Who’s in charge?

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. 

Rule # 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.

With this rule Percival was making life especially difficult for parents of athletic children. If you enjoy a healthy involvement in the athletic life of your children you will naturally want to discuss their games and events and they will want to discuss them with you. The challenge is to always keep your comments supportive and to inspire your children to want to be better and more successful, not to be telling them how they can improve and succeed more often. This is especially important and especially difficult when you are a former hockey player and your son, and or daughter, are playing hockey.

The worst time for offering advice is immediately before and immediately after a game. Advice before a game can often confuse a player. Just be positive and reinforce any simple formulas the coach may have given for success. After the game emotions are usually running high and no good can come of attempting to dissect or correct the events of the previous few hours. Wait until the following day to deal with any concerns your child may have regarding the game and their performance in it. If you have a solid grasp of what they are attempting to accomplish in training, as well as in games, you will be able to spend some time reinforcing the messages that the coach has been delivering – as long as your child asks for such help, or is obviously open to receiving it from you. Do not turn your child off by forcing advice upon them and do not contradict the coach.

There are certain, extremely important, exceptions to this rule, which have become much more publicized in the years since Percival wrote his list. If anything in the playing or coaching of the game, or in any of the social activities organized by the team, threatens to have a direct bearing on the health and moral wellbeing of your child, it must be addressed. Again, in most cases it should not be in the heat of the moment after a hockey game. But a discussion with your child is imperative, as is a serious conversation with the coach. In such situations you must be prepared to withdraw your child from the team if the proper answers are not forthcoming.

It is common in Canadian minor hockey for an individual to be both the parent and the coach of a young hockey player. Due to the extensive time required for both jobs, the parent who volunteers to coach will often coach the team on which their child plays. Minor hockey in this country probably would not survive without the contribution of these parent/coaches. However, the dual role is not without pitfalls. The parent who is also their child’s coach must walk a narrow path, careful not to be too much of a coach at home and not to be too much of a parent at the rink. Every parent should avoid discussing the other players on the team, their abilities and performances, but this is especially important when the parent is also the coach. The parent/coach may attempt some one on one coaching at home with their child. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it is not flaunted. As much as possible, the coach’s child must be seen as just another member of the team. They will always be the son or the daughter of the coach. But the degree to which the parent/coach can impress upon everyone on the team that they are all equal, will have a tremendous bearing on the success of the team, as well as on their own child’s healthy response to a difficult situation.

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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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