You have just played really well individually, but your team has just lost in the dying minutes and a mistake that you made very early in the match has played a part in costing your side the game. You know you have played well, you know that you made that one mistake and you also know what is going to come next.
As you pack your kit away in the changing room, you are slower than normal as you fear you may be greeted by your parents who will be trying to make you feel better and will probably want to talk to you about the game. They may well use the car journey home to go over the mistake and offer feedback on the things that you could have done better…..
You have just witnessed your child play in an excellent sporting contest, they did so many things well and showed real resilience in bouncing back from an early mistake. You saw them display real composure, try things that they had been attempting in training and encourage all of their team mates around them. However, the one mistake cost their team the game. You know that your child will be disappointed, you can sense the disappointment around you amongst other parents and other team mates.
You want to make the world better, you feel that you need to speak to your child, get it off your chest and try and give them some productive feedback in the hope that this may never happen again. I can’t wait for them to get out of the changing rooms and into the car away from the rest of the world.
A true story that offers two very different perspectives.
As children it is our experience and our sport. We are tired, emotions may be running high after a game and we sometimes want to be left alone. We are thinking how long until this car journey ends and just wanting to go back and play in my bedroom or watch my favourite show on TV.
As parents we all want to help our children and invest huge amounts of time and money into their sporting experience. Being told that we should not be too involved or not be able to talk to our children about it after a game does not fit comfortably. Sometimes for some parents the time in the car is a real opportunity just to catch up not just about the game but on life in general.
What may work for one family may not work for another. The key here and the reason for telling this story is that there may be a disconnect between how the child perceives the parental support and the type of support that a parent is giving.
Some children may have a greater tolerance to certain types of support and what one child may see as negative and overbearing, another child may see as comforting and supportive.
Undoubtedly, parents are always trying to help, but without realising their overbearing support may be taking the fun out of the experience for the child.
The key here is COMMUNICATION. We need to be able to ask our great questions about their sporting experience., so that we can work effectively together. Here are a few starter questions:
- What motivates you to play your sport?
- What do you enjoy the most about playing?
- How do you want me to support you on game day or at training?
- What do you see in my behaviour when I am supporting you?
Here are a few more questions to help you along the way at a variety of different points during the sporting journey.
Our children will always give us the most honest answers and it is no surprise to see a number of organisations running marketing campaigns using the children as the voice. This has the greatest impact on us as adults but also lets us hear how they genuinely may be feeling. There is no doubting that a child’s perspective is very different to that of an adult.
Different children will answer the questions in different ways and that is the beauty in finding a positive arrangement that works best for you in your own context.
I am not sure how we have got there but my own son after matches and training asks, ‘what did you think?’ – sometimes I say to myself, you really don’t want to know what I thought. I also wonder what got us to this stage as I am not convinced it is necessarily a great question coming from him.
However, I often turn the question back to him and allow him to reflect on his own performance. I manage this far better now than I did when I started out as a sporting parent but it has taken a lot of fine tuning. I think we are nearly there on this as to what works well for both of us.
In a number of research studies when children were questioned some parental involvement was not positively received particularly around directive behaviour. However, in the same study parents felt they did less than how it was perceived by the child.
It is important to recognise that what is important here is the child’s perception. If your child perceives that you are being more directive and providing less praise than you think you are, this could have a negative effect on your child’s experience in sport.
Hence, the two tales at the start of this piece. Everyones perception and relationship is different.
However, the more aligned a parent and child’s perceptions and beliefs, the more likely that everyone will have a positive sporting experience.