Sports Parents: Beware the "60 Minute Rule"

I give weekly mental skills team training to a travel softball organization with eight teams from
12u to 18u and each week I'm always curious to see the response I will get from each team on the various topics I cover. This week my overall topic was on Having a Plan. In other words preparing for success. I talked about having a "pre-game" plan, an "in-game" plan and a "post-game" plan.

Far and away the subject I received the most reaction from the over 100 girls I train is what I term "The 60 Minute Rule."  Now, in advance, I warn you to dismiss or ignore this rule at your and your athlete's own risk. Breaking this rule can drive a wedge between you and your athlete as well as negatively affect their game performance.

So, without further delay...let me disclose to you The 60 Minute Rule.

The 60 Minute Rule requires that as parents you refrain from speaking to you athlete about his/her game or games for at least 60 minutes after the game(s). As a softball parent myself I know how much you can't wait to dissect, evaluate, analyze, critique or judge your athlete's performance and that of her/his team. Some of you reading this are nothing but positive with your athlete and that is great. However more of you are likely coaches, ex-coaches, ex-athletes who may mean well...but still come off as negative to your athlete. In either case I suggest you follow The 60 Minute Rule.

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Here are the problems in violating The 60 Minute Rule:
  • Your athlete needs time to decompress and self-evaluate his/her game performance on their own first. She/he needs to recognize what they did well and what they need to work on to get better.
  • Your athlete likely learned more about the game and themselves during the day. Give her/him the time to figure that out and whatever lessons they did learn that day.
  • Should you begin to critique (what you call it; he/she calls it "criticizing") your athlete's performance immediately after the game or on the ride home their mistakes will become magnified in her/his head and you will force them to focus on those failings (and feelings they bring) versus what they learned in the process that day. Self-confidence is a fleeting thing, so be careful about driving it away with unnecessary comments and judgments.
  • Should you persist at violating The 60 Minute Rule your athlete may come to resent both you and the game. As I did to my own daughter I guarantee your repeated criticism, no matter how well intended it is, will start to suck the joy out of the game for your athlete.
  • In reality your critique might be positive and helpful, however if your athlete is anything like mine how she/he hears the message may be very different from how you intend it! 
  • Please don't expect perfection from your athlete or his/her team. This game is hard enough as it is without having to perform under the burden of unrealistic parental expectations

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 If you absolutely have to address the game with your athlete within the 60 minute window ask her/him only these questions:

  • Did you have fun playing?
  • What did you learn today?
  • What was your favorite moment of the game(s)?
Now the caveat to The 60 Minute Rule is whether your athlete wants to talk about the game? If he/she brings it up, or you have a very naturally talkative and happy kid, great! Just practice being a good listener first.

One of the many joys of youth sports is how short a memory kids have about their games. Within hours or certainly by the next day (depending on age and personality) most kids will have entirely forgotten about a good or bad game. As adults maybe we can learn something from our kids, for it is the parents and coaches who carry a tough game with them for hours or days. I know as a coach it is hard to sleep after tough losses, yet my daughter will sleep like a or lose.

Your critique of your athlete's game may take her/him away from that child like innocence that is natural and healthy for them to experience. Allow her/him to be a kid playing a game. Remember...sports should be fun first!

**As an incentive to be sure you follow The 60 Minute Rule set up a contest or wager with your athlete. I'm betting that he/she will be absolutely sure that you won't be able to stay quiet for an hour after their games/matches! So make it fun for them and you. I know that I had to pay my daughter several dollars each weekend for my critiques of her game!

More importantly have a conversation with your athlete and find out how she/he really feels about your post game comments to them. You will very likely be surprised by their comments. As long as she/he knows you mean the best for them and you know how your comments impact them you should be fine. Remember any action you take to criticize her/him may ultimately cause the opposite reaction of what you desire for them. Young athletes today are acutely aware of their performance and any added pressure from you will trigger the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The Sports Confidence Blueprint Program is live! If you're tired of your athlete's roller coaster ride of confidence and performance this may be the answer! Free sports confidence boosting audio lessons too!