Often when I speak to parents about giving feedback to their child-athletes, I recommend that they wait 24 hours before saying anything about the game. The truth is that I am rarely able to do this.
I don’t know what it is, but I feel compelled to give feedback to my children on the car ride home. After a soccer game or softball game or whatever it is, I have to get my two cents in. Even if I sense that the timing is not good, I continue to look for that opportunity to share my pearls of wisdom.
Most recently, I found a clever way to get around it, so I thought. I found a great hustle play that my son made at the end of a youth soccer game that led to a goal. And I used that example to highlight how he plays his best when he plays aggressively. Yes, I did frame my feedback in a positive way, but did he hear it that way? Did he sense my frustration about the times he wasn’t playing aggressively? And if he does sense that frustration, what does that do to his enjoyment of the game? And why do I get frustrated? He is just 11.
Do I really need to give feedback to my kids when they don’t ask for it, even if I have something constructive to say? Probably not. I guess if I am going to say something, it’s better to err on the side of being positive. I rarely feel good about giving feedback unless it is purely about enjoying the experience of watching my children play.
Not saying anything requires sitting with uncomfortable feelings and questions, like, will my child miss out, or fail to develop if he or she doesn’t improve? I think there is something about missed opportunities that not only worries us about how our children will feel, but also, it reminds us of what we have not achieved. Yet, saying nothing may actually allow them the space to experience their sport independently of our feelings and expectations and reduce the burden of parental pressure.
I have explored other options to avoid blabbing on the ride home after the game. I have tried playing a fun game/drill to help him develop the skill I am trying to teach. Sometimes, when kids sense we are actually trying to teach them, it can backfire. The game feels like homework if it is too structured – at which point we have lost ground. The best approach I have found is choosing a really good coach and or program. If I have faith in the coach and or program, I can more easily back off and let another adult who has less skin in the game, do right by my kids.