Some humble advice for hockey parents for the new season
Posted by Dean Holden at October 2nd, 2014
by Gordon Clark, 9 September 2014
Now that the leaves are turning brown and it’s nearly time to close the windows at bedtime to ward off the cooler night air, I need to discuss, literally, the most serious and important issue in the world — children’s hockey.
Oh, I know, some might argue that climate change, the crises in Ukraine or Israel, Islamic terrorism, the ever-stagnant international economy or even the B.C. teachers’ strike are more significant but — and there’s no nice way to say this — they’re numskulls. They’d know it, too, if they’d been inside any ice rink in Canada or any other hockey-playing nation over the past few days, where children as young as eight are being put through their paces in critically important tryouts to place them on teams.
As president of a minor hockey association, I feel the need to point out to parents — warn them, really — that which team their child gets placed on at age eight, nine or 10 years of age will be the single most important experience of their life. Ask any president, board member, staff person or the thousands of volunteers of any kids’ hockey club and they’ll back me up on this.
Whether a kid eventually graduates from law school, cures cancer, becomes the first person to walk on Mars, marries some European prince or princess or, better yet, a Kardashian, nothing will be as important as their critical early hockey experiences.
To maximize their children’s hockey, parents must constantly advocate for their future little Crosbys, Wickenheisers or Stamkoses.
Here are a few pointers.
First, complain loudly and often about all aspects of your kids’ hockey program. Nothing motivates volunteer coaches, managers and others who give hundreds of hours of their lives each year so that your son or daughter can lace ’em up to improve like a constant stream of tips, critiques and observations. Keep them on their toes! Almost certainly, you will know more about hockey and running a club than they do. While you’re at it, make sure to tell your child what they or their coach are doing wrong before and especially after games, when their failings and inadequacies are fresh in their minds. If they’ve really messed up, missed an open net or something equally disastrous, you can also retract your offer of that trip to McDonald’s after the game. The hunger in their belly will motivate a hunger to improve.
When you’re at games, make sure to yell at the young on-ice officials. They’re just kids, probably still learning the rules of the game, and certain to make mistakes. Pointing out missed icing or offside calls, especially close ones, helps them improve. Remember, that missed call, might impact the outcome of one of your kid’s mid-season Atom A4 games! Also, screaming profanities at young officials toughens them up for their future years as officials and weeds out the kids who can’t handle “the pressure.”
Hockey parents — and, by the way, all this advice can be applied to parents of kids in others sports — must also tune out the losers and naysayers, usually other parents, who hang around the rinks saying things like, “relax, it’s just a game,” or “the kids should have fun.” Worse, some will even point out that the odds of becoming an elite college or professional player are “infinitesimally small.”
Here are the actual facts: a study of the 22,000 hockey players in Ontario who were 10 years old in 1985 revealed that 110 of them eventually made it to the major junior Ontario Hockey League while a further 22 received scholarships to Division 1 universities in the U.S., according to Total Sport Management, a player agent company.
Of those 22,000 10-year-olds, seven eventually played in the NHL. So take that, naysayers! The fact that 3/100ths of one per cent of 10-year-olds made “the Show” is pretty good odds and an excellent reason to maintain a high level of pressure on your little player to give “110 per cent” every single shift. With you nearly making that Junior B team all those years ago, the genetics are also probably in your kid’s favour.
To that end, work the kid hard, with extra ice-sessions, power skating and spring and summer hockey. They may whine, but what 11-year-old doesn’t? Don’t listen to guys who played in the NHL, like former Canuck Kirk McLean or former Montreal Canadien Mathieu Darche, or sports psychologists, who all say kids should play a range of sports or even have more spare time and fun in the summer. What do they know?
Keeping all that in mind, have a great season!
<Hopefully people can recognize sarcasm…? – DH>