Be a Parent, Not a Coach at a Child’s Play

With the start of the new school year, kids are embarking on a new season of youth sports, which means it’s time for the annual reminder: Relax, parents.

Your little point guard, goalkeeper and shortstopes don’t need another coach. They are already there! What they need are mums and dads sitting on the sidelines with the words of support and coolness from Capri Suns.

Author and speaker Glennon Doyle posed this on Instagram when she shared what her wife, two-time Olympic soccer champion Abby Wambach, speaks to their daughter after every soccer game. Spoiler alert: This isn’t a Powerpoint analysis of every play, or rant about the judge being damn blind, or a dizzying rhapsody about how, with a few more camps, clinics, and private pursuits, she could have gotten a Notre Dame scholarship. No, her words are much simpler.

From the post:

This is my wife and my daughter.

After every football game our daughter plays, my wife tells her one thing and asks her one question:

1. It was so much fun watching you play!

2. How do you feel about the game?

Also: my wife is one of the greatest footballers of all time. She knows what Tish did right and wrong, and what she could do better next time. She knows!

But this is what my wife also knows: our daughter has a coach. She needs a mom.

This is the type of calm, loving support that kids need after 35 minutes of high-stakes play on the pitch. Do you know who is capable of this? Grandmother and grandfather. In The Gift of Failure: How Better Parents Learn to Let Go of How Their Children Can Succeed , author Jessica Lai points to surveys of adult athletes who asked about their favorite and least favorite part of youth sports. Least favorites? A busy ride home with parents. And their favorites? When their grandparents watched them play.

Lahi writes:

Grandparents don’t criticize or manipulate little things right after the game. Grandparents do not criticize the coach’s strategy or the referee’s call. Even with frustrating setbacks in the field, grandparents support their grandchildren with no ulterior motive or purpose. So if you want to become the person your child wants to be after a big game, act like a grandparent.

The advice goes beyond sports – even if you have a million thoughts about your child’s performances at his piano recital, chess tournament, or debate competition, you don’t need to voice them all after the big event. Let there be enough joy from watching them. For grams and grandfathers it is.


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