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The Car Ride Home – Updated Edition

As a parent, supporting your child’s athletic endeavors is a rewarding and often exciting journey. Whether they’re scoring goals on the soccer field, shooting hoops on the basketball court, or diving into the pool, being there to cheer them on is a source of pride and joy. 

However, it’s essential to remember that the car ride home after a game or practice can be a valuable opportunity to connect with your child, offer encouragement, and provide constructive feedback (WARNING: assess the situation, they may not want any feedback, let them know that your car is a safe place and they can destress). Here’s a guide on how sports parents can make the most of the car ride home.

Quick Guide – Questions and comments to say to your athlete:

  • I loved watching you play. 
  • You had a great effort. 
  • It looked like you had fun today.
  • I loved cheering you on.
  • Did you have fun today?
  • What was the best part of the game? 
  • Did you learn something new today?
  • Do you want to get ice cream?

Create a Positive Atmosphere: 

The car ride home sets the tone for your child’s post-game experience. Aim to create a positive and supportive atmosphere, regardless of the outcome of the game. Offer words of encouragement and praise for their efforts, regardless of the final score. Celebrate their successes and achievements, no matter how big or small, and let them know that you’re proud of their hard work and dedication.

Focus on Effort and Improvement: 

Instead of dwelling solely on the outcome of the game, focus on your child’s effort and improvement. Acknowledge their hard work, perseverance, and commitment to their sport, regardless of the result. Ask them about specific moments during the game where they felt they performed well or areas where they think they could improve. By shifting the focus to growth and development, you help instill a growth mindset and resilience in your child.

Encourage Reflection and Self-Assessment: 

Use the car ride home as an opportunity for your child to reflect on their performance and self-assess their strengths and areas for improvement. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What did you think went well during the game?” or “What do you think you could work on for next time?” Encourage them to take ownership of their performance and identify areas where they can set goals and strive for improvement.

Provide Constructive Feedback: 

While it’s essential to offer praise and encouragement, don’t shy away from providing constructive feedback when necessary. However, it’s crucial to deliver feedback in a constructive and supportive manner, focusing on specific actions or behaviors rather than criticizing your child personally. Offer suggestions for improvement and strategies they can implement in future games or practices. Remember, feedback should be aimed at helping your child grow and develop as an athlete.

Listen and Validate Their Feelings: 

Lastly, be sure to listen actively to your child’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Validate their emotions, whether they’re feeling excited, disappointed, frustrated, or proud. Avoid dismissing or minimizing their feelings, and instead, offer empathy and understanding. Use the car ride home as a safe space for your child to express themselves openly and honestly, knowing that you’re there to support and validate their experiences.

The car ride home after a game or practice is a valuable opportunity for sports parents to connect with their children, offer encouragement, and provide constructive feedback. By creating a positive atmosphere, focusing on effort and improvement, encouraging reflection and self-assessment, providing constructive feedback, and listening actively, you can make the most of this time together and support your child’s growth and development as an athlete and individual. 

So, the next time you’re driving home from a game or practice, remember to seize the opportunity to connect with your child and reinforce the valuable lessons learned on the field or court.

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About the author: 

Amy Masters is a sports mom, coach, and club administrator. She has been coaching youth sports for more than 10 years. She started Jr Lions Field Hockey, the youth recreation program for the Hunterdon County community growing it from 40 players in year 1 to 150 players by year 3. A few years later, she saw the love and competitiveness grow then started Omega Field Hockey Club serving NJ and PA players. Before coaching, she was a collegiate field hockey player for Lock Haven University. In her spare time (lol), she is head of marketing for iSport360 and the co-editor of the Youth Sports Survival Guide. The Youth Sports Survival Guide is the largest youth sports newsletter in the world.

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April 15, 2024

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