Years on the ice, seated through so many tourneys and with so many different people I still can’t get the names all straight, but one thing is certain, there are no other families as strong as hockey families. The bond between hockey team players and other families runs deep, in many cases. A while back we were on a travel team that the parents were pretty divided as far as personalities and beliefs went, and all I can tell you, is on that team, if your thoughts were that your kids were headed to the NHL, ummm…. Reality check, cause it ain’t gonna happen. It seems that after I have talked to so many in charge of staffing, organizing events, and tryouts(as they are all my friends) parents are creating problems both on and off the ice. The latest stories that my one friend told me had my head spinning and my skates dropping off my feet as it is disheartening to hear that kids have pressures on them that they simply can’t hold up to. Lavishly live Parental Pressuring in ice hockey out loud with this little story, what you take away from it is all personal and yours, I am just the messenger.
8 years ago, when Learn-To-Play was not quite so popular, kids might have spent 3 seasons in multiple sessions just to pass. We had to make sure that kids could stop, start, skate in circles, backward skate, skate with a stick and so on. I was so naive then, and had no idea how many prodigies there were because everyone was talking about their kid being the best and that how dare “Coach” for not passing their kid into the next level. Wow, so many future NHL Stars in one room with so many bench coaches, the NHL could be loaded!
My kids had just skated and skated, 3 sessions long, making great friends with all the trainers in the groups and actually earning extra skating time because of his friendships with those trainers. We were not in a hurry to pass through because building a great foundation is the first step to really learning what you are getting into. If there was a skate style he did not accomplish, backward, forward, cross-overs then he needed to conquer it. It is not that the kids were not adept and agile and able, I believe they just enjoyed the extra ice time and we were fine with it. Turns out though, the other bench-warmer parents were not so fine with it and the line to the man in charge was always steep to the point that you had to make an appointment to see him. Remember, all these referees and bench coaches felt their kids were better than…….. Look out NHL your teams are already loaded.
See those prodigies were so good that they were not being moved along quicker than week by week and after never having skated before in their lives, they expected their kids to move on up to each of the 8 groups by the end of the 8 weeks. No mistakes here, what I am saying is that sure there were a few kids that could move along that quick, but on a whole, pushing your kid through the critical points of how to play only mushes up their play later, trust me.
We sat back and just let it happen, and let the hockey pucks fall where they might. Our kids were there as long as they had to be. This was not because I enjoyed sitting there in the 30 degree stands and having my butt frozen off, but because they were learning, and they were making a lot of friends while doing it. The kids they were skating with are those that would be bred into hockey with over the next 4 years until everyone started traveling at the Squirt level. Training is a necessary evil. Parents take it too lightly, but then heavily invest in personal ice hockey trainers, who have to catch the kids up to what they should have learned if they had stayed in their right groups in Learn-To-Play. How ironic.
Now, as a result of being pushed, thinking that each child is a prodigy, you run into problems inside of teams. On a whole you have the best people on a team, a family, to the point that you can’t go into a rink and NOT KNOW SOMEONE because you will always be around people you have come up with! It is fun and it is a great feeling to see everyone all the time, like I said a FAMILY of sorts. One of our teams offered us a Prodigy child, and not it was not my kid(lol). This sport is to be for fun, and since we are not on the ‘elite’ teams it is important to keep the idea that we are not NHL bound in your head at all times.
One child on a team we were on, just kept on being for lack of a better word a hockey bully. He insisted on stealing all pucks from his teammates even when they were on the way to the goal to score, he would never pass because that is so far below his ability and thought process that is a conversation you just can’t have with him. The child does not realize this is a team sport not a PERSON sport and that to win, it takes passing, preciseness and friendship, or there will be no wins.
Stealing a puck from a teammate is basically a silent death sentence between all the other players, kind of like a signed treaty that if repeatedly done, it starts to become keep away from that person. When frustration from having the puck kept away built, he started hitting his TEAMMATES on the head with a hockey stick. When the teammates decided to take no more they began hitting back and suddenly there was a loss of concentration on what they were really there to do, play hockey versus what they had to do to survive from this child.
What is the problem? The problem in this scenario was that the parents continuously told their child he was the best, car coached and persuaded him and insisted he get to the puck and not share. When he shared they banged on the glass, when he passed they said,”why?” When the team and other parents in the stands could no longer take it any more as it was costing us games, there was a COME TO JESUS MEETING with the parents and the child separately. Wherein, the coach made it quite clear that either the child started passing and working as a team, and that the team could no longer retaliate, reminding them they are a team and should talk to each other and communicate not fire back.
The parents had an all out quarrel, where these parents found their child to be so far superior to others. The coaches ultimatum to this set of parents as well as their child: He stops, you stop, he plays like he should be, with passing, no fighting, no hitting his own teammates and works no questions asked!
The parents felt the Coach was ‘out to lunch’ with his request and that their prodigy needed a better team, one who would appreciate him, therefore handed in the shirt and went to another team in the area, where he was again benched for the inability to be a team-player. Uncoachable comes to mind.
Do you lavishly live through this scenario weekend after weekend and week after week during practices as well as games? How will your ice hockey story end? Ours welcomed many new years since this and hopefully many more. One thing is certain, hockey at this level, this age is all about the fun, friendship and working as a team, anything more is just a parental set of guidelines that should not be driven into our children’s craniums. We are not on the skates, we are not holding the pucks and we are not making the calls, we need to sit back, relax and love what our kids bring to the ice: skill, determination and the ability to make friends.