Whether others do or not, I find it kind of interesting that recent posts tend to lead into new — very related — ones.
That seemed to be the case recently, having not long ago penned the one on “Sports Versus the Mountains, Ocean and Work” (please read that to gain a better background on the following story).
Anyway, a good friend — a hockey dad — has an 8-year old player I get to watch often. Oh, I might also add that I get to observe the dad a lot as well, oftentimes noticing him grimacing or wincing as he watches his youngster play.
As for our recent discussion… Sport parents might know that a rink or athletic field is a tough place to have any sort of meaningful conversation. I mean, there are all sorts of distractions, with either kids or passersby interrupting. In my case, I enjoy all those who stop to say hello or shake my hand. I’m just saying, though, that it can be tough to stick with a line of discussion for very long (at least in my case).
Thankfully, however, my friend and I were actually able to break from the crowd one night recently, to talk a little about his young guy’s game, as well as about the dad’s expectations.
Providing a little background for the rest of this story… Let me say that the dad played a fair share of hockey, which means he knows the game. And, while it can sometimes be easier on a kid when his dad knows how difficult hockey can be, the dad who has been around the rinks can also be super-critical. 🙂 (Oh, if I could only make that Smiley shake his head.)
Actually, the dad I’m talking about here is a really good guy, and I sense he actually knows he’s sometimes hard on his boy, and he really tries his darnedest not to be.
Okay, so I’m attempting to help in all this, suggesting my friend’s son has really good skills. And, although I get paid to determine such things, I’ve sensed my friend only half believes me.
On the other side of the spectrum, I don’t think he’s disagreed with my suggestion that his son seems to sometimes lose himself on the ice — or, he seems to just occasionally suffer from a “brain freeze” when we grown-up observers least expect it.
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Back to reality, though… I mean, we are talking about an 8-year old. And — at that, we’re talking about a kid who has exactly one year of Mite C hockey under his belt. Yup, that’s it: one year on the lowest rung on the hockey ladder.
Let me reaffirm that the boy is a pretty dawgoned good skater for 8-years old, he moves the puck fine, and he passes and shoots like a typical Mite A. So, if there’s an area where I think the boy could improve, it would be for him to gain a slightly better understanding of our game.
Now, over several months, I’ve asked my friend if his son watches much hockey on TV. (Like most any other subject, kids seem to learn quite a lot as they see older people perform on the tube.) Interestingly, it was in our most recent conversation when the dad seemed excited that his boy had gotten the bug lately, and I guess he’s also been playing a lot of computerized hockey (which to me is just as good as watching the pros perform on television).
As an aside here… What I’m suggesting is that youngsters can pick-up a lot from watching experienced guys play. If a kid is a defenseman, he or she is pretty surely going to start recognizing the things older “D” do, and I’ll even suggest that a lot of little ones will start copying the skills and mannerisms of their favorite players.
As yet another aside… I’m coaching an Instructional level team out of my Learn-to-play clinic, and in the beginning we coaches are asking all the kids to take turns playing in the net. Of course, it’s fun to see those cute tykes waddling around in those big, over-stuffed goalie pads. Every once in awhile, though — as happened a few weeks back, we’ll see a little one acting as if he’d played goal for years. Ya, talking about taking-on his idols’ mannerisms… After the game, the boy’s parents confirmed my suspicions, in that their son watches A LOT of hockey on TV, and he is always studying the goaltenders.
Okay, returning to my friend’s concerns, I was really trying to ease his mind. And I tried to paint a picture for him that I’d like to share with my faithful readers… Again, the boy is 8-years old. Right? So, thinking quickly as we stood in the rink, I got the dad to agree that his son had about 5-years before any meaningful judgment would be made on his hockey playing abilities. Ya, I didn’t have to work very hard at convincing him that high school hockey will be the first real goal, and it had to help all the more when I put it in my kind of perspective — as in there being a good 5-years to help ready the boy for that challenge.
That’s about where we left-off that night. And, while I probably DID ease my buddy’s mind — at least a little, there was a lot more I’d have said given more time…
If I had to roll it all neatly into a ball, however — and tell you exactly how I feel, it would go something like this…
1) We can’t do it FOR our youngsters. No, if they’re going to go anywhere in the game, it really has to be their idea, their dream.
2) That said, I think we can only help or hinder them thereafter.
3) Hindering them is probably a two-parter… First, there are both subtle and blatant ways in which we grown-ups can take the fun out of hockey. (If you want some pretty good insight into this topic, see my piece on “Hockey Success Breeds More Hockey Success“.) As bad, perhaps, is when a parent is more than a little selfish, and puts ALL of his or her own wants ahead of what could help the youngster. (Not that a youngster should come first; however, he or she could get a fair share.)
4) And this last one is really the opposite of the previous point. In other words, parents soon learn what things could help their youngster gain an edge. From that point, I think it’s just a matter of giving the kid a chance. (I am not talking about over-indulging, or going overboard — sometimes you can do TOO much; I’m only suggesting kids be given that fair chance.)
Getting back to my friend and our conversation… I’ll say again that his boy is on course — as an 8-year old. I’d also mentioned as we were going our separate ways that the boy is probably going to be lucky — and huge, like his dad. It can’t hurt to have that on your side IF you’re also skilled and smart.
Of course, there is that “smart” part. But, my suspicion is that the boy is just mentally young — like lots of kids his age. My further guess is that “the light can come on” at any time — next week, next month, next year; it doesn’t matter. I know (having observed thousands upon thousands of kids) that it will come on. All his dad has to do is to keep his son in a good frame of mind until it does.