GAME ON: The Role of the Hockey Parent

girl in hockey gearYouth hockey is wonderful. The fun, exercise, healthy competition, enjoyment of team play and camaraderie...there’s so much for these kids to love! Of course, it can be just as rewarding for the parents as well. As a mother or father of a hockey player, there are many things you can do to enhance your own experience other than just cheer for your child. The following article will offer just a few tips on how to not only enjoy your child’s youth hockey endeavor, but also contribute to it.

Enjoy The Journey

Don’t focus on the end result - winning and losing. Focus on the process of getting there. That’s when everything is learned. The emphasis on the process of learning, acquiring and honing their skills can not only help them achieve their goals in hockey, but also in life.

Let Them Play

Being invested in your child’s experience can be a great thing. However, too often parents get so wrapped up in the rollercoaster of a game that they forget how to be passionate in a constructive manner.

I used to coach youth hockey myself. I can tell you first hand that even mild-mannered parents occasionally erupt and voice their displeasure over a bad call by the ref, or a dirty play on the ice. It’s happens all the time. It’s normal, it’s human, but it’s not helpful.

Let’s face it. Your child is going to take bad calls from time to time. He’s going to be checked on a dirty play that the ref will miss. Things are going to happen that you’re not going to like. But banging on the glass and yelling at the refs, coaches and opposing players is NOT the way to handle it. In hockey, as in life, things aren’t always going to go your child’s way. How to handle adversity, and how to conduct themselves in a mature and sportsmanlike manner when bad things happen are the best lessons you can teach them.

Car Coaching

Everyone talks in the car, right? That is, if you can keep your children off their phones, ipods, and PSPs for 5 minutes. Well, for those parents who successfully manage to do this long enough to carry on a conversation, you may be interested in this next tip. 

It’s been my experience that parents love to discuss games and practices with their kids. This is great, except that sometimes parents will offer their own opinions on what should and shouldn’t be happening on the ice. Occasionally, this approach may conflict with what your child’s coach is trying to achieve. So, instead of blindly offering an opinion, ask the coach if there’s anything he feels you should discuss with your child during these opportunities. This not only keeps the message consistent, but it also offers reinforcement of what your child is being taught.

Parent/Coach Relationship

Some coaches and parents get along great, some don’t. In all their years of playing hockey, your children may be coached by someone you’re not completely on-board with. It happens. Heck, the coach may not be too fond of you either. But, no matter what your feelings are about each other, the key to keeping things healthy and productive is communication. Parents, listen to the coaches. Coaches, listen to the parents. Talk to each other. Be courteous, mature, civilized, and above all remember that it’s not about either of you. It’s about the kids and their experience playing ice hockey that matters. 

Overcoming Failure

We all fail. No matter how good a player your child is, they’re going to fail from time to time. The best way to handle their disappointment is to remind them that sports are a metaphor for life. Failing is common, okay, and completely necessary because it’s how we get better. Succeeding is great, but it’s when we fail that we truly learn about ourselves. Like Al Pacino said, “Remember kid, any given Sunday, either you’re going to win or you’re going to lose. The question is, can you win or lose like a man?” (Any Given Sunday, 1999)


Ultimately, sports are supposed to be joyful. If at any time is doesn’t feel that way for you or your child, then something is wrong. Be sure to discuss it with them. Bring your child’s coach in on the conversation as well. The most important thing is to have fun. The rest is commentary.

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