Mission Statement: How divorce is impacting youth hockey players and teams
I want to talk about, to me, the biggest “epidemic” that is affecting our kids these days that somehow doesn’t get talked about enough – the divorce rate and the overall affect it has on kids, and how it relates to them as hockey players and team sports in general.
Over the last 15 years, unfortunately, this has become commonplace in our society, and the effect on kids is something coaches, like myself, have to deal with more and more. Make no mistake, I am not judging as each situation has its own circumstances and reasons. What I am talking about is not the actual situation, but some of the effects kids seem to have a common result.
I have often used the analogy that being a teammate rates or translates to being part of a successful family. You have to be selfless, sacrifice some individual success and accolades for the betterment of the entire unit. It is more than just about the one, but the ability to work with others to achieve a common goal.
With the divorce rate hitting an all-time high in this country, and the constant battle of coaches to keep players’ individual goals as a piece to the bigger puzzle, I am seeing how it is affecting kids and teams sports negativity.
When this foundation in kids’ lives get altered, it impacts the team concept as well. Basically, in simple terms, my team at home gave up, so why should I trust in the player next to me when he/she will at some point let me down. I see kids less trusting and less “buying in” to team-first concepts. It’s hard to ask them to trust another “family,” so to speak.
Unfortunately, I also see more and more kids are giving up and not willing to push through some of the ups and downs of the sport. I work with enough kids, age groups, and seasons to see how it stems from our society challenge of keeping family units together.
It’s not easy.
This isn’t talked about very much as it surely will muster up some negative feelings and emotions, but I have the perspective outside looking in and see how it has affected so many of my players year after year. This is a real thing that over my 20 years coaching has really started to take shape.
It is a proven fact that coaches, other than parents, are the biggest influences in a child’s life when they reach a certain level of competitive play. Coaches now have to be equipped to deal with the tricky balance of kids who struggle emotionally with divorce and how to navigate them to trust the team concept and all that it represents.
I have also seen parents do a great job with their kids and working through tough circumstances at home, but it takes the effort, and most importantly, the acceptance that this situation is indeed going to affect the child.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers or be an expert, but I think this is a conversation that needs to be realized as unfortunately, I see it being tucked under the rug, and it is affecting too many young kids these days.
Hockey is a vehicle and a metaphor for lifelong lessons, and I am doing all I can to make sure that not only the game stays special to so many young dreamers, but they pick up the intangibles that make this sport so special. This is clearly reshaping some of the newer team dynamics and needs to be addressed.
Jeremy Goltz is the program director for Mission Arizona.