Parental Involvement in Youth Hockey

Parental Involvement in Youth Hockey

            One of the truest and most important statements to remember is “Different people see things differently.” A youth hockey coach is entrusted with developing the talents (skills) and ensuring the welfare of his players and team. Exactly how this should be accomplished is highly debatable. It would seem that a player’s parents would not possess nearly the same mindset as the coach, but rather would be concerned specifically about their child. How can these two different outlooks be best reconciled because complete agreement is impossible?

            Imagine if an engaged couple failed to discuss the issue of children and, after their marriage, discovered that one wanted many children and the other desired none, or either party did not divulge important health, economic, social, etc. information. Do you sense disaster or at least major difficulties arising from this failure to communicate? Before their formal union, these people should have discussed their views on any and all important matters.

            The key is communication and comprehension before parents sign up their child for a hockey team. All organizations should have a pre-season meeting at which time the coaches would explain their rules and policies regarding as many issues as possible in order that there is maximum understanding about the functioning of the team and the treatment of players in all capacities. What absolute guarantees can be made to parents and what decisions will be at the coach’s discretion? If parents do not like the answers, they can maturely seek a change or they should not enroll their child in that organization. They should not join and later complain about issues whose answers were clearly delineated.

            While shopping, should someone buy a product without knowing the cost if the owner could charge whatever he wished? We discuss, learn, and then even sign contracts when purchasing some products. Yet, adults of all parties do not clarify conditions before hockey sign-ups when children's athletic development and happiness are involved. It is risky to commit to a group which is not transparent about its rules and policies. No matter what is done, however, various parents will always question coaches about anything! A coach cannot escape this situation and is foolish to believe that he can, but he or the organization at least can minimize confrontations.

            Whatever questions parents ask are good ones. Examples of questions that should be answered are: What obligations do players have on and off the ice? What determines the amount of ice time a player receives? What actions by players would reduce or increase their ice time? When and how should parents address the coach about their concerns? Parents should learn whatever they can about all situations before committing their child to a team or organization. If possible, it is also best for parents to sign a copy of an organization’s rules and procedures as verification that they will abide by the stated agreement. One will need only to refer to the pre-season meeting or to produce a signed copy of the rules (policies) to prove that the complaining adult is wrong, although the effects of this proof are dubious. Why do you think that businesses and customers sign contracts?

            For any disagreements that will occur, adults should attempt to resolve them in a mature fashion so that players will emerge as the winners. As a contingency in anticipation of stressful and blatantly interfering trouble still continuing, it would be wise for the stated policies to include a provision for the expulsion of the offending family from the organization because constant negativity will prove to be ruinous. Sadly, youth hockey has evolved into more than children simply playing, developing, and having fun.

            Tips for Parents

            1) Do not overlook the important sacrifices of time, effort, expense, etc. that the coaches continually demonstrate to benefit many children. Express your appreciation in as many ways as possible.

            2) Offer to assist the coaches (or enlist someone else who can) in any way they might request.

            3) Do not communicate in any fashion with the coach immediately before, during, or immediately after a game and, if you ever do so, be certain that it is done privately and maturely. 

            4) Impress upon your child that you will not tolerate anything disruptive he says or does - just like you should do at school - and then demonstrate this by your example.