By Positive Coaching Alliance in collaboration with USA Gymnastics
One of the most important spaces a sports parent operates in is the time after practice or a meet, especially during the car ride home. During this time, gymnasts are likely more focused and critical of their performance. Of course, this focus can swing different ways depending on the outcome of that meet and how emotionally ready that child feels to discuss what happened.
It is important that parents intentionally converse with their children about the youth sports experience. However, too often that means the parents talk and the child listens; it’s better when children talk more than the parent and the parent listens more than talks. Parents are advised to wait and see, rather than force their child to talk about the meet. The number one responsibility for sports parents is to be encouraging and supporting, so if a child doesn’t feel ready or willing to communicate about his or her sporting experience, try talking about something else and coming back to the topic of the meet later. Or better yet, wait until your child initiates a conversation about the meet.
Once your child opens the doors to talking about the meet, parents should aim to take the focus away from the outcome, and put it on the lessons that can be learned. This helps tie a child’s sport experience to something bigger than the scoreboard, a critical component of being a Second-Goal Parent®. It is important for parents to let the child lead those conversations. If your child is leading the conversation, it is alright to engage in a supportive way. We recommend open-ended questions and always encourage parents to say, “I just love watching you play.” Parents should not analyze and criticize their children after a meet, especially when they are already doing it to themselves. Here are more suggestions about engaging your children in a conversation about their practice and/or meet, and other suggestions for making the car ride home a positive experience:
At the end of the day, having fun is the #1 reason children play sports. Children don’t only find passion in sports by having success or winning, but there are other takeaways, such as enjoying spending time out on the mat with their friends, learning about the sport, and seeing improvement (big or small). And when the time comes to talk to you children about their experience, don’t forget that your child wants you to be their parent, first, not their coach.