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Cornered Coach: Avoiding the Hockey Parent Trap

 

It's supposed to be easy.

Sure, being a hockey parent comes with an equipment bag full of challenges; not the least of which is arriving at the rink to discover your little player has forgotten to pack something inside that equipment bag.

But the fact remains that hockey moms and dads are supposed to have almost as much fun as their kids who actually play the game. Fortunately, the atmosphere around my nine-year-old’s Toronto Minor Atom AA squad definitely measures up when it comes to the fun department.

As is always the case, the head coach sets the tone for the entire team and we're fortunate to have one of the best "bench bosses" you could ever hope for. Scott Luik is a successful business man with an impressive hockey background. Drafted 75th overall in the 1988 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils, Luik helped the Oshawa Generals capture the Memorial Cup in 1990 while playing alongside Eris Lindros – who earlier this month was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Pretty impressive stuff.

However, what's really impressive is that, to learn about Luik's "glory days,” you have to hop on the computer and do your own internet research. That's because Scott is an extremely modest individual who doesn't toot his own hockey horn and, unless you really press him, shies away from telling "back in the day" stories. But the parents know about his credentials and, because of that, it creates an interesting mindset around the team.

Since Scott knows his stuff, he doesn't have to prove his knowledge to anyone; and because the parents recognize Scott knows exactly what he's doing, there's no need to waste time worrying about the direction of the team.

The end result?

A slice of hockey heaven. 

More often than not, I simply drive my little guy (one of the team's goalies) to practice, help him strap on his gear, and then head to the nearby Tim Horton's to bang down a muffin and read the sports section from the local newspaper.

"Dad," my lad asks me, "Are you gonna watch any of my practice today?"

"Sure," I reply while scooting out the dressing room door. "I'll be back for the last ten minutes to catch the end-of-practice shootout."

That's all the little guy needs, as he likes dad to watch him stone a few of his buddies in the fun breakaway contest to wrap things up. In addition, he definitely doesn't mind the Timbits and chocolate milk I snag for the road trip home. 

Game days, meanwhile, are just as relaxed.

Coach Luik is a big believer in developing young players and putting the team in position to improve as the season rolls on. Everybody, of course, likes to win. But when your son plays for a coach who doesn't have a "win at all costs" mentality, it quickly rubs off on the parents. For example, I can honestly say that our parent group provides one of the most low-key cheering sections you're ever going to find. 

Loud screeching to celebrate goals?

Noise makers?

Team banners?

Sorry… You’ve come to the wrong place.

Obviously, we enjoy watching our kids make good plays. But, thanks to a low-key coach who has the game in the proper perspective, the chance of any of our parents making public spectacles of themselves is extremely low.

Nobody's perfect, of course, and hockey is an emotional game. So, there's always a risk that somebody's going to lose their cool every once in awhile.

But if you've got a quality coach who leads by example, the atmosphere around the arena improves by leaps and bounds.

What about the atmosphere around YOUR child's team?

Here are a few questions parents should ask themselves to assess the situation.

1. Do you like and respect your child's coach?

2. Does being part of the team seem easy, or is it too much of a grind?

3. Do you feel you have to watch every minute of practice because you don't trust the teaching ability of the coach?

4. Is the game-day experience too intense?

5. Does the coach and the parent group seem to care more about winning than the kids do?

In the end, it's called "playing hockey" – with the accent on the word "play" – and that goes for the parents, too.

So if going to the rink seems like too much work, it's probably time to find another team or at least another coach.

And if you've already got the right guy behind the bench?

Don't be afraid to borrow some of my sports section when we run into each other at Tim Horton's.

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