Count yourself among the lucky ones if your team made it to the end of the regular season with no or very few COVID-related interruptions.
Count yourself among the fortunate if the end of the regular season is now leading to a playoff scenario of some format, whether it’s the usual one or a modified way to wrap up a season that many believed would never happen.
So, what are the roles of parents as playoffs loom?
It’s really quite simple – they don’t change from the regular season.
A good coach prepares their team for the first playoff game the exact same way they did leading up to all of the regular-season games. From practice schedules to pregame curfews, meals and walk-throughs, whatever the routine was during the regular season obviously worked or the team wouldn’t be in the playoffs. Players are creatures of habit, and there’s no need or reason to change those routines for the playoffs.
The approach of parents should be the same.
Our first job is to understand why the coach isn’t making huge changes during the week leading up to the win-or-go-home game. If the team normally takes Monday off after a weekend game, expect them to do the same, whether you think they need the extra day of practice or not.
Likewise, parents should keep the routine at home the same, after all, again, it obviously worked during the regular season. Don’t all of a sudden require an 8 p.m. lights out every night of the week “because you need to have plenty of rest this week for the big game.” This will only frustrate your child. What you’ll find is they will just lay awake in bed anyway – angry at you – until the normal time their body is used to falling asleep.
The same goes for meals. Just because it’s a playoff game, doesn’t mean your child needs to “carb-up” all week or drink twice as much water so they don’t become dehydrated during the big game. This is especially important on game day. Whatever breakfast or lunch or dinner has worked a few hours before the games during the regular season, certainly will suffice for the playoffs.
Lastly, don’t treat the playoff game like it’s a Super Bowl. The bigger the deal parents make about how important it is to win, the more pressure the player will feel to perform. Research has shown that people react to situations – in games and life – more positively when they aren’t stressed out.
Be excited about a win, for sure. But if the team loses, focus on what a great season they had and how wonderful it was that the team got to play more games than many of their regular-season opponents. Players often react to losses based on what they see and hear from the adults surrounding them. Make sure your verbal message and body language reiterate that in the big picture, a football game is just that – a game.
Enjoy the playoffs. Don’t forget to mask-up and social distance.