Writing is often really just a way to get something to stop bugging me. It doesn't always work: even after writing a post, whatever led me to write can still linger and demand attention. Recently, I wrote about the importance of a growth mindset and that idea stuck around my mind and recalled some memories.
When I was younger, I played a lot of competitive soccer. My sister and brother did, too. We played different roles on the field during a match, but the scene afterwards looked the same for all of us: we would get into the passenger side of the car and immediately debrief the game we had just played. I know my mom took me to a lot of games, but in my mind's eye the scenes play out mostly with my dad in the driver's seat.
The self-critique was often just a move of self-preservation. We had learned that it was a lot easier to work through our mistakes ourselves than to suffer through a brutally honest analysis from our dad. He was never angry about results; he was exclusively obsessed with process. He only cared about whether we had tried and gave it our all. These debriefs, with their focus on the potential to improve, made us all growth-oriented as players. At the same time, they provided a space for recognition of effort and progress.
By the end of my soccer career, it wasn't uncommon for my dad to reply to my self-criticism with an "Ok", signaling that I had properly deconstructed the game. Sometimes he would interject and tell me that no, I gave it my all on a particular play and that I shouldn't beat myself up over it. Whether those conversations involved praise or criticism, the post game debrief became part of my ritual as a player.
Some of my proudest moments came not on the field but in the passenger side of the car. I wasn't the best player out there, but I fought some good battles during my time. Afterwards, I would hop in the car and not say a word because I knew I had nailed it and given it my all. In those moments, my dad's matching silence meant more than words ever could. The post game debrief had taught us all about effort, about growth, and about recognition of a job well done.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.