When you have a child who demonstrates real talent at hockey, your initial reaction is likely to be quite proud of him or her. Unfortunately, however, that pride often turns into pressure in the form of high expectations. Parents unwittingly pass these expectations onto their children when they say things like, “You’re going to be a star,” or “That team would be lost without you,” but they aren’t the only ones to blame. No, coaches, friends, and even other teammates can also place too-high expectations on kids when they come to rely on them too heavily.
Many people think pressure and high expectations are positive things; they believe that these things will encourage kids to succeed and to try their hardest to excel. In truth, though, high expectations typically have the opposite effect. Sometimes, kids will just plain give up or at least stop trying as hard because they feel they could never possibly live up to the expectations being placed on their shoulders.
Another thing that can happen is that all of the joy is taken out of the sport for the child. Children who once enjoyed and looked forward to playing and practicing for hockey will often come to hate and dread the sport because of the pressures it brings.
You also have to consider the toll these expectations can take on a child’s confidence. While you might think high expectations would build up a child’s confidence, they can actually cause the child to equate his or her value and worth with sports. Therefore, if the child performs well, he feels good, but if he makes a mistake, he will berate himself and worry that he will lose others’ love and affection.
As mentioned, pressure typically comes from others in the child’s life, especially parents and coaches, However, kids can sometimes put pressure on themselves. It’s important to identify where pressures are coming from so that they can be stopped. Talk to your child openly and honestly about why he or she plays hockey and what he or she likes and dislikes about the sport. Be open, friendly, encouraging, and non-judgmental. Even if you don’t like something your child says, take it in stride and think about it.
If you do find, from this conversation, that your child is facing undue pressure from anywhere, work together to eliminate that pressure. Teach your child to play for the fun of the game, not for perfection or just to win. Also, speak with coaches or other sources of “blame” for the pressure and high expectations, and get yourself in check too if you’re playing a role in the pressuring. Concentrate on setting small, realistic, reachable goals for your child and praising the child when he or she reaches them. If you can follow these steps, you’ll quickly find that hockey becomes a lot more fun for everyone involved, especially your little one.