All parents play a large part in their children’s development, growth, successes and failures. That’s the way it should be. But when it comes to hockey – and every other youth sport – leave the coaching to the coaches.
Former Minnesota Wild captain Wes Walz knows how much parents want their kids to succeed.
“That’s the one thing that I’ve found more than anything else, is how much every parent loves their children,” says Walz, who coaches the East Ridge girls’ high school team and has been involved in the youth hockey world in Minnesota for more than a decade. “We all love our kids beyond belief. We want them to do well.”
But when parents take a step too far, it can be harmful both to the child’s development and overall hockey experience.
Walz is in a unique position. He has kids in several sports at different ages and skills levels. With 277 career NHL points and coaching experience at all levels, he also possesses unique expertise. No matter what, he’ll let the coaches of his kids’ teams do their job.
“I will always defend coaches,” says Walz. “I’m as positive as I can be. I don’t rip the coaches to the kids and pollute their minds. That’s a bad situation. Drop the kids off. Let them go play hockey and figure it out. Let them freely and socially hang out with their friends and learn all those life lessons and everything will be good.”
Trust the coaches
Most youth hockey coaches are making a lot of personal sacrifice to manage the team. They often have to leave work early, put on a lot of miles, spend their weekends at tournaments, etc. – and often at little or no pay. They should not be undermined by parents.
“But some of the things I’ve seen around parents and the way they handle themselves during games – talking about coaches and talking about other kids and parents – it’s just not a good scene. I know how much time the coaches put in. It’s a difficult situation to be in.”
Allow the coaches to do their job. Stay away from the technical side of hockey – the X’s and O’s – and keep the dialogue positive and encouraging. All Minnesota Hockey coaches are certified.
“Be positive with them. Talk to them about learning experiences,” says Walz, who still serves the Wild in a variety of roles and also works as an on-air TV analyst for FOX Sports North. “You’re not always going to get along with your coaches. Just like in life, you’re not always going to work with people you always agree with. Take these life lessons from playing sports. A lot of life lessons we learn in sports can carry us through life.”
The numbers don’t lie
While Minnesota remains and continues striving to be the premier developer of hockey players in the U.S., the raw numbers don’t lie. The chances of your child playing in the NHL, or even earning a college hockey scholarship, are quite low.
What youth hockey should be about is giving the kids a chance to play and have fun with their friends while developing physical/mental skills and learning other lifelong lessons.
“The kids that get pushed and get driven into being something that maybe they had no chance to really be anyway,” adds Walz. “There’s a very good chance that a lot of these kids didn’t perform to their parents’ expectations. We put way too lofty of expectations on our youth and our young kids. It’s not just hockey either. It’s tennis, it’s swimming. I have kids in all sorts of different sports. This is not just a hockey thing.”
“It’s very competitive out there in life. I get that. But these are kids and they should be out there having fun.”