I’ve been raising my now ex-girlfriends son since he was 4. He’ll be 18 in a few weeks and he’s been in hockey since he was 7. He’s currently getting recruited by a Junior hockey team in Massachusetts (basically a developmental league for under 21 players that might go on to college or minor-league pro hockey).
Hockey is a very tough sport but also the most popular sport here in Maine. There are a lot of bat-shit crazy parents who seem to live vicariously through their 8 year-old squirt hockey players and think they’ve got the next Gretzky on their hands. Don’t be one those guys. Let your coaches coach and let your kid learn to be coached. If you have a problem with how your coach is coaching, talk to the coach. Don’t bitch about it to your kid, stir up resentment or give your kid any ideas other than ways to improve. If your kid has a problem with another kid, advise your kid on ways to improve the situation and make the most out of it. Don’t start shit with the parents.
Your kid may not like the sport you’ve put him or her in. It’s one thing to lose interest during a practice or to have a bad game or two, but I’ve watched kids be miserable and completely un-interested year-after-year while their parents screamed at the ref and yelled at the coaches. I don’t see how that helps anyone.
This goes to my next point, which is selecting the right league and/or level of play. In hockey you’ve got various levels. We started him out in “house” hockey, which is where everyone gets to play, nobody gets cut and the focus is on fun and development. This worked out really well for him. He was the worst player on his team when he was 9 but the best by the time he was 12. This is because he was enjoying himself, taking his ice time seriously and working really hard off of the ice doing shooting drills in the basement, rollerblading and practicing stick handling. Simply stated, the kid was obsessed with hockey. He still is.
It was around this age he started getting frustrated with the kids who didn’t take it as seriously as him, which was most of the team. So we ponied up even more money to get him on a Tier II team, which is the highest level of youth play in Maine (not a big enough population for Tier I). They play to win, they do cut players and you have to earn your ice time. He really took off from here and is still playing Tier II hockey for his U18 midget team before the high school season starts.
Had we pushed him towards Tier II two years earlier, he might have made the team but he might not have been in a position to flourish like he did. Maybe he would have. Who knows? Sometimes staying in the small pond a little longer can pay off.
So hockey’s been his sport and he’s had a lot of success with it. He loves it more than anything, including school. Obviously we wish that wasn’t the case, but throughout the years we’ve accepted that fact and put most of his life into orbit around hockey. He brought home two D’s on a progress report when he was in the 6th grade. So we made him sit out two games. And not sat at home sleeping in, he got up at 5am to go put his helmet on and sit on the bench while his team lost the game without him. He had to explain to the coach why he couldn’t play. He was extremely embarrassed by this, but he should have been.
This bothered him a lot and he protested quite loudly the way 12 year olds do, but that was the last time he brought home a pair of D’s. From then on the mere threat of hockey consequences was enough to snap him into line. I confiscated his cellphone once too, which is a fate worse than death apparently. That works well too, for the record.
So yeah, sports are fantastic if you do it right and you’re lucky enough to get your kid in something they truly enjoy and keep it up over time. It takes a lot of work to get good at hockey, and that confidence has helped him in all areas of his life. If you can get good at hockey you can get good at most things.
I’m sure wrestling is right up there too.