Are you really supporting your hockey player?

Welcome back to the Ten Rules series where we examine Lloyd Percival’s list of How to Establish Rapport with Your Athletic Child. In the first post, we looked at the background of Percival and his involvement in developing The Hockey Handbook. Now we look at each of his ten rules and how they may (or may not) pertain to you and your young hockey player. 

1. Make sure that your child knows that win or lose, scared or heroic you love them, appreciate their efforts and are not disappointed in them.

This will allow them to do their best, to avoid developing a fear of failure based on the spectre if disapproval and family disappointment if they do mess up. Be the person in their life they can look up to for constant positive enforcement. Learn to hide your feelings if they disappoint you.

2. Try your best to be completely honest about your child’s athletic ability, their competitive attitude, sportsmanship and actual skill level.

3. Be helpful don’t “coach” them on the way to the track, diamond or court…on the way back …at breakfast…and so on. 

Sure, it’s tough not to, but it’s a lot tougher for the child to be inundated with advice, pep talks and often critical instruction. 

4. Teach them to enjoy the thrill of competition, to be “out there trying” to be working to improve their skills and attitudes… to take physical bumps and come back for more. 

Don’t say “winning doesn’t count” because it does. Instead, help develop the feel for competing, for trying hard, for having fun. Explain that the “Happy Warrior” who loves all aspects of play is usually in the long term the best athlete.

5. Try not to re-live your athletic life through your child in a way that creates pressure; you fumbled too, you lost as well as you won. You were frightened, you backed off at times, and you were not always heroic. Don’t pressure your child because of your pride.

Sure, they are an extension of you, but let them make their own voyage of discovery into the world of sports…Let them sail into it without interference. Help to calm the water when things get stormy, but let them handle their own navigational problems. Find out what your child is all about and don’t assume they feel the way you did. Expose them to sport, perhaps lead them lightly, but don’t try to push them in the direction that will give you the most satisfaction.

6. Don’t compete with the coach.

Remember that in many cases the coach becomes a hero to their athletes, a person who can do no wrong. The young athlete often comes home and chatters on about “coach says this, coach says that,” ad nauseam. This, I realize, is often hard to take, especially for the parent who has some sports experience.

Unfortunately, some coaches are not aware of this situation. And do not attempt to develop a relationship with the parents.

Just wait it out. At first, because the coach is the hero who hands out pats on the back and is very sympathetic, the young athlete will be very happy; however, it will come full circle when the coach has to correct, criticize, discipline or ask for extra effort or sacrifice. To handle this and other problems, make a point in getting to know the coach so that they do not become a distant authority figure threatening your own status.

7. Don’t compare the skill, courage or attitudes of your child with other members of the squad or team, at least in range of him/her hearing.

And if your child shows a tendency to resent the treatment he gets from the coach, or the approval other team members get, be careful to talk over the facts quietly and try to provide fair and honest counsel. If you play the role of the overly protective parent who is blinded to the relative merits of your youngster and their actual status as an athlete and individual, you will merely perpetuate the problem. Your youngster could become a problem athlete.

8. You should also get to know the coach so that you can be assured that their philosophy, attitudes, and ethics and knowledge are such that you are comfortable with them taking a prominent role in the development of your child. 

The coach has a tremendous potential influence. Too many parents let their children play for coaches whose approach is less than desirable. Here is where you should speak up. Unless the coach has the moral values and principles you want passed onto your child, you should get your child out of there.

9. Always remember that children tend to exaggerate, both when praised and when criticized. 

Temper your reactions to the tales of woe or heroics they bring home. Don’t cut your youngster down if you feel they’re exaggerating—just take a look at the situation and gradually try to develop an even level. Above all, don’t over-react and rush off to the coach if you feel an injustice has been done. Investigate, but anticipate that the problem is not as it might appear.

10. Make a point of understanding courage and the fact that it is relative.

There are different kinds of courage. Some of us can climb mountains but are frightened to get into a fight; others can fight without fear but turn to jelly if a bee approaches. Everyone is frightened in certain areas—nobody escapes fear and that is just as well since it often helps us avoid disaster. Explain to your youngster that courage does not mean an absence of fear but rather means doing something in spite of fear or discomfort.

In a way, the parents are the primary coaches. I have talked with many great athletes who, in evaluating the reasons for their success, have said: “My parents really helped—I was lucky in this respect.”

To me the coaching job the parent has is the toughest one of all and it takes a lot of effort to do it well. It is worth all the effort when you hear your youngster boast (now or later on) that you played a key role in their success.

In subsequent issues we will take a closer look at each of Percival’s “Ten Rules” and see how they can help today’s hockey parent.

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About The Author

Gary Mossman is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario. He is member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) who has appeared in The Hockey News. CONTINUE

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