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Keep Athletes Stress-Free This Winter

With the start of winter comes a decent amount of stress: shovel the driveway under 4 feet of snow, find Christmas presents for all your loved ones, and make certain that the kids get to hockey practice on time. Getting your junior athletes through a season set in the coldest, darkest part of the year can be particularly challenging; especially when the team doesn’t reach its full potential, or when there are some underlying frustrations about individuals or groups. Here’s how parents can help keep their kids positive and focused from game one to the championship.

Remember: It’s a game, not a career

Many parents want their kid to grow up and play professional sports. While hockey has a slightly higher threshold of youth players who turn pro, parents need to understand that the reason for their kids’ playing time isn’t so that they’ll be NHL stars. It’s not just a matter of odds, but the odds may help put youth sports into perspective: less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all high school hockey players, for example, will never make it to a professional roster. When kids are young, a parent’s job must be to help them understand how to love the sport and how to help them improve. Parents who put expectations on their child — “he needs to be the top-line center,” for instance, or “he needs to get the most powerplay time” — risk undermining the authority of the coach and the cohesion of the team.

Get better, then worry about winning

The mandate for all kids (younger than teenagers) in house hockey leagues should never be about winning. While winning is important, it doesn’t replace development as a means of improving player confidence and satisfaction. For some players, winning means they’ll have to ride the bench at the coach’s discretion, like current star Ryan Johansen is doing because his team isn’t winning. Yet Johansen’s priority as a hockey player isn’t to be happy, healthy and stress-free. When your child is young, make certain he is on a team that focuses on improving his skills and teamwork, rather than winning a game that nobody will remember in a year.

Remember the journey

A hockey season, by definition, lasts a long time. Some leagues start as soon as September and play until school is nearly out. Make certain that children understand the long-term goals of playing the sport: improving their skills, becoming physically fit, generating friendships with teammates, and getting excited about the next game. In short, parents need to help kids understand how to love hockey, or else their youngsters may grow to dislike it. When times get tough, don’t try to focus on the next game or the next goal. Instead, encourage children by explaining that current struggles are just one blip in a lifetime of playing a great sport. There are lots of stories of hockey players who had problems or took a longer road to reach their dreams. Emphasize to your child how his road isn’t any different.

Let go

Some kids don’t enjoy competitive sports; others don’t enjoy sports at all. Parents need to remember that there’s nothing wrong with kids trying hockey and finding that they don’t care for it. Take a step back whenever your kid appears particularly angry, depressed or anxious about the prospect of practices and games. Always ask whether he is having fun; whenever the answer frequently becomes “no,” it may be time to try a different sport like lacrosse, tennis or basketball. Remember, some children are afraid of telling their parents how they feel. It’s important to read their body language when they’re on the ice to determine if it’s time to part with hockey.

About the author:

AJ Lee is a Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. He’s an avid Blackhawks fan and is an expert in all things hockey equipment.