#186: Say This Not That: Post-Game Car Ride Home Edition

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Okay, sports parents, listen up!

Buckle in, because I’m about to drop some serious knowledge bombs about that infamous post-game car ride home.

We’ve all been there, right? That awkward tension – your athlete is either buzzing with excitement, totally deflated, or somewhere in between. Especially for girls, who might be riding a roller coaster of emotions, depending on how the game went. Meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out how you can navigate this tricky situation.

As parents, we’re often scratching our heads, wondering how to help them deal with all those feelings. But here’s a little secret: it’s all about choosing your words wisely. With a handy “say this, not that” strategy, you can be the support your young athlete needs, helping them build mental toughness for both the sports field and life’s challenges.

Not quite sure what to do? As a mental performance coach, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the seriously ugly. That’s why today, I’m sharing my secrets for transforming that tense car ride into a positive and supportive experience. Alright, let’s get started!

What Does Your Athlete Really Need?

First things first, you need to understand what your daughter needs after competing. This can vary depending on the game and her emotions. Here’s the deal: what she really wants is routine, a safe space, and reassurance of your love – win or lose.

Let’s break this down:

  • Routine Is Everything. Predictability is calming, especially after an emotional game. A simple post-game ritual, like grabbing a snack or going for ice cream, creates a sense of comfort.
  • Love is Always On. Make it crystal clear that your love and support are unconditional. Don’t withhold affection because of a bad game, and don’t make dinner feel like a reward for scoring a certain number of points.
  • Give Them Space. Avoid the post-game interrogation! Resist the urge to analyze every play or ask a million questions about why she did this or didn’t do that. She needs room to process on her own time.

What NOT To Do

Here are a few things to absolutely avoid, or you risk turning this into a major meltdown situation:

  • You’re Not the Coach. Unless your daughter explicitly asks for your feedback, save the play-by-play analysis for the actual coach. Remember, it’s their job, not yours!
  • Don’t Rehash the Game. She already knows what she did well and what she wants to improve. Constantly going over it will only make her shut down.
  • Keep Your Own Emotions in Check. Don’t use your athlete as your personal therapist. Process your own feelings about the game separately – they don’t need that extra baggage.

The LOVE Framework: Your New Best Friend

Okay, now for the game-changer. I call it the LOVE framework – catchy, right? It’s super easy to remember and will help you be the ultimate supportive parent:

  • L: Let Her Lead. Put your daughter in the driver’s seat. Let her decide if she wants to talk, when to talk, or if she’d prefer some quiet time.
  • O: Open Space. Create a welcoming environment. Simply ask, “Hey, wanna grab a bite to eat?” or “Wanna hit up Starbucks?” This gives her the chance to open up on her own terms.
  • V: Validate Her Experience. Listen actively and acknowledge how she’s feeling. Instead of trying to “fix it,” say things like, “That sounds really frustrating” or “It makes sense you’re disappointed.”
  • E: Encouraging Words. This is where you gently nudge her towards self-reflection. Ask open-ended questions like, “What were you happy with today?” or “What’s one thing you want to work on for next time?”

A Word on Silence

Remember – silence is perfectly fine! Don’t feel pressured to fill the space with chatter. Sometimes, simply being there, providing a calm and supportive presence, is exactly what your athlete needs.

The Power of Choice

Giving your daughter a sense of control post-game goes a long way. It builds trust and helps her feel like her voice matters. The car ride home shouldn’t feel like another form of pressure; it should be a place where she feels safe to be herself – win, lose, or draw.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, sports parents! By understanding your athlete’s needs, avoiding those common pitfalls, and using the LOVE framework, you can turn the dreaded post-game car ride into an amazing bonding time.

So, are you ready to transform your post-game conversations into opportunities for growth and connection? Let’s make those car rides home something both you and your athlete look forward to!

Episode Highlights: 

[00:00] How to support athletes post-game. Tips for parents on how to support their girl athletes during the post-game car ride home, avoiding phrases that can be hurtful or unhelpful.

[04:37] Supporting children after sports competition. The importance of providing routine and assurance of love to a child after a competition, rather than critiquing their performance.

[07:27] How to support athletes after games without overwhelming them. The “love framework” is a process taught to parents to help them process their child’s performance in a more productive way.

[11:17] Validating children’s emotions and fostering self-trust through communication. The importance of validating children’s feelings and experiences, rather than dismissing or fixing their emotions.

[15:21] Athlete feedback and post-game communication with parents.

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