When it comes to hockey, you’d be hard-pressed to find a sport more rewarding or more fun for young players. In spite of all the positives associated with youth hockey, however, there are always going to be naysayers who dwell on the negative. Most of those in the “negative camp” just don’t approve of competition. Their most common complaints are that:
l Competition destroys the fun of the game
l Too much competitiveness can cause players to lose the joy of the sport
l Competition, especially when losing is involved, is detrimental to self-esteem
Of course, there are also people on the opposite side. These are the people who believe that competition, win or lose, actually instills confidence, teaches youngsters how to set goals, drives home the value of hard work, and is, in general, ultimately beneficial.
People on both sides are technically right, depending on the circumstances. What makes the difference between positive and negative competition is the adults involved. Adults who encourage kids to do their best but who don’t place too much pressure on winning enable kids to enjoy all of the benefits of competition, without any of the negatives.
To ensure that the children in your life get only the benefits of competition, keep the following tips in mind:
l Find a like-minded coach who believes in trying hard, but who also understands that winning isn’t everything.
l Focus on what the child gains from the sport, win or lose, and emphasize this with the child through positive encouragement.
l Allow mistakes and use them as an opportunity for growth and learning.
l Be supportive and encouraging, no matter what.
l Put the child’s happiness above everything else.
l Never react negatively or with anger when a loss occurs. Focus instead on what can be learned from the loss.
l Teach children to treat all players, opponents, coaches, referees, and others involved in the game with respect at all times.
Sometimes, especially when emotions are involved, following these tips isn’t as easy as it may seem, but if you always put the child first and strongly desire to make competition a positive experience for the child, it is possible.