(The Role of the Parent in Player Development: Part 1 of a series of discussions on factors influencing player development)

Parents have the ability to significantly affect the development of their child in their chosen sport(s). This influence can have positive and/or negative effects on their development as a player. The role of the parent should be one of support and encouragement with the goal of creating an enjoyable environment that fosters continued progress and helps your the child become the type of player they want to be (not the one you want them to be).


7 Habits of Highly Effective Hockey Parents:

1. Be patient and encouraging: Parents must find a balance between constructive criticism and support, so find a way to be critical at the right times and supportive when needed. And the right times are not from the stands, in the lobby or on the car ride home. Remember, you are in the stands as a spectator, so allow your child to play the game. Yelling at them from the stands, to do this or that, can be a major distraction. As a parent, strive to focus on their efforts and performance, not on their mistakes and whether the team won or lost.

2. Let the coaches coach: The coach is the leader and has the responsibility of making decisions that are in the best interest of the team. Although you may not agree with a decision, you have to understand and respect their role as the coach, and support their actions. It is the coaches job to guide the team and any advice that you give you child on how to play may end up confusing them and undermining the efforts of the coach. If you have particular concerns about your child's development, then bring them to the coach's attention at the appropriate times (a simple email or phone call will suffice).

3. Teach them the importance of discipline and respect: As a parent, you have a responsibility to help them understand the value of being respectful towards their coaches, peers, opponents and officials. Stress the importance of hard work, commitment to the team, and following team rules. These are valuable life-lessons that you can help instill in your child. As a parent, it is your job to encourage your child to work hard, be a good teammate and understand that there is a commitment involved in being a part of a team.

4. Help them eat properly and get enough rest/sleep: As a parent, you can exert some control over their nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery. The ADM, rolled out by USA Hockey, addresses the concept of sustenance and its role in the long-term development of an athlete (LTAD). When the body performs any type of physical activity, it must be replenished with a broad range of components (carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, water, etc). Sustenance includes, not only, nutrition, but hydration, rest, sleep and regeneration. Proper sustenance is essential for optimizing training, development and growth.

5. Practice makes perfect: Encourage your child to practice their skills at home (puckhandling and shooting) to help develop the confidence needed to be successful at practice and during games.  The ADM also stresses the importance of the 10-year -- 10,000 hours rule to achieve proficiency in a given skill. Simply putting in the time and effort at practices and games does not provide the necessary repetitions to become an elite level athlete. Players must be encouraged to put in extra effort "away from the rink".

6. Become a student of the game: Players should be encourage to become students of the game and should be provided avenues to help grow their knowledge of the sport. These avenues should include taking them to see live games (NHL, AHL, or JR hockey), watching hockey on TV, and participating in specialty camps, clinics, and other training sessions. By becoming students of the game, they will be provided with the tools needed to grow their "hockey sense", learn new techniques, and increase their overall enjoyment of the game.

7. Program Choice: Help your child select the right program (club, team, college) and training options (private lessons, camps, clinics) to meet their development needs. These decisions are not easy and as a parent, you need to find a balance among cost, location, coaching staff, and scheduling needs, etc.

Overall, parents should remember that their role is to assist their child on achieving his or her full potential. Be supportive, be encouraging, and help take pressure off of your child, not add more pressure. Let them enjoy the game and watch them develop into great hockey players.

Stay tuned for next weeks post looking at the Coaches Role in Player Development.

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