thinking about this because my son is now playing in different sporting blitzes and I love going to watch him play. If I don’t get to see him play, sometimes I never hear how he did because he may not want to talk about it, which is fine. As a parent, you want to know how they did, and you really do care but asking a simple question or commenting on their or their team mate’s performance can be a really bad idea.
The first thing you must remember is that kids are always looking approval from their parents. Approval of their actions, their friends and their team. So before they enter the car here a few things to consider.
Check your body language
If you got emotionally involved with the game or mainly the referee, make sure you let that all go before you step into the car. Be relaxed and open for a conversation with your child if it arises.
Let them speak first
If they want to talk about the game let them bring it up. Don’t force them by asking questions you think they want to hear or you just want the answers to. When they do talk about the game this doesn’t give you the licence to say everything you feel. Listen to them and 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.
Don’t kill their moment
If your child gets into the car and is happy with their performance or the way the team played today then go along with it even if you think differently. There will be other opportunities to give constructive feedback.
Don’t ask questions
Start with some positive reinforcement like ‘I loved the way you chased the ball down and didn’t give up’ or simply ‘I love watching you play’ this might be values that your child holds higher than winning a game. Seeing someone they love watching them or being praised for working hard are ways to help develop positives experience of playing sports.
Play multi sports
Give your children as many experiences of playing in different sports, with different teammates and different outcomes. Not only will this help develop new skills and friends but also it will place them in different scenarios and environments where they can win or lose. This could be a great life lesson for our kids.
Build their trust
By sticking to these principles, children will develop trust with you because you don’t judge them or their teammates after a game. This means that when they do really want to talk they know you won’t judge and will be able to deal with your suggestions with a more open mind set.
The only exception to the above principles is when your child engages in behaviour that you would not accept at home, such as spitting, cursing, assaulting an opponent, or disrespecting a coach. In these cases, you should initiate the conversation, not as a parent to an athlete but as a parent to a child. Even then you must be careful and considerate of the emotions of the match, and choose your words wisely. Deal with the issue, and then put it to bed; do not use it as a segue to a discussion of the entire game.
Finally, you must remember that all kids are different, some may be very open others may not. 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 honour their feelings and their position on this issue. You can always bring the game up later in the day or week rather than a few minutes after the final whistle. Your child may even thank you for it someday.
ARTICLE BY Gary WallaceGary Wallace, the founder of CORE Kids has been writing blogs for the past ten years, sharing his knowledge and wisdom on all things coaching, health, fitness and mindset. This is all part of his vision of inspiring millions of people to live happy, healthy, more fulling lives.