Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter submitted by a hockey mom to USA Hockey.
I’m a hockey mom – and I’m done.
I’m not done taking my child to hockey. I’m not done cheering them on. I’m not done providing for them, playing with them or parenting them. I’m not done loving them, by any means. But I am done trying to create the perfect hockey experience for them.
As parents, we want nothing but the best for our children. It’s an innate part of being called mom and dad. We want to ensure they have the best academic possibilities, the best upbringing, and in many cases, the best athletic opportunities. High achievements in any or all of those categories assert us as “good parents.”
But sometimes striving to obtain that “good parent” status causes us to get in our own way.
We tend to overexert ourselves in the process of trying to get our kids to the very top, which, in turn, can overexert them. This is becoming a very common trend in general parenting, but especially sports – hockey being no exception.
I feel our responsibilities are simple: 1. Get them to the rink. 2. Be supportive.
Yelling should be swapped for cheering. Car coaching exchanged for song celebration after the game. And long hockey talks at the dinner table can be replaced with compliments to the chef.
Sounds easy, right? But it can be hard sometimes.
Instead, the desire for our child to be an A-tier player and the seduction of a college hockey scholarship has families running mad from rink to rink. It turns into a game of “Keeping up with the Joneses,” always wondering what the parents next door are doing and causing us to think that we failed if our kid fails to make the best team or doesn’t have the newest gear.
I’m done breaking the bank for the most expensive equipment and summer “showcase” events. I’m done watching every second of every practice with a keen and critical eye.
When I grew up, my mom or dad would drop us off at practice and come get us when we were done. But now the trend has shifted to 24-7 hockey – and it’s exhausting.
I don’t want to dictate family life by the hockey schedule. It’s nice for everyone in the household to be able to take a breath and have some downtime. That’s what summer vacation is for: biking, swimming, camping, baseball, Frisbee, and just being kids.
Summer offers a hockey break not only for my hockey player, but our hockey family. And once the leaves start turning colors again in the fall, we can’t wait to hit the ice and see the smiles on kids’ faces.
But there’s always that concern if you do limit hockey: What if they don’t make the team? How will that affect them? Well, it’s probably for their own good.
New York Rangers defenseman and 2014 U.S. Olympian Ryan McDonagh was cut from his A-squirt team.
“And it turned out to be one of the most fun years that I had,” McDonagh told the Minnesota Hockey Journal. “It really jump-started me to stay positive. My dad was real positive about the whole experience. He just wanted me to have fun and not stress out about it. I gradually got better as it went on.”
My kids aren’t NHL players, and they likely never will be. They are kids. Kids who love to play hockey … and baseball and soccer and go camping and biking. And I’m going to let them do it. I’ll let them play. I’ll let them fail. I’ll let them learn on their own.
I’ll let the kids be kids.
“I think you learn lessons as a kid,” 2014 U.S. Olympian Kevin Shattenkirk told USA Hockey. “It’s fun playing hockey as a kid and it’s not about being a professional. Most of us (NHL players) will tell you we still feel like kids when we are playing this game and that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from playing hockey – the fun of a game.”
Years down the road, my kids won’t remember the summer clinics, hockey lectures or brand-new skates. What they will remember is the camaraderie with teammates, lifelong friendships, family camping trips, accomplishments, hardships and lessons learned. Those are the childhood memories worth making.