The quickest way to make your kid hate running is to criticize their performance during the drive home from the meet. What exactly is your objective when you point out, with anger, what the runner already knows?
The runner knows that their performance was lacking. The runner has already crossed the finish line with great disappointment. They know they either tactically screwed up, mentally gave up, or had some physical limitation preventing them from their desired goal.
By criticising them the whole way home, you will add unnecessary pressure on them. They will resent you, resent themself, and then logically, over time, grow to resent the sport that causes this conflict and they will quit.
It is also not wise to go to the other extreme and praise them for something they didn’t do. Most athletes know these compliments are made up and will feel embarrassed by them.
Instead, approach your kid with calm recognition of the obvious result. No need to sugarcoat the reality. Have your kid approach you. Let them state what happened. If they don’t open up, nudge them a tad with a, “tough race huh?”
If they are honest, they will tell you exactly what happened out there and you need to reassure them that there will always be another race. If they are dishonest, they will make excuses. Feel free to calmly shut those down.
Ultimately, understand the process of an athlete. Some days are GREAT, some days are HORRIBLE, but most days are OKAY.
As a coach, when I see my runners have a poor race, I note the reason why, and will make adjustments in training during the next week to correct the possible problem if there is one. I also know, that sometimes there isn’t a problem to correct, the runner simply had an “off day” and assuming it was a race of no consequence, there doesn’t need to be some grand adjustment to training nor does there need to be a deep discussion.
We put these kids on so many start lines in a season; many more in a running career, unless there is a constant issue race after race, we need not stress about it. Just calmly note and adjust as the need arises.
Parents, don’t make the car drive home unpleasant. We want your kids to love running forever.
Eat Well, Train Well, and Rest Well