Welcome back to the Ten Rules series where we examine Lloyd Percival’s list of How to Establish Rapport with Your Athletic Child. In the first post, we looked at the background of Percival and his involvement in developing The Hockey Handbook. Now we look at each of his ten rules and how they may (or may not) pertain to you and your young hockey player.
Rule #6 Don’t compete with the coach.
Remember that in many cases the coach becomes a hero to their athletes, a person who can do no wrong. The young athlete often comes home and chatters on about “coach says this, coach says that,” ad nauseam. This, I realize, is often hard to take, especially for the parent who has some sports experience.
Unfortunately, some coaches are not aware of this situation and don’t attempt to develop a relationship with the parents.
Just wait it out. At first, because the coach is the hero who hands out pats on the back and is very sympathetic, the young athlete will be very happy; however, it will come full circle when the coach has to correct, criticize, discipline or ask for extra effort or sacrifice. At this point, when a certain degree of disenchantment about the coach sets in, some parents side with the youngster and are happy to see him shot down. This is a mistake. It should provide a chance to discuss (not lecture) with the youngster the importance of learning how to handle problems, react to criticism and understand the necessity for discipline, rules, regulations and so on.
To handle this and other problems, make a point of getting to know the coach so that they do not become a distant authority figure threatening your own status.
In a country where so many hockey parents are former players, the stands are full of parents with strong feelings about how the game should be played and how well the coach is managing their son’s/daughter’s team. Just as it is imperative that the parent does not make themselves a distraction while watching the game, on the drive home and in the days following the game, they need to refrain from criticizing the coach. I believe that times have changed and young people no longer look up to figures of authority the way they did in Percival’s day: the coach is no longer automatically a hero. Still, coaches do command the respect of their charges and are occasionally held in awe. The parent treads on dangerous ground when they criticize a popular coach. The fact that children today are more likely to question the actions of the coach than they were when Percival was coaching makes the second part of his warning more important. The parent is there to support the young player in their endeavours, balance their different reactions to the coach and promote a healthy relationship with the game of hockey. Questioning the coach’s actions in front of your child is not helpful.
As Percival stated, it helps when the parent gets to know the coach (in this day and age, I believe that it is imperative), understand their philosophy of sport, gain an appreciation for their goals and aspirations and a feel for their coaching style. The parent can then act as an interpreter for the coach and a buffer between coach and player, without undermining the coach’s authority. They can also prepare for, and react to, any crisis which arises for the team, or for their child’s relationship to the team.
There are of course exceptions to the non-interference dictum. Whenever there is a question of morality, ethics or the safety of your child – or any other member of the hockey team – a parent has a duty to speak up. You may need to have a candid discussion with your son or daughter combined with a serious conversation with the coach (the quality and fruitfulness of the latter discussion will be greatly affected by how well you have gotten to know the coach). As I’ve said in previous articles, if you are not sure that the moral, ethical and physical well-being of your child is being promoted and safe-guarded by the coach and the hockey league, you must consider withdrawing your son or daughter from the team. Hockey is just a game. And a game is expendable; your child’s future is not.
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