If you only went by news headlines, you may conclude youth sports are filled with “crazy” parents who only care about their child making it to the NHL.
However, the vast majority of hockey parents (and youth sport parents in general) are actually focused on the right things. They want their kid(s) to have fun, develop skills, build confidence, make friends and memories. Parents’ long term thoughts regarding hockey are more likely to involve their son or daughter making the high school team or being a coach rather than grand visions of NHL stardom.
With that in mind, here are 10 characteristics we see in the rinks year after year that showcase how great most hockey parents are.
Cheer for everybody on the team
Cheering for the success of every member on the team creates a positive environment that people want to be a part of. Some parents take it a step further by acknowledging (and even clapping for) great plays by the opposing team.
Model respect for coaches and officials
Kids model their parents. They pick up on phrases, nonverbal cues and how to behave in all types of situations. The same holds true in sports. If you would be embarrassed or outraged to see your child publicly disrespect their coach or an official then join the group of parents who make a concerted effort to show kids the right way to approach those difficult and emotional situations.
Treat your child and the team the same whether they win or lose
No one, especially kids, want to hear what they did wrong after a loss. Most kids already recognize their own mistakes and have heard from their coach about them. Parents who recognize this, understand the big picture of youth sports, and show unconditional love and support can help young athletes refocus and maintain their love for the game.
Child first, athlete second
Similar to how players should view themselves as students first, athletes second, there are far-reaching benefits to children when parents place the majority of their focus on using sports as a way to develop their child as a person first and foremost.
A good listener and a great encourager
Two of the best ways to make a positive impression on a young athlete while building their self-esteem and confidence are asking questions and providing specific praise.
Know what and when to discuss items with coaches
There are situations, such as the mental and physical treatment of your player, when parents should communicate with coaches. Parents and coaches often find the most success when these discussions occur privately, are at an arranged time, and do not focus on playing time, team strategy or other team members.
Focus on the journey
Ask any parent whose kids have grown into adults, and they’ll tell you that it goes by extremely fast. Today’s generation of parents are busier and more connected than ever before. With everything going on, it’s easy for minds to fixate on a future time or get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the journey because the moments of watching your kids play a game they love are limited and are worth cherishing.
Push child to develop a life outside of hockey
Most have heard about the benefits of playing other sports, but providing kids the opportunity to experience a variety of activities, interests and hobbies, even outside of sports, can help them develop a stronger and more complete identity.
Involved but not over-involved
Involved parents are critical to a great youth hockey experience. They consistently showcase their support of their child’s participation by providing rides, volunteering and so much more. Be wary of urges to control each situation, even if your ultimate goal is a better situation for your child, as it’s often the start of a slippery slope.
Make sports FUN!!
Time after time, studies show the number one reason kids want to play sports is to have fun. Coaches play a huge role in ensuring each player has fun, but parents can make a big impact too. Taking kids to the local park to skate outside, building a backyard rink, attending a local AAA, University, Pats game or even going out for pizza with teammates after a game are all ways parents can influence the amount of fun kids have playing hockey.