Get Dragged Along – Thoughts for Sport Parents

The following is another article that has managed to get lost in the bowels of cyberspace.  If you hunt through the EFFORT/Fair Play and Respect section of the Mass Hockey website you can find it and a few other nice ideas towards creating optimal sports environments.  This being said… here’s a new home for an article that has been useful for coaches and parents over the years.  Enjoy.

Embrace a Parent’s Most Valuable Role

Adam H. Naylor, Ed.D., AASP-CC

All I wanted since I was age four was a hockey stick and to drag my parents to sign me up for hockey.  I was five-years old and I literally grabbed my mom.  I was a pain in the [butt] probably!  She finally said, “Let’s go to the rink we have to find a coach or something.”
Robert Kron, 14-year NHL wing (Quebec, Hartford, Carolina, Columbus)

This is the most wonderful portrait of a parent-child relationship in hockey… and it led to a long and successful NHL career!  As a parent, what role do you play in your child’s hockey-life?  Who leads the charge to the rink, onto new teams, and into competitions?

The most important role that you, as a parent, play is that of supporter.  Hockey is emotional.  Victories are passionate and defeats can be heartbreaking. Emotionally support your child during successes and failures.  Hockey presents players with challenge and adversity, and is a great sport because it does so. Support your child facing challenges, solving problems, and struggling with adversity without intervening with your “adult” powers and wisdom.  Most struggles on the ice, in practice, and during training provide valuable learning opportunities.  Well-intentioned parental assistance during challenge often robs players of valuable learning opportunities and over time hinders hockey and personal growth.  As a loving and caring parent, it is difficult to avoid the urge to eliminate a child’s struggles and frustrations (even when they are typically short-lived).  How can we fight this urge to act?  Remember who is the director of your child’s hockey career… your son or daughter.  While your own passions might run deep, it is the kid’s aspirations and dreams that determine enjoyment and success on the ice.  As a parent, play a supporting role.  Ask yourself who is doing the “dragging” to the rink, you or your child?  Give your player opportunities to choose when and how to compete.

Providing emotional support and support for challenges on the ice is the toughest, but most important, role a hockey-parent embraces.  Whether it be as a young child or growing teenager, when the athlete, your child, determines goals and personally embraces opportunities to overcome obstacles, optimal hockey development and personal growth will be achieved.  In the ideal hockey environment, kids play, learning to compete and solve problems, while parents support and encourage.

With this now posted, I hope we’ll get a post from Matt Cuccaro on the topic of parental roles.  With his work in golf, where the family can become “team-like” in its culture, he has some valuable insights.  Also, perhaps Greg Chertok will weigh in with a comment or two on this post.  As one of the co-authors of the newly released – The Baseball Starter: A Handbook for Coaching Children and Teens – and good friend of the PSPS gang, I suspect he has a few thoughts from his baseball expertise that would be of value.

1 Response to “Get Dragged Along – Thoughts for Sport Parents”

  1. 1 Greg Chertok December 29, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Adam, I’m honored to have been included! A well-written piece about a frequently-lamented topic: too much parental involvement. Well, I should clarify: misplaced parental involvement. Parents’ energies should be directed towards SUPPORT, SUPPORT, SUPPORT. In my experiences playing and coaching baseball, I’ve identified a number of truths about children, sports parents, and the athletic experience. I’ve made these specific to baseball, but all can be broadened to most any sport:

    1. Fun is critical; if baseball is not “fun,” young people won’t play a sport. Parents are in a position to make the game remarkably enjoyable or catastrophically work-like.

    2. Parents may wish to consider why their kids are playing baseball. Parents so easily lose sight of what their CHILD’S goals are for the season. Their answers may shock mom and dad. Instead of “being the best”, he may want to simply get exercise. Rather than “winning”, she may want to be with friends, or have fun, or learn new skills. Thus, parents’ questions to children should be structured based on THEIR goals, so instead of ‘Did you win?’, ask ‘how did you play?’ or ‘did you enjoy it’, or ‘What was most fun about last practice/game?’

    3. When, in the child’s eyes, parental love and approval depend on the adequacy of performance (i.e., the better you play, the more love you’ll get), sports are bound to be stressful. Love and support your children regardless of the outcome. I promise you, based on personal observations, the rewards are breathtaking. You as a parent may not be thanked directly for this, but your children will continue to develop their love of sports with your encouragement and child-centered approach (because it really is all about them).

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