Your child’s teammates will make mistakes; everyone expects that.
Maybe because your child knows that, he may not think about the best way to respond to a frustrated teammate when he comes off the field, court, or rink, or when he comes out of the pool, or off the mat or green.
I really never gave this much thought until I observed a situation on my husband’s high school varsity girls’ softball team. I noticed that when a few of the girls came into the dugout after they’d struck out or made a mistake, they were able to act like it was nothing and it didn’t seem to bother them. But there were the one or two who came off in a stony silence or with frustration etched on their faces, and the usual condolences were brushed off.
“What do those girls need or want to hear?” I asked my husband. It seems to me that athletes are faced with a few ways to handle teammates who make mistakes:
A. Ignore it. Don’t say anything, don’t do anything. Just forget it.
B. Be cheerful and encouraging. “It’s okay! We all make mistakes!”
C. Silently–or not so silently–blame them for the mistake.
What Your Child’s Teammates Need
Which one of those works best? Well, much to my surprise, my husband chose none of those choices. Instead, he encouraged empathy. An athlete doesn’t want pity, or false cheer or blame. He wants to know that his teammates are with him, standing beside. He wants to know that his teammates understand his frustration, that they have felt it too when they made mistakes. He wants to know that his teammates have got his back, win or lose.
“Hey, I’m with you.” Those are the words your child’s teammate needs to hear when he makes mistakes. The coach will take care of the coaching, the parent will take care of the supporting and encouraging, but it’s only the teammates who can offer each other camaraderie and a true understanding of what mistakes feel like in a game. That teamsmanship gives them courage to get out and try again.