As the hockey season winds down this weekend for the 9 year olds that I coach, it got me thinking…
What exactly are we doing this for? …what do we want for our kids? …what are we trying to teach them?
I’ve seen some pretty disgusting behaviour in hockey arenas over the last 9 months. There have been some amazing, uplifting, thrilling moments too, but, there has been some ugliness.
The kids that I’m coaching are amazing. They absolutely LOVE hockey! If they aren’t on the ice, they’re playing mini-sticks in the basement, NHL Slapshot on the X-Box, playing ball hockey outside or watching Hockey Night in Canada on TV. It’s a pure, unadaulterated kind of love. It’s refreshing and inspiring.
The amazing thing is that as much as the kids love it and work like crazy for a positive outcome (a win… or a goal), in the end they don’t really care if they win or lose. 20 minutes after the game is over, they’re on to the next thing and can’t wait to play again. THAT part of the game is beautiful. They’ve got the right perspective and act with a level of maturity that is wonderful to see.
The parents of these 9 year olds, however, can be an entirely different story.
For some of them, it’s ALL about the win. That and “development”. “Fun” comes in a distant third. Living vicariously through their kids, they push them, pay a small fortune for training and dwell on every single “bad play” or loss. These parents are the ones that sit in the stands with stop watches to time their kids, count their shifts and demand answers as to why their kid isn’t the full time centre, or goalie or how could someone DARE put their kid on defence. That part of the game is ugly and not so nice to see.
To me, the sad thing is the missed opportunity to make this such a positive experience for our children. 99.9% of them will never make it to the pro level. So why exactly do we treat them like they ARE part of the 0.1%? After all, we’re talking about children playing a game. A GAME.
When did playing games go from being something to have fun with to a tool for measuring achievement? I was a Division 1 College athlete and a professional, so believe me, I understand what it takes to get to the “show”. The point is that it’s perfectly fine to play for entertainment, for exercise, for character building and for social reasons.
Teach your kids how to work as a team. Teach them about commitment. Teach them how to follow through on achieving a goal. Teach them about mental and physical toughness. But, above all, teach them that this is THEIR time to be with their friends and to have fun.
Parents…. it’s not about you. Take your kids to the games, cheer for them and then sit down and watch. Let them have fun. Let THEM succeed or fail on their own. They’re watching and listening all the time. They hear you calling the (teenage) referee an a**hole. They can see you screaming and banging on the glass like a wild animal. They can also hear everything that you say about their coach. The “coach” that is to be respected and appreciated. If you tear him or her down, you send terrible, mixed messages to your kids.
Fun, commitment, team work, discipline and achievement. Put things in this order and both the kids and the parents will have a positive experience that will produce memories and lessons for a lifetime.
“Show” or no show. That’s really what it’s all about.
(Hockey Coach and Dad/ former Hamilton Tiger- Cat)