The Car Cone of Silence

I had a boss who once said that it is every employee’s inalienable right to bitch about their boss. It shouldn’t be held against either party, it doesn’t mean that you don’t buy in to the boss’s system, or you aren’t a team player, or anything like that. It just means that sometimes, your boss cheeses you off and you’ve got to vent. (This is the same boss that gave me a weekend off to attend the USA Hockey Level 4 Coaching Symposium so you know he’s a cool dude.)

The same thing applies to kids. Sometimes, a kid just has to vent– about a coach, about a teammate, about a bad call, a bad play or a bad bounce. And that’s okay. I think we get so caught up in the whole positive parenting, positive attitude thing that sometimes we forget to acknowledge that kids have frustrations, anger and disappointments, and they need a safe place to express those feelings. A place where it’s not directed at a coach, teammate, or official. A place where kids can blow off some steam and know that it won’t go any further, won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and won’t undermine a coach or a teammate. We have found that place. We call it the Car Cone of Silence.

When I spot the signs– a stoney silence, barely contained tears, or grunted “let’s go” after a game– we employ the Car Cone of Silence. Once safely ensconced in the Cone, it’s okay for our player to express anything on his or her mind. Or just go off on a rant. We offer non-judgmental support and a sympathetic ear and by the time we get home, the kid has gotten the frustrations out, we’ve talked through any major issues, and we’re ready to go back to the next event with a good attitude. And here’s the important part. What is said in the car stays in the car. That’s why it’s the Car Cone of Silence. You don’t repeat it. They don’t repeat it. It’s been expressed, it’s over, and it’s done.

Car Cone of Silence

Another thing to remember is this is about the kid’s frustrations, not yours. You don’t need to fuel the fire, tear down the coach, criticize the players or your  own kid. Just let your kid talk. It’s interesting to hear what upsets them, and it’s almost never the same things that upset you. I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that my kids are usually better sports than me and, my son especially, has said some things that make me go, wow, what a great person you’re turning in to.

If you are looking for some other ideas, has a good article about supporting your athlete, win or lose. And you probably have some ideas, too, so let’s hear them. Share them in the comments.

7 Comments on “The Car Cone of Silence”

  1. This is so true! Just last weekend my daughter, a pitcher, feel victim to some missed strike calls at the plate. After the game she told her catcher that she needed to do a better job of hitting her her spots. I have tried to teach her to take responsibility and adjust the umpires strike zone but this guy should not have been behind the plate!

    As soon as the door closed in the car she really let it out! Boy, was she upset! “That guy was terrible!” “The ball was right over the plate!”

    I was happy we were in “The Cone of Silence” because if an ump heard her she would never get a called strike again!


  2. Love this so much! The Cone of Silence is also for the first 5-10 minutes after school when it all comes tumbling out! So glad it has an official title! I will remember this always! Thank you so much!

  3. Jodi Murphy says:

    I think you make a great point. Kids need a place to vent their frustration from time to time without fear of getting in trouble. It’s better to get it all out then let it fester.

  4. Dan Browne says:

    The only problem that i have with the car cone of silence is that all the players are in one car. So, the frustration can be taken out on someone connected with the team but not inthe car. This means ,we do not know what othere peopl e are thinking about.

    • Dan,
      That’s a good point. We do not invoke the Car Cone of Silence if other teammates are in the car. That leads to destructive behavior and defeats the silence part of the equation. If teammates are in the car, we save it for later, but most of the time, the need to vent has subsided by the time we get home.
      Thanks for the comment.

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