Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Older Wiser Hockey Parents, Part 2

At the rink with my daughter Sophia
  As hockey parents go, Laurie Golden and her husband are the kind of folks that an underdog sport like hockey needs, to keep it sane on the youth level. Laurie hails from Plymouth, Michigan and is the author of a terrific blog called The Trophy Mom, http://thetrophymom.wordpress.com. I had a great conversation with Laurie about harmony in hockey and she agrees, it's really easy for parents to lose their perspective. She even dedicated an entire post on how to stay calm.  As Laurie so wisely points out, you really have to make a conscious decision to not get caught up in all the drama and stay focused on what's best for your children and family. Admittedly there are times, and many of them pop in my mind right now, that's not always easy. Deep breath. Stay focused. Or borrow a trick from Laurie and repeat to yourself, “I am not emotionally invested in this game. I am not emotionally invested in this game.” as often and as many times as necessary. It helped her survive 30 years as a Detroit Lions fan!
   Laurie knows what she's talking about. She and her husband have three sports loving kids. Their eldest is a senior baseball player for Eastern Michigan University. Their second son plays ACHA hockey for Oakland University and their daughter who plays hockey for the 19U Michigan Icebreakers, is also a softball player.

How did you and your husband set realistic expectations for your children who play sports?
     The only expectation we really have is that our kids will have fun and develop some skills
and that's the way we encourage them to look at it. Sometimes those skills are skating, shooting and team play. Sometimes those skills are learning to play with new line mates, or dealing with a difficult teammate, or balancing school and sports demands. And some seasons, you have to adjust as things progress and look for positives, focus on efforts and improvements and not on the score or stats tally.

 What happens if your passion for a sport doesn't equal your child's?
     I have yet to have that happen! We let the kids dictate which sport they want to play and the level of involvement. We try to support their passion, not ours, although sometimes my husband or I might wish one of our kids would try a different sport or a different team. It's their chance to try things and explore what they like or don't like, not about my passion.

3. Have you ever heard parents refer to hockey as "an investment?"
      My husband and I joke often that if people took all the money they spent on camps, special training tools and extra coaching and invested it, they'd have no problem paying for college. It's like trying to buying yourself a scholarship but with no guarantee that you'll actually get one.
   We do know people who think that if their player concentrates all their efforts on one sport, plays year round and gets extra coaching, that it will pay off with a scholarship or high level career. It's completely unrealistic as only 2% of high school athletes receive college scholarships. And we know kids that have played juniors hoping for a college opportunity and then enter college at age 20 or 22 with no scholarship, while all their friends have finished college and are starting their careers.

4. And how do you avoid the "comparison trap?" (comparing how your child is doing against a friend or star athlete)
     It is hard to avoid the comparison trap, especially when you worry that other kids have advantages, like playing with a kid who passes them the puck, or getting more ice time. But you just can't go there because you'll make yourself nuts. There are going to be situations like this at work and at school so stay focused on what you can control like your effort, your improvement, your enjoyment. Teams need all kinds of players--some kids score goals, some kids dig the puck out of the corner, some kids motivate everyone else with a good attitude and hard work. So instead of comparing, celebrate everyone's successes, because that's what good friends and teammates do.

   And remember, the kids are watching. Sometimes that is easier sad than done but now that my kids are older, each of them has thanked us for being sane, level-headed sports parents. The kids really are watching.

Sophia hoists a trophy after a team victory
   A final note from The Trophy Mom,  "With any luck, our kids will have fun, learn some life lessons and maybe we’ll hoist the trophy for best sports parent ever."


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