“Let the coaches coach and the referees ref.”
It’s one of the oldest sayings in youth sports, and for the most part, that advice rings true in terms of creating a positive youth sport environment.
There are a few notable exceptions though. Here are five hockey habits parents are encouraged to help teach because coaches and parents are not only on the same team but have the exact same goal of teaching life lessons through hockey.
Responding to Mistakes
Even the best hockey players in the world make mistakes. Want proof? Show your player this video (right/below) of Connor McDavid, two-time NHL scoring leader and a human highlight reel.
Learning to treat performance mistakes as an opportunity to improve is a skill. Whether it’s slamming their stick, yelling or showing poor body language, most young players react to mistakes with obvious frustration. Often times, those reactions lead to even more mistakes and it can snowball.
Teaching players to quickly shift their focus from the mistake itself to the next play is a critical part of their development as a player and a person.
Being a Good Teammate
Much like life, hockey is a team game. Players can only achieve so much on their own. As players get older and the competition level increases, it becomes more and more important to be a great teammate.
There are so many ways for players to have a positive or negative impact on their teammates, and in many cases, parents may see them before the coaches. Parents have a unique opportunity to guide how their kids think about and interact with their teammates. Discussions on common situations like mistakes made by teammates, celebrating others’ successes and making sure everyone feels included can even be had before they occur, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Self-Care and Maintenance
Everyone knows exercise, sleep and good nutrition play a role in long-term health, but their role in daily performance whether you play a professional sport or work in an office is underrated. The best way to develop good habits in each of these areas is to instill them as kids.
While participating regularly hockey covers most of kids’ needs for activity, finding time and ways to be physically active outside of organized sports can help engrain an active lifestyle and build kids’ athleticism. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a consistent schedule can be challenging for kids, especially as they enter their adolescent years, but it’s critical to every aspect of their development.
Nutrition and hydration are often complete after thoughts. Eating well and staying hydrated is simple, not easy. For instance, most kids understand having water and a banana is better for them than a hot dog and a pop or energy drink before a game, but taste buds typically win out unless kids are guided in building the self-discipline to make the right choices.
Controlling the Controllables
Focus on what you can control.
It sounds so easy, right? If it was though, everyone would already do it.
Disagreeing with a call by an official, feeling like you received a cheap shot, not playing your favorite position, not being on the line or team you want, forgot a piece of equipment, and the list goes on and on. Young players will face all different types of adversity and at times feel like the whole world is against them.
Parents can assist players in developing this skill by helping them understand the range of potential outcomes for different behaviors in the face of adversity and preparing them to react in a way that best helps the team.
Share the Joy
There are numerous benefits to participating in sports and kids become more aware of them as they get older, but the number one driver of participation is enjoyment.
Many professional athletes also attest they perform their best when they’re relaxed and having fun. There are so many outside pressures and stressors in competitive sports that can distract from the essence of the game, but finding joy in the process and the journey plays a major role in high performance as well as participation.
Parents can have a huge influence on this area. Little moments such as skating together on outdoor ice, playing floor hockey at home, watching higher levels of hockey, or enhancing their bonds with teammates can all fuel kids’ passion for the game.