What My Wife Taught Me About the Dreaded Car Ride After the Game

Let's Rewind

In the early years of my son's baseball career, the car ride home was always fun and cheerful -- win or lose. As I look back now it's obvious to me which one of us started taking the fun out of that car ride. MY need for constant improvement and performance excellence turned me into a play-by-play analyst rather than a supportive dad. Don't get me wrong, I thought I was being supportive -- by pointing out all the opportunities for improvement! I soon realized my son was becoming more and more defensive during this period of our relationship. At times the car ride home became a tension-filled encounter. I became eager to fix all the mistakes in the game and my son was on guard and ready to defend every action as justifiable -- even a blown play.

Fortunately, things changed due to a retooling of my thinking and tactics. The conversations became more constructive and non-confrontational, in spite of the normal strikeouts and errors that come with baseball. This drastic improvement was a result of the coaching I received from my wife. Here's a summary of what she had the wisdom to see and pass along to me in spite of my initial stubbornness!

  • Emotions often dominate a young athlete more than logic after a competition -- especially in the case of a loss or sub-par performance.
  • How long those emotions linger is a variable depending on the nature and maturity of the athlete.
  • Logic often dominates an analytical parent more than empathy after a competition -- especially in the case of a loss or sub-par performance.
  • A critical analysis by a parent, interacting with a disappointed athlete creates resentment and resistance.
  • A parent who is critical while a child is emotional produces a terrible combination.
My Realization

When I realized I was guilty of being insensitive to these realities the answer became so obvious --- not easy, but obvious. I needed to learn to wait until my son's emotions settled. The more patience I showed, and the less criticism I delivered, the more discussions we had. The more discussions we had, the better those conversations became.

I've described this family lesson the way it happened in our case. For you, it might be Mom who reacts as I did after a game -- eager to fix things. Learn to trust the one who shows the most patience and the most empathy for a young athlete's emotions after a game – joy, or disappointment. It's still just a game to be played.

Sport Family Coach at

Founder of Growing Champions for Life, David helps sports parents and coaches incorporate positivity and persistence into their communication with the young athletes who count on their encouragement and guidance. An eight-time national water skiing champion, five-time national record holder in water ski jumping, former World Championship U.S. Water Ski Team coach, and proud professional sports parent, he understands first-hand the challenges and rewards of competition. His extensive experience as a corporate leadership coach for Nextel, Sprint, Allstate, Balfour Beatty, The Villages and other companies provides David with unique insight into the skills needed to excel in sports, business and life. He brings an athlete's discipline, a coach's inspiration, and a parent's practical experience to his mission to grow not just champion young athletes, but holistically well-rounded individuals equipped for lifelong excellence.

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