Last month, a Responsible Sports Parent wrote to our panel of experts to ask: "Seconds to go in the game.... Your child misses a clear shot on goal that would have won the game. What would you do?"
-Frank, a concerned parent.
We asked two of our experts to weigh in. Susan Boyd, parent blogger for US Youth Soccer had this to say:
"With seconds to go you prepare to celebrate your child’s winning point-blank goal, but in an instant the flawless shot goes left and wide. Around you the other parents gasp letting out a group "Oh no" and occasionally worse. Your child looks to you, stunned and scared. This can be a defining moment – so what to do?
Your child already thinks he or she blundered and let down the team. So you don’t need to reinforce these negative feelings with any criticism or even worse a lesson in how to score a goal. Instead, clap at your child to show your support and offer a positive comment such as, "You got by that defender so well" or "You really fooled the keeper." Sure it’s frustrating to see victory slip through the cracks so unexpectedly, but after all it is only a game. Second, if that was going to be the winning goal it means the game was tied, so a tie is always better than a loss. Keep that in mind. Third, if it’s a championship game, then the team will have overtime to recoup. Who knows? If your child’s confidence hasn’t been undercut he or she may yet get the winning goal. So be sure to give plenty of hugs and positive comments.
When a child is older, you may need to do more with encouraging them after any devastating event. Pick out the best things you can from the game to talk about. Let your child dictate when he or she is ready to talk about the missed goal and what to discuss. Younger kids tend to shake things off pretty quickly – after all they have snacks and a friend coming over to play after the game. But the older they are, the more they internalize what they perceive as failures. They will also often have more vocal teammates and parents who will add to the negative atmosphere. Therefore you can set the stage with your child of any age even before the event happens by letting him or her know that win or lose, good or bad play you are proud of him or her and always will be. Kids who have the self-esteem provided by supportive parents can weather these disappointments and embarrassments better. If your child continues for many years in soccer, something like this will happen again, so hold on to the positives and help your child shake off the negatives."
And Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:
In the situation you describe, where your daughter missed a clear shoot on goal that would have won the game, I think you need to start by swallowing your own feelings, and ask your daughter how she's doing. In the rare instance, she may surprise you: "Dad, I did everything I could to make that shot, but my aim was just a bit too wide."
In the more likely scenario, she may not be ready to talk about it right away. Don't push it. You can ask how she's doing and then let her come to you later; if/when she's ready. When this conversation does happen, do your best to listen and to let her tell you how she's feeling. Make sure to avoid projecting your own feelings on her with comments like, "I bet you feel like you let your teammates down, but …"
You may want to keep some specific, positive things she did well in the past game ready, so when she's totally focused on the missed shot, you can remind her that the team would not have even been in contention to win without her assist and goal scored earlier in the game. Let her know you're proud of her, even though she missed this one shot. Also let her know you're proud of the way she handled it in the moment (keeping her head up).
Lastly, try to get her to focus on the future. Let her know she'll get another chance at this, and you have confidence she'll make it next time.