Hockey Lessons by Heather

In the distance I can see the end of hockey season. It’s a little blurry because, par for the course, it makes me cry.

(How is that for slipping in a mixed metaphor for ya?)

I get a bit over-involved in hockey season now that my son plays (and loves) the sport, I manage his team, and I’m a trainer for a hockey team. (Trainer is such a dumb word, I don’t train them for anything … other than maybe to remember my name instead of saying “Trainer! Trainer!”)

Trainer! Trainer!

Trainer! Trainer!

But every year I realize, being involved (or, FINE, over-involved) in hockey teaches me new things. And I don’t just mean rules – because I can’t remember all the rules anyway …

  1. There will always be people who don’t want to volunteer, no matter how much you ask, how much it is obvious that help is required. And that’s ok, because I choose to assume they are helping out somewhere else in some other venue, some other sport. They show up, they get their kid in a sport and maybe that’s all they can do. It’s better than nothing.
  2. There will always be people who step up to volunteer, let them have some space – do not over-manage volunteers. I’m a “tell me what to do or how to do it, but not both” type of person … I hope.
  3. Never, ever, promise a kid something that you don’t follow through on. But also … maybe don’t put a deadline on that promise … so, uh, that tequila and beer I promised to that line if they scored 4 goals in the 3rd period? Um, that’s gonna have to wait until you are 18.
  4. Hockey will never make your kid a better kid … hockey doesn’t create character, it reveals it. If your kid is already a sulky kid who thinks of himself more than others, that’s the kind of kid he will be on the bench. If he is already a kid who is positive and encouraging, that’s the kid he will be on the bench. Don’t give up on either of these kids. The sulky one and the positive one both need your love and affection.
  5. If your kid plays better when you aren’t at the game – especially when they are really good at the game already and prone to making mistakes under pressure … it’s time to ask yourself how much pressure you are putting on your kid. Have you spent more time yelling in the stands than skating with them (with your mouth shut) at the ODR? Yeah … thought so.
  6. You don’t actually need to be an expert in hockey to be a helpful, effective parent/manager/trainer. I’m constantly asking “what was that for, why was that a penalty, what does that mean??” and no one has kicked me out yet … oh there has been eye rolling – mostly from teenagers – but I maintain that admitting you are confused or do not understand is the most honest thing you can do … and I’ll keep doing it.
  7. Appropriateness varies on location. There are comments that happen in a dressing room or on a bus that I overhear that would SHOCK people. I am not there to criticize or parent or judge – unless it’s something that absolutely requires intervention – I am a support person. It’s a thousand times better for a player to have an unshakable  supportive, non-judgmental person around than it is to have another parent in the room. It’s appropriate to let these comments slide sometimes. Most times. It’s never appropriate to throw a granola bar at anyone’s butt. Especially mine. End of story.
  8. I cry a lot. This isn’t a lesson so much as it is the final realization that, well, I cry a lot and I like me that way. I cry when I’m mad and sad and happy and screw you if you think that’s stupid.
  9. Let the coach coach. For the love of all that is Holy, let the freaking coach coach … If you want to coach so badly that you feel the need to add your two cents at the dinner table, then step up and coach. Players do not need extra coaches, they need extra positive influences.
  10. Speaking positively is powerful. Most players know exactly what they did wrong – you don’t need to tell them. First, they are already telling themselves … Second, their teammates are telling them … Third, the coach is telling them. Why do you need to say anything? Try, just for one game, to only say positive things. It is harder than you think and you may even surprise yourself over the negativity that wants to come out of your mouth.
  11. If you are a coach, manager, trainer or volunteer to tie up laces in the dressing room … try be a reason that player wants to come to the rink. I have no idea if I’m a success in this area – but I know that I don’t bring my baggage and crap to the rink. I’m not there for me, I’m there for the team. If I can’t do that … I need to stay home.
  12. Don’t yell at the ref, don’t throw things at the ref, don’t swear at the ref, don’t even roll your eyes at the ref. Even if he really is incompetent and a total d-bag who thinks you are an idiot.
  13. This one is very simple: be proud of your players regardless of the score. It’s simple for me: can I do what they do? No, I can’t … every time I put on skates I think “how the hell do they do this??” and I’ve even heard coaches say “when you think of it … playing hockey like this is kind of a miracle” … They are doing GREAT and you should be proud. Most parents I hear criticizing players think they could play a whole game, but I really doubt they could. And even if they could, they’d be the most miserable teammates on the bench. Critical people are always going to be critical. Don’t be one of those people.
  14. Don’t let your teenage boys own a Speedo unless they are on the freaking swim team. Holy crap, people, I don’t need to see that shit. And your teenage daughter does not need to wear lingerie. Think about it. WHY DO THEY NEED IT?
  15. If this year taught me one thing, it was to never say “I don’t think it’s broken”.

The season isn’t even over yet … there’s still a lot of learning left to be done :)


  1. Great post. #4 is sitting me with….and #14 is just funny as hell.

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