All too often, the parents of young hockey players often assume that their goals and their children’s goals are the same. However, in my years of experience as a youth hockey coach, I have found that nothing could be further from the truth in many cases.
When I’ve asked my young players what their goals are when it comes to hockey, the most common answer is to “have fun.” The kids want to play for the sheer joy and fun of the game.
Sadly, the parents’ goals tend to be focused on things like winning, reaching certain levels, or gaining certain abilities. And, while there’s nothing wrong with wanting these things, it’s important to remember that the kids actually have it right; winning should never be the main focus, and skill building isn’t something that can be forced. It is something that will and should happen naturally and that will happen more easily if kids are allowed to have fun and be kids in the process.
The fact that parents’ and kids’ goals are not aligned is made abundantly clear when I’ve asked my young players what they dislike about hockey. Often, they’ll talk about how much they hate getting yelled at, being criticized, or just plain “mean” parents.
The bottom line is that the parents’ goals really shouldn’t matter to put it bluntly. What matters is the child and what he or she wants out of the game. If kids are left to be free and to have fun playing, their goals will eventually become more sophisticated on their own. The child may end up wanting to develop or improve specific skills, to win more, to play more, or even to become a professional player. But, at the end of the day, it is the child who must set and work toward these goals, without outside pressure, if they are actually going to be obtainable or to matter in the first place.