Welcome back to the Ten Rules series where we examine Lloyd Percival’s list of How to Establish Rapport with Your Athletic Child. In the first post, we looked at the background of Percival and his involvement in developing The Hockey Handbook. Now we look at each of his ten rules and how they may (or may not) pertain to you and your young hockey player.
Rule # 2 Try your best to be completely honest, while supportive, about your child’s strengths.
Following Lloyd Percival’s second rule is one of the most difficult balancing acts for a hockey parent to manage. How do you build your young athlete’s confidence, make them proud of their accomplishments and support their ambitions, all the while keeping them grounded? Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in the drive for success in hockey and forget that this will likely only be one part of their lives.
The key is to make playing hockey a fun experience, no matter what level they play. Sometimes this means you might need to rein in your child’s expectations and sometimes it means encouraging them to reach for their potential. For example, if your child excels in house league A level or AA level hockey they will probably be invited to move up to the next level and might ask you to take them to tryouts for a team in a higher division. This is a tough call since moving up will be an adjustment. After joining a team in a more competitive league your son or daughter, who was once a star player, might find themselves on the third line or the end of the bench. If they didn’t expect this possibility, a sport that was once free and easy can become grueling. A once fun way to spend an afternoon could end up being a painful childhood memory.
Of course, some kids thrive on the challenge and grow from the experience of playing with stronger athletes. If your young hockey player thrives under pressure and enjoys playing at a level that challenges them as a player, you can help them become the best they can be by supporting them when the game gets tough and encouraging them to work hard. But others might wish that they had never left their old team.
That’s why it’s so important to have lots of loving conversations about their expectations, priorities and keeping it all in perspective. This way you can decide together what the best choice is for them. The percentage of Canadian minor hockey players who find their way to the NHL, or even to a lesser professional league, is miniscule. We do a disservice to our kids if we build up unrealistic expectations. Help your child find the level of hockey that best suits their ability as well as their ambitions.
Whether they play House League every weekend or travel around North America, maybe even the world playing minor hockey, the game should always be a joy to play. Discerning your child’s skill level will help keep their love for hockey alive. This way, hockey can become a life-long passion whether go pro or play in an adult rec. league.
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