The Miserable Car Ride Home

The results of a thirty year survey given to collegiate athletes may surprise you. When asked, "What was the worst thing about playing your sport as a kid?" The overwhelming answer from these athletes was..."The car ride home with my parents." OUCH!

The study also showed that the major offenders were not the whacked-out, over the top screamers, but the parents that typically kept quiet during the game who could no longer keep their frustration in once the car door shut. The study also noted that nearly 70% of the kids that were involved with a youth sports team quit by the time they were 13, and one of the reasons for this was the fractured relationship with their parents due to the sport. There were even some kids that stated that they believed they could possibly get their parents back to normal, if they just quit playing the sport altogether... How sad.

This might be a time for all of us to take a breath and check ourselves. I know that many of us have pretty good insight into the sports that our kids play, and we may be correct that we even know more than their coaches. But, are we willing to risk our relationships with our kids, just to give them some advice before they even have time to take their jersey off? Truth be told, we also were probably not as good as we think we were, and time has allowed us to forget just how hard it is for a kid to be successful at a sport.

So, what is the answer? Just ask the kids. The kids in the survey said that the greatest thing that their parents told them after a game was "I love watching you play." The kids did not want to hear that their coach was wrong, or the Ref was blind, or that they should not have thrown a 3-2 change up...they just want to know that we enjoy watching them.

If you agree with this at all, make a pact with your child. Tell them that you do, in fact, love watching them play, and that you will do your best not to critique them right after the game. I am guessing that they will thank you and will enjoy THEIR sport even more.

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Read Others' Comments...

  • Positive coaching

    My nephew is the lacrosse coach at a local high school and uses a model called Positive Coaching. One of the many features is that coaches say nothing negative during games. If you can't help the kids problem solve in game situations...then be quiet. Even during practice, any criticism has to be connected to something positive you say to the youngster. It really works!
  • Great Advice!

    I've tried your advice with my young kids who are just getting started in youth sports (ages 8 & 9). I keep quiet after games and let them talk first. I've learned that it really works to get a good conversation going about the game. It's not always easy to keep quiet without offering advice, but I try to keep in perspective that it's youth sports and the emphasis needs to be on having fun and learning the game. Recent first comments from my 3rd Grade son . . . After I picked him up from Basketball Camp, "That was fun!" Then we talked about what skills he practiced and some of the new friends he met. Another comment from the same son after a rough outing as a pitcher in his Little League game, "I stunk tonight." He continued by critiquing some teammates and the umpire. It was a great chance to teach him that even major league players struggle with their performances. It was even more important to teach him about being a good teammate and not analyzing other players' or the umpires' performances. We have a long road ahead with our kids, but with Mike's advice guiding us, we'll do our best to be great sports parents.
  • Cool down time

    Great article! As high school coach we make our players ride home with the team after all road games; this give at least an hour or 2 to cool down and keep from having those tough talks in the car which a lot of times can be critical of a teammate or coach along with analyzing there performance.
  • As a parent of a youth

    As a parent of a youth baseball player, I learn so much from reading your blog. Thank you, Mike!
  • Youth Coach

    I've coached middle school girl's basketball for 6 years. After a game, win or lose, it is my job to breakdown our strongest and weakest moments. To let my team know how much I see their efforts paying off and to make them aware of new goals to work towards as a team. At this age, athletic ability starts to make a difference but I find that it is the supportive parents that bring the best players to the court. I have seen many an elated post-game face fall when their mother or father starts in on them as a player before even getting to the car. My advice to parents is to acknowledge their good moments first. Then later that day or week, take them outside to shoot some hoops, play catch, practice shots on goal, etc. Not only will you realize how hard what they are trying to do actually is, but the time spent will show them that you genuinely care. Besides, fun and exercise for all. If you don't know where to start, ask your child's coach if there is anything you can help them work on at home (but not in front of your kid!).
  • Concentrate on the positive.

    My son is a catcher and he's his own, worst critic. We tell him what he did right, he's already aware of what went wrong. The fact that adults expect perfection from kids is ridiculous since even major leaguers make errors. Learn from mistakes but never forget you'll make more. It's that easy.
  • Great advice - but the flip side

    I think this is great insight. I struggle with the flip side, however. What I mean is that I don't want my kids playing just for me. Sometimes I feel like they're playing just because I enjoy it so much. I want them to enjoy the game - not just play because dad gets a kick out of it. Does that make sense? Thanks for this blog, MM!
  • I completely agree

    I am 13 years old and play baseball and basketball. My father is the one that yells at everyone telling them what they did wrong. But once we get in the car it escalates fast. I just about quit baseball this year because I thought my dad would stop yelling at me. I'm glad I didn't though.
  • Must read

    Your blogs are a must read for me. I wish every coach and parent involved in youth sports would heed your advice. You have made me a better coach and parent. Thanks!