Hockey is our national pastime, our patriotic institution and the backbone of our present, past and future. We live and breathe this game in Canada and as all the beer commercials will attest to, we share much of this joy and excitement with family and friends. Still, there is also some pain and suffering thrown in there—and there are always major disappointments that come along with the game. I’m not talking about your favourite team being eliminated from the NHL playoffs (though that is disappointing for sure, right Ottawa?); I am referring to disappointments experienced by your minor hockey players.
After fourteen seasons as a hockey mom, my three players have had their share of ups and downs in minor hockey. My kids have been cut from competitive teams, pulled as goalies mid-game, injured and subsequently sidelined from “the most important game of the season,” and been separated from their longtime friends when sorted onto different hockey teams, just to name a few of those disappointing moment. Plus, they’ve had issues with coaches, been the subject of disparaging comments from other hockey parents, been the brunt of unfortunate association politics, and experienced that rare unsympathetic teacher that won’t reschedule the Friday test even though three boys or girls in the class are scheduled to be absent due to a tournament. And of course nothing spells disappointment like losing “the most important game of the season.”
What can you do? As a mother, I feel much of their misery along with them. My instinct is to protect them from any heartache and disappointment. Of course, that’s neither realistic nor healthy. I can’t kiss every single boo-boo better. What should I say? How about, “Suck it up, Buttercup!”? Believe me, it’s tempting, but I have actually never said that to my kids.
Well, maybe I have, but certainly not when they were cut from a hockey team or experiencing some other setback!
My approach has always been to be there for them, to acknowledge this disappointment and express my support, while also stressing that some form of “moving on” has to take place. And “moving on” can take a thousand different routes, from stepping up your game with extra coaching or coming to the conclusion that it’s time to quit.
I know that part of my job as a parent is to advocate on behalf of my kids when they cannot. There may be times when you have to speak up for your kids: when they can’t play while still suffering an injury, a blatant transgression from association policy needs to be challenged, and sometimes players do need to hear why they’ve been cut from a team if only to set the “moving on” job in motion.
Setbacks are part of life and even kids need to learn how to cope with them. As a parent, I am so often the cause of their disappointment: “No, you can’t have ice cream before dinner,” “No, you can’t stay out past midnight” and more my favourite one of late, “No, you can’t have the car!” While it can be painful to both mother and child, it is important (and even a little satisfying!) for them to hear the words “no” or “sorry” or “too bad” from someone other than me for a change! Maybe even the occasional “Suck it up, Buttercup!”
So how do you deal with your player’s disappointments?
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