The Car Journey to the match

written by Gordon MacLelland 

With many articles/videos published across the globe looking at the impact of the car journey home we decided to take a look at some of the potential damage done before a child even gets to the venue to play the match.  Surely that can’t be a problem I hear some of you ask.  But wait…..

The usual match day ritual at a weekend is full of excitement in most households for both children and parents and rightly so.  It is an opportunity for adults to escape from the pressures of weekly life and go into a whole new world, one that comes with being involved in watching your child play sport.  To show how powerful the match day experience is to parents just take a look at how many phones are out during the match other than to film or take pictures?  It is definitely different to how it would look with parents during their normal working week.  Sport is their escape too!

But how does this impact the child and their performance?  Well there may be a danger that the parent is more excited and fired up for the sporting contest than the child and all the sound bytes in the house are geared up to ‘a big game today’, ‘are you fired up’, ”I am expecting a big performance from you today.’

Is it really a big match?  It is probably a child’s normal sporting game and they see it very differently to the adult.  Children probably do not view games as big matches unless adults share that information with them.

Children will naturally be nervous on game day, desperate to do well, desperate to please their parents and desperate to make their coach happy. Many children will only see winning as a way to satisfy the demand of the parent and to gain their approval and respect.

Some children are perfectionists to start with and are very aware of their fails and successes.

Parents must avoid adding to this stress.

The car journey to the match begins…..

“Have you got your kit?  Have you got your boots and jumper?”

“I was just thinking last week in training you should have marked the front post at the corner and not the man.”……..

“Also when you had the ball at the back you should have been looking to switch the play, have a think about that today.”……..

“Just remember how good their striker is, try not to give him too much space”………

“I hope your goalkeeper plays well today, we could do with him having a good game”…..

Any advice on how to perform better from the parent to the child in the car adds stress to their situation.  A constant barrage of messages from the parent to the child leads to increased anxiety.  That doesn’t matter because the parent feels a whole lot better and has got a few things off their chest to settle their own nerves.

Children pick up on their parent’s body language and moods incredibly perceptibly.  If you are behaving differently to normal they will pick up on it. Are you quiet and nervous? If so they may start feeling the same way!

Are you loud and chatty? Another sign that you may be nervous and being slightly over the top and they will pick up on it.

We have an important role as parents to keep our behaviours consistent as well as our body language.  Treating so called big games the same as all games and treating the whole experience the same no matter what else is going on.  This will help provide a comforting environment for the child already dealing with their own pre game stress.

Don’t get me wrong, some stress is great for the child.  It can help them prepare themselves to do their best.  As their stress rises they may increase their capacity to take on the challenge, meet it with increased alertness, focus and strength.  However, there is a tipping point and parents need to be aware of this when the stress becomes a hindrance to a good performance.  The pressures and demands become too much to handle leading the child to become exhausted both mentally and physically before they have even taken a step onto the pitch.

Parents must ensure that the pre-match car journey allows stress to be managed in a positive way.  Ensure the car journey behaviour is as normal as possible just as it would be when going out to the cinema and remember that the ultimate reason that the children play is for fun. It may not be your motivation but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that if you want your child to put in a big performance you may want to leave them to it on the way to the game.

Guest Blog by Gordon MacLelland – All copyright reserved for WWPIS 

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