Would you believe that the drive home from games or practices can be stressful times for young athletes? It’s true, and it is an aspect of youth sports that parents need to improve so that our kids continue to enjoy playing.
Some parents are overly invested in the outcomes of games in which their children play. Or they place far too much importance in the performance of the sons and daughters. They use the drive home to analyze and criticize every aspect of the practice or game.
Many people call this behavior “station wagon syndrome.” Station wagon syndrome refers to parents who criticize every aspect of the game on the drive home. They might criticize the coach’s decisions during the game. They might comment on which kids played poorly. They might speak badly of the referee. And worst of all, they might overly critique the performance of their son or daughter.
Burnout is one of the most common reasons kids quit playing sports. Parents who place too much pressure on their children has been shown to be one of the most common risk factors for youth sports burnout. These times where parents analyze the practice or the game are key examples of parents pushing their kids too hard.
Watch for signs of burnout in young athletes
Focus on fun, not winning, in youth sports
These kinds of discussions can make our children think that all we care about is winning. It sends the message that performance and impressing scouts are more important than having fun. It also promotes poor sportsmanship.
It would be far more beneficial to our children if we used the time during the drive home from games to talk about the positive aspects of the game. Ask your children if they had fun. Talk about what they enjoyed the most.
We must remember that sports should be fun for children and adolescents. Parents who are overly critical of the coaches, other players – and yes, their own kids – risk ruining the experience for their kids and jeopardize their future in sports.