Being a youth hockey parent is far from easy. Simply the day-to-day logistics of getting kids to practice, often at different times and sometimes at different rinks, while trying to feed them and keep up with tasks at home can be a challenge.
Add in the numerous volunteer roles parents hold, their own work responsibilities and possibly juggling a second sport as the fall season winds down, and it’s no wonder why parents rely heavily on communication, organization and routines during the season.
Unfortunately, those responsibilities can also occupy all of our attention and may limit the amount of focus put on intentionally aiding kids’ development.
As we kick off the season, it’s important for parents to set goals for themselves in an effort to help their kids gain more out of the upcoming season. Here are six ideas that could be one of your points of emphasis this year.
Be a Net, Not a Snowplow
Living in Minnesota, snowplows are a critical part of life during the hockey season. You can almost never have enough of them. When it comes to parenting though, acting like a net is far more productive for kids’ long-term development.
Failure is a critical part of learning. That’s true on the ice, in the classroom, and in many other areas of life. The next time you anticipate your child may fail, fall or come up short, make a point to allow them to have that experience. Then, catch them before it becomes too negative and offer guidance as they learn from the situation and refocus on their next attempt.
Be the Rock
Professional athletes and coaches often mention the notion of not “getting too high or too low”. In a game that requires high amounts of intensity and passion to be successful, that’s typically easier said than done, especially for young players who are still learning how to manage their emotions.
Each youth hockey season is going to involve up and downs. The challenge for players (and for parents) is channeling emotions in positive ways. When players don’t get selected for the team they want or experience what they see as poor calls in a game, be prepared to help them navigate those learning opportunities in a constructive way and be wary of getting sucked into the emotional rollercoaster yourself.
Praise Effort, Attitude and Character
Whether it’s being physically active, being a good teammate, leadership skills or pushing themselves to improve, every parent has things they want their kids to get out of participating in sports. Rarely are those objectives focus on specific skills or outcomes.
Yet, many times praise from parents (and coaches) focuses on skills and outcomes. Phrases like “great move”, “nice save”, and “great win today” are common.
How much more likely would kids be to learn the character traits we want them to if we made a concerted effort to highlight positive examples of them? This season, try praising examples of supporting teammates, showing sportsmanship, putting in extra practice time and bringing a positive energy to the rink each day, and see what kind of impact it has.
Developing responsibility is one of many life lessons sports can help teach, but it doesn’t always happen on its own. By being intentional about giving your players more responsibility as they get older, you can ensure they’re learning the importance of concepts ranging from planning and organization to taking care of their possessions.
Looking for ideas? Check out this article.
Be a Role Model
From the time they’re born, kids are constantly observing and modeling others’ behavior, and they remain highly impressionable even into their teenage years.
If there are certain behaviors you really want your kids to learn, make sure you’re modeling them. Whether it’s giving back to the game by coaching or volunteering, showing respect to referees, eating healthy, being on-time for activities, etc., you can have a significant impact by leading the way.
Enjoy the Experience
Hockey is a game, and it’s supposed to be fun. Not just for kids but for parents too. Whether it’s meeting with other parents before games or taking kids out for a special treat afterwards, look for ways to embrace and add to the experience.
And don’t forget to soak in the moments of simply watching your kid(s) play. While the days may be long, but the years are short.