So many of today’s youth hockey teams are focused almost entirely on performance. Coaches push kids to play at their best and make them practice almost like they’re professionals. Parents, in many cases, can be even worse, spurring their kids on and putting tons of pressure on them to perform. Performance, though, isn’t really what hockey is all about, and in fact, putting too much emphasis on performance, really ruins the heart of the sport.
When kids are pressured to perform, they undoubtedly feel and internalize that pressure. And, while it may cause them to excel at the sport for awhile, it will eventually, in most cases, lead to burn-out. Kids won’t want to play the sport that they’ve been spoiled on, and if they do, it will only be because their parents are making them. For them, all the joy and fun has been taken out of the sport, and they’ve reached serious burn-out at a very early age, the exact opposite of what those well-meaning but high-pressure coaches and parents wanted when they were doing the pressuring.
So, how can coaches and parents avoid burn-out and a loss of passion for the sport? The answer is actually quite simple- it’s to focus not so much on performance, but, instead, on long-term development.
Long-term development is a principle that is concerned with how the athlete develops both as an athlete and as a person over-time. When this principle is in place, coaches focus not on performance but on developing skills, both on-the-ice skills and real life skills, like leadership and work ethic, that will carry a player through both his journey with the sport and through life in general. They focus on building the athlete as a WHOLE person and in fostering fun and love for the sport, rather than ruining it with pressure and constant demands.
The result, surprisingly, is often better, more skilled, happier, and more well-rounded athletes...ones who don’t burn out before high school and who develop a lifelong love of the sport. With results like that, it is certainly worth a try!