None of us think we’re that parent.
Let’s be honest, most of us roll our eyes when we have to do online Respect in Sport-style courses, and laugh or cringe when we hear stories about crazy hockey parents freaking out on coaches or — worse yet — putting ridiculous pressure and unrealistic expectations on their kids.
But if none of us are that parent, then who is?
The sad reality is far too many parents still display ludicrous behavior every season, both at the arena and behind the scenes at home, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are, indeed, that parent.
What are you pushing your kids towards? What is about minor sports that causes rational people to become, well, irrational – to put in nicely?
There’s nothing wrong with advocating for your child and encouraging them to be the best they can, but a big reason we put our kids in sports — aside from the athletic aspect — is to learn how to function within a team, take direction, and through time, develop some independence from us, something that pays off for them in school and life.
And, perhaps most importantly, to have fun (more on that below).
Unfortunately what happens far too often is that many kids lose their love of the game because of what their parents may do and say.
So why do we act like this? What is the ultimate goal?
I won’t bore you with the statistics, but one worth noting is that the average kid playing minor hockey in Canada has a 0.11% of making the NHL. Forget the pros, no matter how good your kid is (or you think they are), they still have a very small chance of playing high-end junior or collegiate.
I spent nearly 20 years as journalist, most of it in sports, including serving as the Sports Editor of the Calgary Sun. I left four years ago to become the Director of Digital Content and Social Media for the Calgary Flames, so I’ve seen it all professionally.
Though I’ve always been keenly aware of just how unlikely it is to find success at the highest levels of hockey, I had a moment that stood out to me not long after I started with the Flames and attended the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C.
The Flames, Oilers, Canucks and Jets all sent their top prospects to play in the week-long tournament in September. The person many consider the best player in the world, Connor McDavid, once skated in it.
As I stood and watched warmups before one game, it really hit me that every player out there had likely been the McDavid of their association growing up, an absolute phenom in minor hockey and likely a standout in junior. Yet, here they were, many of them unlikely to become full-time NHLers, perhaps able to make a career in the minors if they were lucky. And they were once the cream of the crop.
It wasn’t an ‘aha moment,’ but something that galvanized what I already knew — and far too few people still won’t admit: The majority of your child’s hockey experience will likely come when they are an adult, playing in some type of rec league. And that is if they don’t quit all together first.
Let that sink in and really think about it for a moment.
Hockey should be fun: Scoring goals, making plays, skating, spending time with your friends. When it’s not fun, you’ll have issues. As someone who is around NHLers every day, I can tell that even when pros don’t have fun, things are tough for them. If that’s what happens to adults at the pinnacle of the game, what do you think happens to kids?
There’s a good chance you got your child into hockey because you love it, you’re a lifelong fan and you want them to be the same. You certainly don’t want them to quit playing and, worse yet, develop a hate for it.
It led me to think up what I call the 24-year-old old rule. We all know the 24-hour rule – don’t reach out to your team’s coach or manager until you’ve spent that long thinking and composing yourself. So what’s the 24-year-old rule? Simple – where do you want your kid to be when they are 24? Do you want them still playing the game in some capacity, or have given it up – maybe for good.
At the end of the day, there are many roads your kid may take during their minor hockey days, and most lead to the same place. When we forget that, we can make some really bad decisions.
So always think of the 24-year-old rule and ask yourself, am I taking the fun out of the game for them? It’s one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as a parent.