8 guidelines for pregame parenting

By Janis Meredith | Posted 8/10/2015

What is the pregame atmosphere like in your family?

I’m guessing that in a lot of sports families, the car ride to the game or sports event is full of last minute advice or pep talks. I sure did my share of pregame pumping up, but if I’m really being honest, I must question whether it really did any good.

Your child has spent hours practicing, you’ve given him proper nutrition and hydration, and he’s got his sports bag and equipment. He’s ready to go. So what does he really need from you as you head to his game?

Pregame negatives

Quite honestly, your child doesn’t need a whole lot from you as you drive her to the game, including:

  • Last-minute coaching. He’s already been coached, and your car coaching will only create more pressure. It may lead to confusion if what you are saying is different than what his coach says.
  • “Be careful” reminders. Or “don’t get hurt” admonitions. Suggestions of injury could cause him to play in fear, which can add to the chances of getting hurt.
  • “Let’s get the win!” or “Go score a bunch of touchdowns!” This kind of cheerleading also puts pressure on kids. As they get older, they will naturally put that pressure on themselves, and their coaches will undoubtedly pump them up with talk about getting the W.

Pregame positives

What your child does need in the car on the way to the game is really quite simple:

  • Silence. Maybe he’s thinking about the game or focusing. Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it at all.
  • Conversations about things other than sports. Perhaps he just wants to get his mind off the game to calm his nerves.
  • Your simple belief in him. I’m excited to watch you play! I know you’ll do great!
  • Your permission to have fun. Have a great time out there! Just go have some fun! I remember saying that often to my kids as they got caught up in the stress of competing.
  • Your unconditional support. I’ll be cheering for you! I’m behind you all the way!

As you head out the door to your child’s game next time, think about your pregame parenting. Are you doing a good job of helping to prepare your child to do his best in the game?

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.