Instead of focusing on the mistakes made, make it a goal to find and share a handful of specific positives to boost kids’ confidence and self-esteem.
In anticipation of the new season, players are encouraged to set goals for themselves – learn or improve on specific skills, be a good teammate, take on a leadership role, and so on.
But what about mom and dad?
Parents’ engagement – or lack thereof – can play a big role in their son’s or daughter’s hockey journey. But their goals and vision for the season should be different than their child’s. Proper parent goal-setting not only enhances your kid’s experience, but it can also help mom and dad enjoy the season more, too.
What kind of goals are we talking about? Hint: It has nothing to do with stats or team record. Here are some more age-appropriate possibilities:
Getting your 10U/Squirt player to pack and carry their own hockey bag.
Make an effort to develop better relationships with other parents.
Volunteering as team manager to help the team stay organized.
Develop a meal-planning routine that will help the family eat healthier while potentially saving money.
Provide opportunities for your child to develop his or her love the game like going to the state high school tournament or a Minnesota Wild game.
The hope is parents (and as a result, their kids) will focus less on scores, stats and wins, and more on enjoying the ride, getting better every day and having fun.
Few understand this better than Hal Tearse. The longtime coach and hockey educator for Providence Academy, USA Hockey and the Positive Coaching Alliance frequently speaks to hockey parents about the importance of “reframing” the way they approach each season, both for their, and their child’s, benefits.
“Youth sports, through age 14, is all about individual and team play development. But most importantly, it is a time to learn to love the game and have fun playing with friends,” said Tearse. “Unfortunately, adults make it more than that in the belief that they are helping, when in fact, they are undermining their child's experience. When parents are educated about the development process and the long-term outcome potentials, they can relax a bit and enjoy the experience with their kids.”
Tearse has developed a few approaches for hockey parents to consider, and to play a more productive role in the “process,” in order to achieve a smoother and better outcome for the player and team.
Work with Coaches, Not Against Them
“Parents need to have a good relationship with the coaches. They need to be helpful. And, coaches need to communicate early and often with the parents all through the season. Email makes this easy. The preseason parent-coach meeting is critical to set the stage for the season. There needs to be a clear understanding regarding play of players, team goals and schedules. Oftentimes, coaches dictate, but I have found that having parent input is a better route to go. The team manager is also an important bridge between the head coach and all of the parents. Having an informal mid-season meeting with coaches and parents is also an effective tool.”
Take the Pressure Out of Tryouts
“Parents worry about which team their kids play on. Parents should be supportive of the process and their child during tryouts. If they are negative, angry and vocal, in the end they are simply providing excuses for their kids. Kids develop at very different rates; some early and some later. Tryouts are a snapshot in time and for the most part, selections are accurate. The last couple picks on a team are the hardest and consume the most time by evaluators and coaches.”
Tryouts are one of the best times of year for instilling life lessons, regardless of the result. Teaching your child the most important parts of tryouts are the preparation put in leading up to them and how they react and move forward after tryouts can help develop good skills for later challenges in life such as job interviews.
Don’t Coach from the Stands
“Hockey is an easy game to play from the stands. Essentially, there are four games being played at once: The game the coach sees from the bench (worst seat in the house); the game the on-ice players see; the game the refs see; and the game parents see. Each see a very different game. Parents see a big picture game from the advantage of height and wide view. Players see the narrowest view. Do not undermine the coaches, complain about playing time or criticize teammates or refs. This hurts your child's view of the game and their opinion of themselves.”
Research shows that negative experiences leave a much bigger impact on people and talking about them can significantly intensify their influence. Instead of focusing on the mistakes made, make it a goal to find and share a handful of specific positives to boost kids’ confidence and self-esteem.
Make the Car Trip Home Smooth
“This is the number-one worst memory that kids have from their youth and high school sports experience. In fact, many kids quit because of it. If parents want to discuss the game with their child they should ask permission first and then engage in open-ended questions seeking understanding. For example, say, “hey buddy, want to talk about the game?” If they say no, then leave it alone. You could ask, “how do you feel you played today” or “what areas do you think you could improve on?” The idea is to have a conversation among equals, instead of yelling or criticizing effort. Today’s players average three games a week for five months. That is a tough schedule for kids, and expecting them to bring their A-game every time is absurd.”
If your goal this season is to enhance your child’s experience, maybe try taking them out for pizza or ice cream after the game or inviting a teammate over for the afternoon to shift everyone’s focus away from the result of the game and back to enjoying the moment.
These are just a few examples of goals parents can set for themselves this season. If you haven’t already, now is the time to figure out your goals for the upcoming year and determine the strategies to achieve them.