A View from the Bench

I have worked as a trainer for AA and AAA Midget hockey teams, as well as a trainer for Bantam lacrosse teams. And I’ve managed my son’s hockey team since he started playing. All “my” players have been boys from the ages of 12-17. And I say “my” because I really do take my job (paid or not) seriously.

Trainer! Trainer!

Trainer! Trainer!

I treat them the way I’d treat my own kid. Including the time I had to fend off a drunk moron from trying to beat up a kid in a hotel hallway at tournament. They’ve had me laughing til I cried and, yes, sometimes they made me cry. But I can honestly say the boys in this age group are … unique. Do I hug and kiss you or do I kick your ass? That is the question.

Some of my favourite people <3

Some of my favourite people <3

By the time boys get to this age, their personalities are pretty much set. Thanks to hormones, they can still be little powderkegs of emotional timebombs. Some are better at keeping their emotions in check than others. Some are prone to retaliating. Some are prone to smashing their sticks on the ice, on the bench … on someone’s head.

Some can’t deal with the emotions in a healthy way and retreat into themselves and their playing suffers. They might criticize their teammates, they might cuss at the ref, they don’t outwardly react but they inwardly combust.

Then there are the kids that let things slide quite easily. If a ref misses a call, they might grumble but the move on. They might get frustrated but they get over it. They focus forward, they stay positive. They encourage and they press on.

It’s been my experience that the kids that are more resilient and let things slide and keep their emotions in check are – by far – the more successful little humans. They appear happier. They seem to enjoy the game more. They want to play. They want to practice. They seem, well, emotionally healthy.

And here’s the thing:

There’s often a correlation between the kids who CANNOT control their emotions in a healthy way and parents in the stands who CANNOT control themselves.

No shocker there.

Here are the ways your behaviour is affecting your kids:

YELLING AT THE REF
Your kid hears that and it increases his frustration with the ref. He begins to see the game as “us vs them” and the “them” is the ref. He blames the loss on the ref, but never credits the ref with the win, strangely enough. When parents criticize the ref, it causes kids to focus their efforts and anger on things they can’t control. Teach your kid that the ref doesn’t put on his pants for a game and think “I’m gonna go out there and miss some calls.”

CRITICIZING DEFENSE
Kids should never criticize their teammates but for some reason (and this is especially true for parents of the goalie!) it’s ok for parents to blame the defense and yell at them for not hustling or getting back fast enough. It’s a team and there’s a coach and his job is to teach, coach, and manage the game. Kids should focus on their efforts and not the efforts of their teammates. When parents criticize a portion of the team, it creates division on the bench.

CRITICIZING THE GOALIE
Blaming the goalie for a loss when he has a “bad game” is counter-productive. It may not happen in the stands, but it happens off ice, maybe on the way home after a loss. Kids need to be able to adjust their game, strategies, and tactics based on whether or not their goalie is having a “good” or “bad” game. This is called being flexible. It’s a great characteristic in a human being. Perhaps if the goalie blocked every single shot, every single time the defense wouldn’t have to stretch themselves and improve their game – what would be the point? Teach your kid that goals-against is a TEAM stat, not a goalie stat.

YELLING/SWEARING/FIGHTING/DRINKING
Yeah. This is just embarrassing for your kid. I’ll be honest, if you’re That Dad or That Mom in the stands then the rest of the team pities your kid. And your kid can hear you from the bench. And the team can hear you. And I, personally, want to throat punch you. You’re an embarrassment to sports parents everywhere. And I can tell you from personal experience that other teams say things like “Oh, are we playing McKnight? That’s the team with the crazy mom, right?” You become the object of ridicule. Explain to me how this helps your kid? Kids should never have to yell “MOM! STOP!” from the ice because you’re fighting. Kids should never have to join in on the laughter about their own father because to defend you makes them look just as crazy. Stop. Just stop.

COACH ABUSE
As a sport parent you have to realize that there’s a coach-player and coach-team relationship that has nothing to do with you. At some point you should not be advocating for your child to the coach and your child needs to self-advocate. This includes ice time, discipline, behaviour, leadership opportunities, etc… At some point you need to stop sitting at the dinner table and feeding the spirit of malcontent in your child with things like “yeah, the coach should give you more ice time instead of Johnny, you’re the better player” and instead start saying “Have you spoken to the coach about your concerns?” If your child believes he can advocate for himself, he will. Unless he thinks YOU don’t believe he can.

(Note, there have been some high-profile cases of abuse of players by coaches, I’m aware of these situations and the above paragraph does not apply. If you have concerns about any adult behaving inappropriately, DO SOMETHING.)

VOLUNTEER ABUSE
Kids see what you’re doing. They see you when you’re barging into the timekeepers’ box to cuss out some other parent for making a mistake. They see you when you’re yelling at the lady volunteering at tryouts because the line is too long and she helped someone else instead of you. They see you when you grumble and complain about the amount of fundraising. And strangely enough, when they see you do these things… they rarely see you volunteer. You’re teaching your kids that volunteers aren’t valued, and yet almost every sport they play is upon the shoulders of volunteers.1015928_10151440173666175_1518763870_o

Seven ways to be a sport parent your kid can be proud of:

  1. Volunteer to help the team or the organization.
  2. Cheer positively, encourage resilience. “Good job!” “Next time!” “Let’s go!” Or my favourite: loud whistling. Kinda hard to whistle angrily!
  3. Know the rules and regulations – follow procedures with complaints instead of just complaining. Encourage kids to have sober second thoughts and follow through on issues.
  4. Apologize if you make a mistake. Then change your behaviour.
  5. Spend more time listening to your child than you do talking about the game – his performance is not a reflection of your parenting. His performance is a reflection of a set of circumstances on one day, for one hour of his life. It does not dictate his future – don’t assign it more significance than it has. Good or bad.
  6. Let your child see you encourage others. This is a team.
  7. Smile. Yes, smile. Give a thumbs-up once in a while. When your kid looks back to see you in the stands, don’t let him see your grumpy ass scowling with arms folded in discontent.

Finally, since not every kid can go to The Big Show, sport parents everywhere need to start redefining success.

It’s not a game. It’s not a season. It’s not an award.

It’s your kid looking forward to practices, games, seasons … loving the game and enjoying it with you.

My Favourite View

My Favourite View

 

And then? I'll have your babies.

As part of the regular spring ritual, I signed up the boychild for soccer and t-ball. He likes both. This will be year three of soccer (meaning he can actually run with his head up about half the time) and year two of t-ball. We’re not 100% sold on t-ball but we had fun last year.

Every time we sign up there’s the “where would you like to volunteer” section. The crafty little buggers don’t ask IF you want to volunteer, but WHERE. So I usually choose something like communication or assistant-manager, figuring that I can step in somewhere if needed.

But this year I got an email from both t-ball and soccer mucky-mucks with the “hey, you volunteered to coach” line. Um. No I did not. Not even close. I cannot picture me and a toddler trying to coach anything while Major Man is still working nights.

(Which he won’t be doing any more because he got THE JOB!! But I digress…)

So I kind of ignored those emails… and then the t-ball guy contacted me again. He was wondering if I’d could do the division coordinator position. I asked what the duties were.

Let me pause here to say: Never trust anyone who begins an answer with “Oh, it’s just…”

The duties sounded simple enough, communicate stuff with coaches. Cool.

Then the email went out to all coaches and it soundes something like “and if you need this, email Heather. And if you need that, email Heather. And if you need a pink orangutan in a tutu with red nail polish, email Heather. And here’s every phone number and email address she has. Amen.”

Whaaa?

It’s day one of ‘coordinating’ and I have already realized I need to take the t-ball schedule to and from work on a little memory stick so I can reference the games and practices when the coaches email me… sigh.

But the boychild is sure to have fun. I just have to remember that soccer and t-ball are fun, hopefully my head doesn’t spin around when we’re running ten minutes behind and the baby is tired and hungry and it’s a little cold and it’s been a long day and I just want to sleep…

'Scuse me… was I staring?

Like all great and wonderful parents, I signed my son up for Beavers hoping I’d be able to drop him off and escape for an hour a week. After I remembered that I had another child, I also remembered he’s probably going to learn fun things like starting fires and how to read a map. Which means I won’t be able to say “just a short trip” when we’re driving across hell’s half acre again. And I should hide the matches.

So it was with considerable trepidation that we made our way to the Beaver Hike so we could schlep around the local green space then congregate with 30 other kids around a little fire pit and try to roast wieners and marshmallows. Frankly I’m surprised no one got a flaming marshmallow in the eye. To make it even more exciting, the campsite was right on the edge of a 20 foot drop off into the creek. Fun!

Guess where the boys all wanted to sit. You guessed it, next to the drop off.

Truthfully (and I say truthfully because of course everything else here is a total lie) it was enjoyable. The fall foliage was beautiful, the air was just crisp enough to be invigorating, and the boys had a blast. A few leaders grumbled about the lack of organization, but I don’t think a single boy complained. Funny, that.

The other parents provided great people viewing opportunities for me. Yes, I’m one of those people that thinks she’s surreptitiously sneaking glances at others when in fact I’m probably standing there staring at them so hard that I’m starting to mimic their facial expressions. No lie (more lies!) I’ve caught myself doing that. But the parents are hilarious:

Former Girl Guide: spending her time saying things like “remember when we did this in Girl Guides” I find myself strangely attracted to her. No, not in THAT way but kind of like I wanted desperately to be liked by the cool girls in Girl Guides when I was Looser Mc-Looserton with one earring and a mop of messy red hair. Unfortunately I don’t know any of the campfire songs she tries to start singing so I flunk out of the cool girl club. Again.

Skater Dude All Alone In Woodsmanville: With his bleached blond hair and the funky nest of hair JUST on the bottom of his chin (it kind of looks like a big brown cotton ball) he most decidedly does NOT fit in with the rest of the male leaders, most of whom are carrying axes and know how to use them. I half expected him to stand around the fire warming himself, turn to me and say “puff puff give dude”.

Grandma and Grandpa Taking Over for Mom and Dad: Of course someone begged off of parental duties this evening and made grandma and grandpa go on the hike with the kids. I felt a little sorry for the kids, especially since grandpa risked a hip injury trying to climb down the bank to retrieve a marshmallow stick while everyone else stared, some checking their cell phone service to see if they could get a line out to 911 if they needed to.

Hitler Mom: overheard telling her son exactly how to play Red Light Green Light and telling him to listen carefully in Chinese Telephone. Missed the point completely I think.

By the end of the hike I was sufficiently plied with hot chocolate, perfectly toasted marshmallows and half a cold weiner and we headed home. Just in time because one second it was dusk and the next it was night time.

I love this time!

My son is half way through Kindergarten and I LOVE this time. He’s gained so much knowledge, his social skills are vastly improved and his reasoning skills are better as well.

He’ll be playing quietly and suddenly say “Hey! Favourite starts with F!” Or “Hey! Brain and train – they rhyme!”

It’s the perfect time to foster a love of words. They are exciting to him, he is energized by figuring things out on his own. I’d love to foster a love of writing as well. He doesn’t seem as predisposed to write. When he does write, he wants to write HIS way. It’s hard for such a controller like me to let him write when it’s not the ‘proper’ way. But I’ve been a mom long enough know to many enough mistakes trying to tell him HOW to do something. He reacts the same way as I would if someone were telling ME how to do something. We don’t like that.

So I ignore it when he writes his name with a combination of capital and lowercase letters. It’s no biggie. I write lowercase to him and he writes however he wants. I just want him to enjoy the writing and the reading on his own terms.

We went skating for the first time yesterday and it was a blast. I feel like I have learned so much as a parent. In my early parenting years I wanted to help him learn to swim or play games, now I know I just need to be present and allow the learning to happen while having fun. He is also a controller. He wants to be in charge as much as I want to be in charge.

As you can imagine we came to loggerheads several times. But this time it was fun. I just praised every attempt and encouraged him every time he fell. We left wanting to go back. It was a success.

Today I sign him up for Gymnastics as well. Plus soccer this summer. Yikes. We’re going to be busy!! I’ve decided not to volunteer as a coach this year. Last year was enough. I like the role of ‘just a parent’ much better!