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What to say in the car ride home after the game

If you played sports growing up like I did, you probably remember the car rides home after you didn’t perform your best. Even now, reflect as a parent; what are you talking about on the car ride home? Chances are it’s not – let’s get ice cream!

In my experience, and what I’ve been hearing lately from my clients, it sounds more like –

“What was your coach thinking?”

“I can’t believe the ref missed that”

“You looked slow out there”

“This is what happens when you don’t work hard enough”

“You would’ve beat so and so out of their spot if you went to practice more” 

The list keeps on going… some of that probably sounds familiar.

Here’s the thing, I genuinely think the thoughts are well intended to motivate athletes in what we believe is “tough love”; however, the delivery is misguided because everything comes down to how it’s perceived.

These “helpful” comments only leaves the athletes to replay their worst moments and weaknesses of their performance. 

When you’re in the car, that is the most crucial time for your relationship and your bond.

To really get them to want to improve, all you need to say is: 

⭐“I love to watch you play!” or “I’m proud of you”

Those phrases go a long way and mean the world to these athletes. 

More things to reflect on during the car ride home –

⭐“Did they have fun?”

⭐“Were they a good teammate or opponent?”

⭐“Did they give it their all? And if not – Is everything okay? Should I be concerned?”

⭐“Maybe it was just an off day, which is okay because we all have those!”

⭐“They seem silent or upset; how can I support them best right now?” 

Frank Martain, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at UMass, said it best, “Athletes are being constantly disciplined about the same things by [parents, coaches, social media]… which creates a mental challenge for young people. It’s unfair to young kids because they’re not mentally able to handle that.” 

Chances are your athletes are already giving themselves a hard time about their performance or receiving feedback from their coach or teammates.

The last place they should receive negative feedback is from their support system (YOU). Support your athletes physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. 

Let the coaches provide technical and sport-specific feedback! 

We teach even more in depth conversation starters in Parenting Performers. It’s a 10 episode private podcast with tangible tips on what to say to your athlete to get them to reset, calm down, be excited about competing, work harder, and thrive under pressure.

Trust us, we know how hard it is to understand their decisions and we want to help you help them be better!

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