originally printed on January 19 in the Waterloo Region Record
Perhaps you’re familiar, as I am, with the tendency to have had strong opinions about parenting before actually being one. You know, the opinions that prompt verbal expression about those thoughts, only to find yourself later eating those very words? My biggest feast to date includes a healthy helping of minor sports.
Before I had kids, what I did have was all the necessary information to raise them. (Luckily, the aforementioned “meal” has left some room to implant my tongue firmly in my cheek.) I was intensely reluctant to have my unborn offspring participate in minor sports, because of skewed information that convinced me I would be doing them a huge disservice by exposing then to an environment where the norm is swearing, hollering, and ridiculous parents pressuring their kids to win, at all costs.
Now, after gulping those words down with the spray of a sports water bottle, I can say that minor hockey has been an almost entirely wonderful experience for my 13 and 10-year-old-kids.
Before telling you why, I must first say that it is unlikely that either of my kids will make a career of playing hockey. Although some of our four family members take the game more seriously than others, my husband and I embrace the sport for our kids because it works well as a part of their lives…but not their whole lives.
After a couple of mildly injurious sporting mishaps, my daughter had little confidence in her athletic ability, or more specifically, the ability required to escape further bodily harm. Now in her second year of hockey, she is comfortable and confident on the ice and her skills and knowledge of the game have improved immensely.
During their first year, Elena’s house league team did not win a single game, but it was so obviously not about winning for this group of girls who simply enjoyed being part of the team. Laughter, song and cheers often echoed from the change room, before and after games, regardless of the score. They also noticed and commented on the individual progress of their fellow players and marvelled at how much better they all were becoming.
My son’s teams have been different. For the most part, the 13 and 14 year old boys play a game that is faster and more intense. (It’s also safe to say there is no singing in the change room!) Nick indulges his competitive drive and makes good use of an excessive amount of energy. He also loves, and is entirely committed to the sport.
But although his game is different from Elena’s, the younger girls gain no less from the experience. In fact, when it comes to skills that are valuable in real life – team work, fair play, acceptance of different abilities, value of physical activity – both teams benefit equally. Another positive is that both my kids’ teams are comprised of players from different schools and areas. If this was an NHL or Olympic training camp, I understand that the priorities would be different. But it’s not.
As a means to an end, I do feel that skill development is valuable, and, of course, we all want our kids to know the satisfaction of a job well done that a win can provide.
But sometimes that win can be bittersweet, especially at a tournament if it means we have to stick around for another couple of hours to watch yet another game…
I consider myself a dedicated hockey parent, but when I have a house to clean and food to buy for the upcoming week, there is definitely some appeal to a loss!
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