We recently interviewed a successful youth sports coach about one of his biggest challenges. He told us how to help parents understand what to say to young athletes during the trip home after a game.
Coach Brian Gardner of St. Louis, Missouri has coached ice hockey for 10 years. He even led one team of 11 to 12-year-olds to a national championship.
Some of Gardner’s players’ parents drive for as long as 1.5 hours to get their kids to the ice rink. “That’s a long time for parents to be alone with their kids after a game,” says Gardner. “Especially if they spend that time talking about the players’ performance, ” Garner continues.
“A lot of times, parents think more about their kids’ success than the whole team, ” says Gardner. The result is that they give too much instruction, which can undo Coach Gardner’s lessons and coaching system.
“At the least harmful level, the parents second guess some of the systems we put in place, such as a power play system. They say, ‘You should do this, not what Coach says,’ ” Gardner relates.
On a more harmful level, parents tell their kids that they played badly. Out of frustration, parents sometimes even suggest to kids they should consider giving up the sport.
Coach Gardner suggests that this behavior, while well-meaning, is counter-productive to his efforts and not helpful for the players.
So, what exactly is good communication with a young athlete after a game? (As sports parents who have made lots of mistakes, we know this isn’t an easy question.)
First of all, it’s critical to support the coach, as we discuss in our new youth sports workbook/CD program. You’ll only confuse your child by disagreeing with the coach or offering counterproductive coaching.
Second, you need to encourage your child as often as possible. Even if your athlete’s team lost, you can find something positive to say about his or her attitude, effort or about two or three positive plays. As a sports parent, your goal is to build your child’s confidence -not tear it down.
Want to learn simple, proven mental toughness skills that you can apply to competition? Grab my free online mental training newsletter, Sports Insights Magazine – for athletes, coaches, and sports parents: