Valli Gideons, a mom and blogger, is giving sports parents some food for thought, but hers is a reminder that we could all use. In a poignant Facebook post, Valli explains that parents should consider dialing back the need to go over every detail of a game, or worse yet, criticize their child's performance. And as a life-long sports-obsessed tomboy and former Division I athlete, I couldn't agree more.
"Parents. Stop the madness. The lectures. The play-by-plays. The analysis. The should've, could've," she wrote. "Look around and you will see it on every court, field, ball park. All the talk. Think about it. As an adult, how would you feel if you came out of a huge presentation at work and had someone immediately going over every sentence? How would it feel for someone to criticize your every word or move, in your ear, going on and on?"
And Valli makes an important point. When did it become OK for parents to obsess over every last detail or play of a game that's meant to simply be fun? And at the end of the day, is it really helping? The short answer is no. Now, she's suggesting that moms and dads go about their post-competition conversations a little more casually.
"What would happen, instead, if after a game we gave kids room to breath?" she asked. "If we let them marinate in knowing we simply enjoyed watching them play, rather than giving them a lecture? What would happen if we instead gave them permission to take it all in and have fun? What if we simply praised them for their effort? Even when they didn't score. Even when they didn't win. Even if they turned over the ball, flubbed up, or missed the catch. What if we just listened quietly?"
Although your kids might not be especially forthcoming on the way home from a blowout, giving them space might help them discuss the game's outcome later on, or maybe not. "They might want to talk about what went well or where they have room to improve," she said. "Maybe they wouldn't want to discuss it at all. But what our children really need to know is that their worth is not measured by wins and losses or missed balls or baskets. And if we want them to have a love of the game, they need to discover the intrinsic joy."
Letting your little ones know that you support them, regardless of the score or whether or not they've had a bad game, is truly how you develop successful athletes. "More importantly, if we want a relationship with them, our children need to know we have their backs and that we aren't their critics," wrote Valli. "If we just tell our kids, 'I love watching you play,' everything changes for the better. Try it."
And as someone who's competed for college scholarships in the past, let me tell you: it's usually not the kids of over-involved, crazy-competitive parents who get spots on top collegiate teams. It's the ones whose moms and dads gave them confidence to go far by supporting them through the good and bad days.