Think back to the last time your child’s team lost a youth hockey game. How did your child react? Your answer should tell you quite a bit about your little one’s current state of mind. If your child brushed it off like it was no big deal or said something like, “We’ll get them next time!” then you have nothing to worry about- your child is likely mentally healthy and getting a lot of joy out of the sport.
If, on the other hand, your child was in tears, was very upset, or, even worse yet, berated himself and/or other players or the other team, that’s a sure sign that something isn’t as it should be, and, unfortunately, more often than not, that “something” is a parent, a coach, or someone else in the child’s life who is putting too much pressure on him or her.
If, you the parent, are to blame, then it’s time to adjust how you treat the game AND how you treat your child. Make sure you aren’t, even unintentionally, putting too much focus on winning, AND that you’re praising your child for all victories, no matter how small and limiting your criticism.
If you aren’t to blame as a parent, then you may want to look toward other people, such as your league coach, who may be putting too much pressure on your child. Good coaches are supportive, not overly critical, and above all else, are focused on developing good, well-rounded athletes, NOT on winning every game. The best coaches give equal playing time to all kids and treat all kids the same ALL the time, regardless of performance. They do not have “favorites” or “pets.” If your coach is the problem, you’ll need to have a talk with him or her and maybe even think about switching leagues.
Remember, too, that you can and should always talk with your child about how he or she is feeling. Sometimes, if you’re not sure where the pressure is coming from, your child will provide you with the best way to find out. Keeping communication open with your child or children and doing your part not to pressure them is the key to kids who turn into great athletes and who have fun doing it!