Most parents coach their kids’ hockey team because they want to spend quality time together with their son or daughter. Others want to give back to the game, or because they learned the game from their parents. Some may feel that since they’re going to be at the rink anyway, why not help out on the ice.
Unlike many European countries, where coaches are paid professionals, the volunteer coach is the backbone of youth hockey in the United States.
While all parents get involved with coaching their kid’s team for all the right reasons, there are times when their hearts may get in the way of doing what’s best for the team as a whole, or even doing what’s best for their child.
Pick your spots to offer instruction to your child
As parents, we all know that our child has an on/off switch that they control to listen or ignore us. It’s no different when you’re a coach. Sometimes it may be better to have one of the other coaches offer instruction to our children.
Separate your relationship as parent/child and coach/player
Talk about your relationship as father and son/daughter as well as coach and player before the season begins. Know that there are times to talk about hockey and times to discuss other things, such as school, friends or family matters. Work on keeping those relationships separate.
Don’t single out your child in practices or games
Conversely, don’t go out of your way to point out every time your son or daughter makes a mistake, or use him or her as the “whipping boy” when things aren’t going well in practices or games. Be fair to all players and try to treat everyone equally.
Ask your kids what they want
Talk to your son/daughter about what their expectations are for the season. More than likely, having fun with their friends will be high on the list. Do everything in your power to make sure those goals are met, for every player on the team. Along the way, if you win a few games, develop every player’s skills and make some new friends, all the better.
Don’t show favoritism toward your child
Most of us didn’t get involved in coaching to ensure that our kid is on the power play. Of course there will always be rumblings from the bleachers if that happens. As a coach, communicate with your players and parents to avoid any suspicion of favoritism when it comes to ice time, linemates or special teams assignments.
Keep your expectations grounded in reality
Many parents with good intentions let youth sports drive a wedge in the relationship they have with their child. Take a step back and see if your expectations and interaction are age appropriate. If not, make a change in your approach. You may think that your child could be the next Patrick Kane or Cammi Granato but you must keep in mind that the odds are against you.
GOOD SPORT | Take A Hike
I’m not talking about taking a hike out of your children’s athletic lives – even though there might come a time when that is temporarily a good idea – but rather taking a hike with them in the woods or mountains.
I go hiking every year with my kids in the Adirondacks. It’s great fun, challenging fun, beautiful fun. I think what I like most about hiking is its simplicity. You just put on a pair of boots, fill up a pack with whatever you need, and start walking. There is none of the tension that is so often a part of competitive sports for young athletes and parents.
In other words, you tend not to worry about beating or losing to the mountain when you set foot on a trail. You tend not to care about what the mountain is ranked. My kids and their friends don’t even seem to care about who is the faster hiker. Why should they care? It’s not like there is some kind of Olympic Developmental Program for hikers or college scouts hiding in the woods. Just squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, foxes and bears.
My children love hearing the story of my bear encounter when I was hiking in Yosemite, even though the bear wandered off to the other end of the campsite, and I didn’t need to do anything heroic.
Hiking and camping lend themselves to storytelling, especially on mountain tops and around the campfire. I sometimes wish we could sit around the campfire at soccer tournaments, roasting marshmallows and telling stories.
Taken from “Win or Lose: A Guide To Sports Parenting” by Dan Saferstein, Ph.D. To learn more, go to DanSaferstein.com.
VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH
Janice got hooked on hockey early. Literally.
In her first experience playing at the age of 3, Cavaretta took a stick to the face that required 24 stitches. She fell in love with the game anyway, playing for 11 years before getting into coaching and then administration.
She’s worn many different hats as a volunteer, serving as the Buffalo Hornets ACE coaching director, the executive director of the Western New York Amateur Hockey League, a vice president for the New York section and as a registrar for the state of New York, among other positions.
Her real passion, though, is coaching.
“I still get excited about it,” she says. “There is a joy that comes from watching the kids take the ice and the excitement on their faces.”