Rethink the conversation on the car ride home

I love when people send me things because they know I will be thankful and, more than likely, understand where the message is coming from.

I received such a note the other day and decided to share it because it was too good not to have others, hopefully, be moved by the message.

Through a local parent, I received something from from Glen Schneiders, who is the lead pastor at Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington, Ky.

Heading: A Monday Morning Service to the Business Community.

The title: Nightmare Sports Parents

It read:

Two longtime coaches, Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller, are devoted to helping adults avoid become nightmare sports parents. They have spoken at colleges, high schools and youth leagues to more than a million athletes, coaches and parents in the last 12 years.

So they asked hundreds of college athletes over three decades, “What was your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?”

Want to guess the overwhelming response?

“The ride home from games with my parents.”

The same student-athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great after a ballgame.

Again the vast majority stated, “I love to watch you play.”

I remember a telling conversation I had with one of my daughters on the ride home after a ball game. She was very quiet and non-responsive. I finally pulled it from her. She didn’t want my postgame analysis.

We agreed in the future to only talk about the game if she brought it up. Much to my disappointment, she never brought it up and missed out on all my “coaching wisdom.” But our rides home were much better and we like each other today.

The authors of the report note that most parents are well intentioned, but that children want to distance themselves from the game. They wish to make the transition from athlete back to child and want parents to move from spectator/coach back to parent.

Brown notes that “Overall, grandparents are more content than parents to simply enjoy watching the child participate. Kids recognize that.”

So what is the takeaway for parents?

“Sports is one of few places in a child’s life where a parent can say, ‘This is your thing,'” Miller says. “Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong.

“Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs.”

As I read that report I was reminded of Ephesians 6:4 (The Message). “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead.”

The King James version is “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

As I have said before in this column, I know a coach who made sure there was nothing but encouraging, positive words after a contest because the coach knew that on the car ride home, the athletes would hear nothing but negativity from either, or both, parents.

That’s not a fun car ride.

All I want out of the girls I coach is their best.

I want their best in a game, in practice, in school and at home.

Sometimes their best is not very good. But, as long as it’s their best, there is nothing more I can ask of them.

Brown and Miller are partners in Proactive Coaching and there are 11 other speakers.

What they talk about is pretty solid.

During my tour of their Web Site, I came across this:

What do your parents do at games that really make you feel great and proud to have them present?

Cheer for everyone on the team, not just certain players.

Just having them there tells me that it was worth my time.

Support us win or lose.

Not getting on the refs, players or coaches.

Support me even when I am not playing much.

Cheering and encouraging at appropriate times in a civilized manner.

Cheer for us, but not too much.

Remember that we choose to play for fun and everybody is trying their best.

Don’t be too hard on your kid – give them some room to grow, but stay by their side to help them grow up.

What do your parents or other parents do at games that make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable?

Argue with the ref – it is annoying for everyone.

Try to coach the coach.

Discouraging comments to players.

Yell at you when you are trying to concentrate.

Criticizing athletes or coaches, calling them by name.

Yelling advice makes me play worse.

Cheering if the other team makes a mistake.

When parents boo.

Telling me what I need to do better when they don’t know how to play the game.

I feel sorry for my teammates whose parents yell at them. When I play, my job is to listen to the coach, not my parents.

When they don’t agree with a call, they yell, “come on” or “what was that?” etc.

Let me be who I am, let me enjoy myself out on the court and don’t try to improve my game with your negativity.

What does commitment look like whether it’s in practice, during a game, in the weight room, in the classroom or by yourself?

Even the worst of criminals are allowed their side of the story.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at