Hockey Tryouts – Advice for Parents

Below is an article, written by Donnan Hockey Campus Director Sean Beissel at the beginning of this hockey season. ( See the original here: Click Here)

In my youth, the return to school and fall was an exciting time as it also symbolized the start of hockey season. Tryouts were always exciting, because you connected with friends you had not seen in quite some time. However, tryouts were also a time of high anxiety on the part of players, parents, coaches and administrators alike. Nobody involved particularly enjoyed the process, but we needed to go through it in order to form teams and begin the season. In spite of the stress and anxiety that came along with trying out, it was an excellent time for parents to help their child face some of life’s realities and to more clearly understand some of the myths in regard to tryouts.

It is very important to remember that children take their cues about their well-being and abilities from the adults in their lives. During any stressful situation, how the adult reacts will have a major impact on how the child will react under the same pressures. Tryout opportunities are a great example of this. When a child sees that their parents are showing signs of stress and general nervousness, it will cause the same reaction in their children. I am sure we can agree that when we feel anxiety and stress we do not perform optimally. Players that are tense and uneasy do not perform to their maximum potential.

Whether your child is still in the tryout process or has finished it, you are being presented with a fantastic opportunity to reduce stress and anxiety for them. You can do this by focusing all the positive aspects of the tryouts; the physical challenge, the excitement of the competition and the desire to improve as a player. Generally speaking, if we were to be 100% honest with ourselves, we know that the final decision is most often correct. Most important is to use these stressful events as a “teachable moment” and to maximize our role as parents. How we, as parents and in turn our children handle these stressful events will have an untold lasting impression on those same children. Dealing with disappointment in your child is a very valuable life lesson that all of our youth need to learn. As parents, it is our responsibility to assist our children to process their disappointments and to move on. After every disappointment there is an opportunity to make changes to improve as a player and as an individual.

Try to take a neutral stance on the evaluation process, this sends a strong message to your child. You are now communicating that you support them regardless of what team they play on and that you are proud of them. Youth sports should have enjoyment as a foundational piece for both the players and parents. Sport in itself has stress as a competitive environment, and adding additional stress when we convince ourselves that the outcomes actually outweigh the process and experience can only have a detrimental effect on the outcome. Such an astronomically low percentage of children that play youth sports will ever play their chosen sport at the highest level so the rest of us should ensure we enjoy our time in it.

Being realistic in discussions with our children and discussing feelings surrounding making a team or being cut will assist when the big day actually comes. Not taking this opportunity to walk through some of these feelings before can lead to the child being confused and or embarrassed when a flood of emotion comes in. In these conversations, it is also very beneficial to speak to the realities of the child’s skill and opportunity to make the team. Missing these discussions again can only serve to disillusion our youth towards the process and can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for the game.

Coaches want to select the best players for their teams and generally they have a very short time to evaluate the child. The last 3-4 players on any team are the hardest decisions to make for coaches and it is usually where they spend the majority of their time. On most occasions, coaches do an admirable job of selecting teams. It is a difficult job, and I know many coaches who have difficulty sleeping during the process. They are generally volunteers and they do it for the love of the game and a sense of purpose they gain from helping to develop the youth of our society. They can & will make mistakes, but normally they come from a belief that they are genuinely doing what is best for the development and betterment of each child.

So this fall if you haven’t already, try modeling calm and cool when around the topic of evaluations. Let the coaches and evaluators do their jobs in selecting the teams. Then go out to the rinks and enjoy watching the greatest game ever invented being played by our youth for the pure love of the game. We need to be responsible for keeping the game pure in the minds of our children. Have a great winter, and see you at the rink.

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