The Drive Home – Breakin’ it Down with Burk (Ep5)


In my previous post, I suggested a question parents can ask their young players after a game to encourage development. This week let’s dive deeper into the drive home after practices and after games.

It is only natural for us, as parents, to want our children to succeed and to play on successful teams. We watch practices and games hoping to see our child smiling and laughing, but also to see the team improving and, yes, winning.

After any sporting event, even practices, emotions are often running high. Even when their team wins, children can experience frustration and disappointment over playing time, positions, and myriad other factors that are part of the game. Parents can also experience high emotions during and after soccer. Once we factor in the physical exhaustion weighing on players as well, is this really the best time for serious talks about the child’s performance or about the team?

Here are some examples of comments parents make to children after games and practices that are harmful to the child’s soccer experience.

“That referee was terrible; your team deserved to win.”

Are we teaching good sportsmanship? Are we teaching the players to be accountable and focus on what they can control? 

“Why don’t you ever get to play striker? You would’ve scored that goal that Casey missed.”

Are we teaching grace and compassion? Do we even know if the child wants to play striker? 

“If you’re not going to practice hard, why am I wasting my time?”

Is this unconditional love? Does this build trust between parent and child? 

“You played so great. The coach should let you take every free kick. I wish your teammates were as good as you.”

Are we teaching the child to be a good teammate and respect their coach? 

“Why don’t you stay back when the coach puts you on defense? Just stand back by your goalie so the other team can’t score.”

Are we teaching the child to trust their coach? Are we even teaching them sound soccer strategy? (NO.)

These comments all create anxiety and ultimately make soccer LESS FUN for young players. Remember, you will be your child’s parent for longer than you will be a Soccer Mom or Soccer Dad. Ensuring your child enjoys their soccer experience and appreciates the time you get to watch them play is far more valuable than any post-practice or post-match breakdown.

Here are two key concepts and several statements/questions to remember for the drive home:

  • Concept #1: Unconditional Love
    • I’m so happy I got to see you play today!
    • I love to watch you play.
    • Seeing you have fun with your friends is my favorite thing.
  • Concept #2: Child-centered Questions
    • Did you have fun?
    • What was your favorite part?
    • Did you learn anything new?

Child-centered also means that if our young player doesn’t want to talk about soccer, we are happy to change the subject and move on. In their emotional & tired state discussed above, many kids don’t need to talk about the game or practice once it is over.

Finally, we must remain supportive and positive if our child does share their disappointments or frustrations. Rather than blame other players or speak ill of the adults involved, can we teach them how to manage their emotions and be proactive going forward?

  • I know defense isn’t your favorite, but everyone plays different positions at your age, and you are helping the team. Playing defense will make you a better midfielder too!
  • Sometimes the referee might make a call we disagree with, but that is part of the game. Nobody is perfect, and that is OK!
  • I’m sorry you feel like your teammate wasn’t passing to you. Sometimes it’s harder than it looks to make a pass. Can you ask them nicely at the next practice, or talk to your coach about it?

Thank you for reading! To help our young players develop, we first must make sure they are in a fun and supportive environment. Making the drive home friendly and stress-free is a great step in that process!

Interested in learning more about being the best soccer parent you can be? MSI is proud to partner with the Soccer Parent Resource Center to share content with every member of our club.
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AC Milan starter and US international Christian Pulisic scored two goals in the recent Men’s National Team friendlies, and his Father, Mark, was a professional soccer player. If you have a Soccer Parent Resource Center account, check out what Mark Pulisic looked forward to about his drives home with a young Christian.
Mark Pulisic on the Car Ride Home

Check out this link from the Changing the Game Project on the same topic!

The Ride Home

More to explore