It’s not just the athletes who need preseason pep talks

March 22, 2015

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Let’s all gather round. I’m talking to you, parents of children who compete in sports.

I don’t know if it’s the same in your household, but my family is currently in a sweet spot known as the “off season,” when the only thing on our plates is weekly practice in preparation for summer baseball. My kids are actually adhering to a real bedtime routine. My husband and I have sat across from one another at our own dining room table and had a conversation while enjoying dinner together. I’ve both watched my DVR’d shows and napped unapologetically. It’s been surreal.

My shoulders are a little less tense. My speed is a bit slower. My breaths are much deeper.

Yet part of me misses the frenzy. The dirt and sunflower seeds are calling.

There’s a reason why the beginning of every sports season is exciting. Everyone starts with a 0-0 record and a pretty good attitude.

I’m here to tell you…the joy does not have to rise or fall in direct correlation with your kid’s success or lack there of. You can control your outlook in spite of external influences.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the study performed by Rob Miller and Bruce E. Brown, who run a coaching consultation business called Proactive Coaching LLC? For three decades, Miller and Brown asked college athletes about their parents’ behaviors; specifically, what their parents did right versus what their parents did wrong in an effort to support their budding stars?

The athletes overwhelmingly responded that the feedback that resonated the most positively with them consisted of six, simple, yet incredibly powerful words:

Top athletes reported that the most uplifting phrase they heard their parents tell them time and time again was ‘I love to watch you play.’

The worst thing that parents did, in the opinion of their kids, was critiquing or questioning them immediately following the game or competition.

So, to me, the easiest way to ensure I (and you) continue to feel positive as our budding athletes transition from the practice season to the actual season is by reminding them how much we love to watch them play. And that phrase should be the honest to goodness truth when it comes out of our mouths, regardless of the game outcome.

If we don’t mean it, then why invest the time, money, effort, and – most importantly – our children’s emotional well being by having them pursue sports?

I no longer routinely ask my kids if they had fun at the end of every game. Losing doesn’t feel fun. I don’t expect to see them muster up a smile after every final out.

But I also want them to know how to to recovery gracefully from setbacks, to not hang their heads, and to get back up when they’ve fallen.

As parents, we need to be able to hold ourselves to the same level of accountability.

Because, in the end, we must remember how much we not only love to watch them succeed, but how much we love to watch our children play. They need to be allowed to do the latter before they are ever capable of doing the former.

Written by Heidi Woodard

4 responses to It’s not just the athletes who need preseason pep talks


    So very well said, Heidi. Also, if your kids’ combined sports seasons were measured in terms of you running a marathon, the break you’re getting right now is the equivalent of one breath in and out. My wish for you is that you breathe deeply and fully enough now to get you through the frenzy of mile 13 with your smile still intact at the end. 🙂


      I just appreciate that the marathon you have me running in your mind is only 13 miles (my absolute physical limit) as opposed to 26. 🙂 You know me too well. Ha!


    While the car was pretty silent after some major losses, my parents’ let it be silent b/c that’s all that’s needed sometimes. One time though, when I was 16, after losing a tournament championship in extra innings, my dad decided to teach me how to drive on a 2-lane highway at night for the 2-hour drive back home. It took our mind off the game while I learned an important life skill. I got home feeling confident b/c I had accomplished something big that day and it didn’t involve the softball field. Sometimes it’s not until you’re a parent yourself that you look back and realize how smartly your parents’ handled a situation with you.


      This story proves that a parent can be there to support their kid, especially in hard times, without saying much. It’s hard (for me anyway) to resist the urge to want to talk through every little issue so that I can get a read on how my kids are doing. I’d guess that 99% of the time they just need be to BE there and not be there with unsolicited advice. I completely agree that I can now see as an adult how much my parents helped me through the good and bad times. Back when we were growing up, we sort of took things for granted. Not everyone is this blessed. Thanks for the comment/story!