Dad, I do not want to play any more
Posted by Dean Holden at October 27th, 2012
By Hal Tearse, Coach in Chief, Minnesota Hockey, Boys Varsity Coach, Providence Academy, 1 October, 2012
Each year, nearly 10,000 kids across the country who are moving from PeeWees to Bantams announce that they no longer want to play hockey. Many of those kids are right here in Minnesota and many of these situations are unnecessary.
There are several reasons kids quit. Some find other sports they prefer; many want to do other activities and travel hockey does not allow for such things; some have not grown yet and are physically intimidated by the bigger players; and some just have decided that it is no longer fun because they do not get to play in the games very much.
A recent letter from the parent of a PeeWee A player from the Twin Cities shares a problem that occurs regularly and that I hear of quite often. An edited version follows:
“His second year he made the PeeWee A team. I know he understood how hard he needed to work to make that team and he pulled it off. He was excited to make the team and ready for a great season. Within weeks that changed.
“I watched his first practice and the whole team was excited. I watched a scrimmage a week later and several kids were getting very reduced playing time – in a scrimmage. I watched a couple of weeks later and a few kids had to sit out nearly the entire period of an early tournament game when the team was down by one goal. It was a game that was eventually lost by the same one goal differential.
“Several weeks later, around Christmas time, I was watching a high school game with my son and pointed out to him that when he kills penalties he should keep an active stick to take away passing lanes for the other team. His response was ‘Dad, I don’t kill penalties.’ He was right in that over the course of the first two months he probably (penalty) killed a total of less than 20 seconds.
“As the season progressed, I could see his confidence diminishing and his passion for the game seemed to be going downward. He didn’t seem excited to get to the rink and he didn’t seem to display the hard work and hustle that he always seemed to have. Within days of the season over he said to me, ‘Dad, I don’t know if I’m going to play hockey next year.’
“Finally, I figured I had to be more direct with him. I wasn’t going to make him play if he didn’t want to, but I wanted to know why. What had changed for him as a kid who used to love the game now is at the point of not continuing?
“When I asked him if he wanted to play, I told him that I just wanted him to have fun. I told him that I wasn’t going to make him play but I just wanted to know why. His eyes welled up and he was fighting tears but just kept saying that it isn’t fun. Again I told him that as much as I wished he would continue to play for fun, I wasn’t going to make him play. He was still fighting back tears but held himself together.
“I still haven’t been able to get an answer as to why it isn’t fun for him anymore when a year ago he just loved the game. It’s more than likely the result of several reasons, but I will always think that part of his decision is related to his experience last year. After all, within days of the season being over, he seemed to be thinking of this.”
This youngster no longer plays hockey.
Is it possible that we put too much pressure on youth players to win? We (adults and coaches) value winning far more than the players. They really just want to play and have fun.
When it ceases to be fun, winning does not make up for sitting on the bench and watching others play. They get discouraged and the passion they had for the game is squeezed out of them one day at a time until they realize that the game is no longer about fun or getting better or being with their friends, but rather winning. Winning at all costs. So they quit because it is not fun for them.
As the season begins, parents and coaches alike need to make a decision at the beginning of the season. There are two scenarios and each team needs to select one or the other.
They are 1) We will do whatever it takes to win every game and scrimmage including short benches, and 2) We win and lose as a team together with everybody playing.
If the first option is the choice of the parents and coaches, then so be it. If the second option is the choice, then coaches and parents need to stay with it all season long and focus on team and fun and learning.
Having a clear understanding at the beginning of the season is only fair to all concerned. The important part is that the parents and coaches have a “discussion” about these issues at the beginning of the season. This should not be at the sole discretion of the coaches. Each association has rules and guidelines that guide coaches in the area of “play of players.” Read and discuss this policy at your team meetings.
Having coached all levels of amateur hockey I can assure you that choice two is the best option for players, coaches and parents.
Let’s try to keep more kids in hockey longer and having fun. It is just a game played by kids.