by Elizabeth Wickham
“I’ll never forget the ride home after a swim meet,” one of my Masters coaches said. He’s in his mid-fifties and he doesn’t remember the car ride home in a good way. In fact, he joked that he was scarred for life. It was a meet where he swam really, really badly and the ride home was awful. Is that how we want our kids to remember spending time with us 40 years later?
According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, approximately 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.” One of the main reasons why youth sports are no longer fun falls on our shoulders. Kids feel too much pressure from us, they don’t like being coached by parents, or we are bad spectators. A number of kids mention the ride home as something they dread.
We want our kids to stay in the sport for all the benefits it brings to their lives. We don’t want them to quit at age 13. If we lighten up on the ride home, we can make their swim years more enjoyable.
Try the following tips on the way home from a meet and see how your kids react:
Experts recommend letting your kids have some time to let their own thoughts sink in. By starting the drive home quietly, we allow our children room to think and reflect.
Our kids know if they swam poorly and they don’t need us to remind them. Also, it’s not productive to blame the coach or officials for a less than stellar meet.
Letting our kids take the lead in conversation, we may learn something from them. If we aren’t good listeners, we may miss so much of what they are experiencing.
Play music and sing loudly.
Having a fun atmosphere on the drive home will make your kids laugh, you smile and create memories for life.
We want our kids to have fun and they love being with friends. Why not ask a friend to share the ride home? Or, ask other families to stop for pizza or frozen yogurt.
“I love watching you swim,” or “What did you like about today?”
These are two things you should say. I’ve heard from coaches and sports parenting experts to affirm you enjoy going to swim meets and watching your children compete, and to ask open-ended questions about their experience.
What do you say or do on the ride home from swim meets?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations,
marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.