Parents should hush on the ride home

By Mike Woitalla

"What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"

That was the question posed to college athletes in a survey by Proactive Coaching. The overwhelming response was: "The ride home from games with my parents."

Children, not surprisingly, don’t enjoy a critique of their performance when they settle into the backseat. Who, no matter what age, would?

Imagine a rough day at the office -- an office that resembles a typical youth soccer game. Your boss screams instructions while you work and lectures you before and after. Then you ride home with your parents. They’ve witnessed your mistakes. So they offer you advice.

No matter how well-intentioned, their advice will likely register as admonishment. And they’re denying your desire – your right -- to wind down and contemplate your feelings on your own terms.

If a parent actually did have some advice for a young player that might help the child, after the game -- when the kids are physically and emotionally spent – is certainly not the time.

In that same survey, the athletes were asked what words from their parents they remembered most fondly. The by far most common response was, "I love to watch you play."

(Steve Henson wrote about the Proactive Coaching survey in his Yahoo!Sports ThePostGame column: “What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One.”)

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper
, and More Than Goals with Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at

10 comments about "Parents should hush on the ride home ".
  1. Robert Ehrlich, March 30, 2012 at 1:14 p.m.

    Regarding discussions immediately following a game, Walter Bahr once said, "When you win, you think you played better than you did and when you lose, you think you played worse. You cannot dispassionately judge anything so wrapped in emotion." As a coach or a parent, it is important to remember that we get caught up in this emotion, as well. When so caught up in it, it is increasingly likely that a coach or parent may say something he/she regrets and cannot take back. The best thing to ask is if the player is hurt and the best thing to say is "good game, we'll get 'em next time/let's keep it rolling" and we'll see you at training Monday...

  2. cony konstin, March 30, 2012 at 1:17 p.m.

    I believe during the car ride back from the game that the kids should hammer their parents to see if they kept their negative remarks to themselves and how much cheering did they do for both teams when the kids on either team did something good on the field. This should be the number one priority of parent etiquette.

  3. Luis Montalvo, March 30, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.

    This article is ridiculous. This is why we lose to Canada and can't hold leads. Does this guy honestly think a dad driving his boy home from Guadalajaras, Rio, or Leeds is not critical? What BS. Every freakin BB player, football player or baseball player gets examined after a performance. Enough of this crap. Let's get tougher and better.

  4. Mark Grody, March 30, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.

    When I was a teen ager, the GK for the CA Surf (NASL), Mike MaHoney, told me he wrote notes in the locker room before he even took his cleats off. I tell this to most of the competitive GKs in our club not because I expect them all to do this, but as a primer for them to think creatively about potential options in response to every goal they give up, & to help them move on from a purely emotional response to giving up goals.

    Although, after my 11 year old son's rec games, I usually just ask if he had fun.

  5. Joe Kuznicki, March 30, 2012 at 1:38 p.m.

    Years, and years ago, we brought our son back from a tournament. About a 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 hour drive. I bitched the ENTIRE way back. He (and They) Played well on Saturday's morning game. Less so Saturday afternoon. Terrible on Sunday. I was so angry. "Why are we doing this. All this money on hotels, meals, gas, etc." I got home and researched how to get him "pumped" for a game and came across a fantastic article called, "Stop the Tournaments."

    After reading the article, I immediately apologized profusely to my son and will not forget it. Yes, parents should just provide and not criticize.

  6. Kris Pahl, March 30, 2012 at 1:58 p.m.

    Spot on. The only variation to this is when the player requests the feedback and you help them by asking questions about the game for their own analysis. I rarely gave my input, just helped him do a self assessment. With a little practice he became pretty astute and generally rated his play realistically. The blame game was never a part of this exercise... not coach or other player.

  7. Gerard McLean, March 30, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.

    90%+ of the parents have no clue how the game should be played as evidenced by their comments from the touchline during the game. For the 10%- who actually DO know how the game should be played, 99% are woefully unskilled at providing feedback in a constructive way. That leaves +/-1% of the parents who know what they are talking about AND how to deliver the feedback. Chances are, you ain't one of them.

    Your kid does not need feedback on how he/she played the game. That is the COACH'S JOB. You do have a quality coach, right? What your kid needs from you is a safe place to vent/celebrate/ask questions/stay silent and not be judged. Coaches coach, parents parent. You should never forget which role you are playing.

  8. D Jervey, March 30, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.

    I get a little tired of the arrogance of this kind of article. There are hundreds of similar articles over the last few years littering the soccer world. And I am someone who even believes parents should take a step back! By assuming that a PARENT does not know how to parent their own child is offensive reduces your credibility. Stop telling us how to be better parents and focus on being a better writer, communicator and coach. Leave the parenting to us. The world is full of kids who had absentee or uncaring parents, and let's see how that turns out. Our kids love us and will have fond memories, and hopefully we will help shape them into wonderful adults. I laugh when I think about trying to tell a teenager anything that does not offend them! Sounds like what a parent is for.

  9. R2 Dad, March 31, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.

    Have to agree with Gerard and Woitalla here. As a parent, you sit on the sidelines watching and cheering, with no interaction with your kid. It's natural to want to engage your kid as soon as they get in the car--it's just not a good thing from the kid's perspective. I have to bite my tongue on the ride home--thanks for the reminder.

  10. Larry B, June 11, 2012 at 8:33 p.m.

    I try to alway offer some praise on something they did well. I offer some suggestions on how to improve, and the end with some additional and sincere praise.
    This approach I think is a little easier for kids to digest then a full on critique. Even with this approach sometimes it seems like they are disinterested, but I think when you soften it up with a spoonful of sugar...

    It seems like after a game certain events are still in the minds of us as parents and the kids as well. I don't want to squanter the moment and the opportunity to provide feedback that may be helpful while it is still fresh in the mind of my kid. I know this is the coach's job, but he has plenty of kids to coach.
    I think feedback can be valuable if you can deliver it in a way that your kid can listen openly to it.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications