AHU Coach’s Corner – Guest Column: Handy tips to keep hockey parents calm, cool, collected
This is Part 1 of 3 in a series by Jamie McKinven of GlassAndOut.com.
1. Hockey is a Fun Game. Period.
The No. 1 goal in all youth sports is to have fun.
Hockey, at its purest form, is recreation and nothing more. When kids begin playing hockey, they don’t know the meaning of the words “salary,” “contract” or “agent.” When kids first develop an interest in hockey, it is purely for fun. Too often this cold, hard fact is forgotten.
When things become hairy and stress levels escalate, take a deep breath and read that three-letter word over and over again – F-U-N, F-U-N, F-U-N…
2. Development is More Important Than Winning.
Not too long ago, I had the unenviable task of listening to a parent tell me that their 10-year-old son has been crying himself to sleep for the past week because he has been getting two shifts a game.
The coach wants a championship and because it is the AAA level, has decided that he will do whatever it takes to win. Some people say, “When you’re playing AAA hockey, it’s about winning and if kids sit on the bench, they sit on the bench. If you want to get equal playing time, go play house league.”
I completely disagree with this.
The fact is, every parent pays for their kid to play at the AAA level and the mandate is still development and fun. When I was 10 years old, we won a few tournaments. Now 20 years later, I couldn’t tell you where the tournaments were even held and all of the trophies and medals I received are long gone and forgotten.
I’m not where I am today because I won a 50-cent plastic medal at the Eganville Invitational in 1991. Winning is not important when you’re 10 years old.
3. Don’t Worry About Status.
The biggest misconception in hockey today is that if you aren’t playing AAA, you’re not going anywhere.
I hear it all the time – parents stressing because their kid got cut from the AAA team. It’s a ridiculous obsession with status.
The fact is kids are going to develop at different stages.
The kid who dominates in Atom isn’t necessarily the kid who dominates in Bantam, Midget or junior. Most of the kids who dominate at early ages are the bigger kids who are just physically stronger than everyone else. From Atom to Bantam Minor (10 to 14 years old) I played AAA. I was always the smallest kid on the team and always had coaches who were obsessed with winning. I loved hockey, which is what kept me going.
The turning point in my career came when I was 15 and was cut from the Bantam Major AAA team. I went down and played A-level Bantam and had the best year of my life. The next season, I played Junior C followed by four seasons of Tier II Junior A hockey. I then received a full-scholarship to play in the NCAA at Clarkson University and after graduation, played four seasons of professional hockey.
If I hadn’t been cut and gone down to play A-level Bantam, I never would have played beyond minor hockey. It was an experience that opened my eyes and changed my life. Playing against the best players possible doesn’t necessarily make you a better player. In the long run, it is better to play at levels that are ideal for the moment, while developing your skills and increasing your confidence.
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, Central Hockey League and Europe. Along the way, he discovered a great deal about life, love and the value of following through on a dream.
(Nov. 13, 2018)