Parents of Children in Sport

In an informal survey that lasted three decades, hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: "What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"

Their overwhelming response: "The ride home from games with my parents."

Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a game. Their overwhelming response: "I love to watch you play."

Whether your child is just beginning T-ball, or is a travel-team soccer all-star, or survived the cuts for the high school varsity, parents will always be proud of their children.

Most dads and moms that make rides home from games miserable for their children, do so inadvertently. But the young athlete does not want to hear it immediately after the game. Not from a parent. Comments that undermine teammates, the coach or even officials run counter to everything the young player is taught. And instructional feedback was likely already mentioned by the coach.

In the moments after a game, win or lose, kids desire distance. They make a rapid transition from athlete back to child. And they would d prefer if parents transitioned from spectator – or in many instances from coach – back to mom and dad.

Research shows young athletes especially enjoy having their grandparents watch them perform. Children recognize grandparents are more content to simply enjoy watching them participate.

A grandparent is more likely to offer a smile and a hug, say "I love watching you play," and leave it at that.

Sports is one of few places in a child's life that is their “thing.” Let your child bring the game to you if they want to.

Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences are not fatal, they are not permanent. We are talking about a game. So, they usually do not want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong.

Once the parents are assured the team is a safe environment, release the child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs with the team, all failures are theirs with the team.

And discussion on the ride home can be about a song on the radio or where to stop for a bite to eat. By the time you pull into the driveway, the relationship ought to have transformed from keenly interested spectator and athlete back to parent and child:

"We loved watching you play. … Now, how about that homework?"