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Answering 3 Key Questions of Today’s Hockey Parents

By Jessi Pierce, 04/19/21, 3:00PM CDT


When did things get so darn hard for parents?

It’s probably safe to say it was about the time that ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ became your new presenting title. And from diaper changes to line changes, it seems the life of a sports parents is always met with some new form of challenge.

BUT – and this is a big but – it doesn’t mean that we can’t challenge those challenges and find what works best for you and your family.

We leaned on Minnesota State women’s assistant coach and mom of three Shari Dickerman, and dad and Hamline men’s head coach Cory Laylin, to help us breakdown the hurdles and remind parents that you’re doing great – whatever you choose for you and your family.

Challenge #1: How much hockey should they play?

Every offseason we remind you the importance of putting the hockey bag away and grabbing the soccer/lacrosse/baseball/golf/frisbee bag instead. But that’s only because…it works.

Laylin, who has coached a number of USA Hockey select teams, says the importance of saying no to year-round hockey and yes to other sports and experiences — with some hockey sprinkled in here and there during the offseason — truly is the best way to approach the “specializing in hockey challenge” head on.

“It’s not always ‘more hockey, more hockey’ as the answer,” said Laylin. “If you do too much hockey, it adds stress on your joints and leads to burnout. It’s good to put it away so the kids are so excited to strap on the hockey pads again. A huge part of development is the excitement of getting back at it again. Kids will plateau if they play hockey non-stop all the time.

“Some parents think they know better, but if you follow the science of USA Hockey’s long-term athlete development, sometimes less truly is more. Let kids step away before they get back at it.”

But what if your kid loves hockey and it’s all they want to do (more on that in challenge #3)?

“You don’t need to be 10 years old and pick your favorite sport,” adds Dickerman, who has sons ages 10 and 4, and a daughter age 8. “Whatever season it is, that should be the favorite sport.

“There’s always been specialization pressure in almost any sport, and they will try and tell you you’re going to fall behind if you’re not playing it every season. But I promise you, that’s not the case. Develop athleticism and love for the sport you’re playing in each different season and you can go a lot further than specializing in something.”

Naturally, other sports and activities also present another challenge in a challenge for parents: overscheduling – especially if you’re a parent to multiple kids, too.

The solution: bear in mind that free time is just as important to an athlete’s and child’s development as structured activities are.

“Are you forcing your kids to do multiple things and schedule every day and night and simply get in the car and go through the motions, or are these things the kids actually want to do?” Dickerman asks. “For my son, who’s approaching that stage, I try to remind myself: he’s 10. He doesn’t need to have something every single day. He needs to run around outside and throw the football around and not have scheduled practice tell them what to do. Go out and play. Show up to the park and be a kid.”

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Challenge #2: How can I afford this?

“Not one kid out there needs the newest pair of skates,” Laylin says blatantly. “There’s always going to be newer or what they might tell you is ‘better’, but it doesn’t change the athlete in the skates or the one handling the ‘latest’ stick.”

Hockey can be expensive, just like any other sport. Key words: can be. But it doesn’t have to be.

Keep an eye out for used equipment drives in your community. As with any approach in your family, it’s all about working within your budget.

“I treat buying equipment the same as buying a car for your family,” said Dickerman. “You don’t have to buy the high-end fancy vehicle when it is out of budget for your family and just doesn’t make sense, while the used minivan probably does.

“When it comes to cost of equipment or training sessions or whatever, you don’t have to do the extra pieces if it doesn’t work for your family and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be falling behind.”

Whether it’s stick handling and shooting pucks in driveway this summer or skating on a local pond or outdoor rink during the season, there are numerous ways for kids to play and improve without breaking the bank.

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Challenge #3: But I don’t want them to miss out…

So your son’s entire team is playing AAA hockey this summer. Or maybe your daughter’s teammates are taking part in rigorous camps all summer long.

And maybe you don’t want to miss out on the fun with your fellow hockey parents either.

“Enjoy the process and understand that there is a process that takes time,” said Laylin. “Let your child develop. I think so many people fall under the trap that they want to reinvent the wheel and that they think they know it better and what’s best for your child’s success, but they don’t. It’s a process.”

For Dickerman, who was an All-American goalie for the Mavericks, it’s about reminding herself why she’s putting her kids in sports in the first place (hint: it’s not to go pro or even Division I).

“Sit back and think: what’s the ultimate goal for sport?” she said. “I don’t look at it like, OK, if I put my kind in enough opportunities to go pro and make all kinds of money, it will work and that’s why we’re playing. Instead, you should be focused on giving them the opportunity to develop life through sport. It’s so important for that to be the goal.

“Yes, you want to develop them as athletes, but also as better teammates, understanding what it’s like to lose and what it’s like to win and about hard work. All of those life lessons, that should be the goal for your kids in sport, or fine arts or whatever their passion is.”

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