Aside from your toddler’s first taste of Timbits, there may not be a more quintessentially Canadian childhood rite of passage than your kid joining her first hockey team.
It’s understandable that you want to talk to your kid’s coach about how you can both help raise the next hockey superstar. But having a good relationship with the coach is key to your kid’s success. Before you head out to the rink this season, here are some tips on how you can become a gold-medal parent when it comes to interacting with your kid’s hockey coach.
DO keep your tone professional. Monte Miller, executive director of Hockey Winnipeg, says a common problem with parent-coach communication is that parents speak to coaches in an accusatory tone. Approach each conversation as a two-way dialogue and keep in mind that the coach also wants what’s best for your kid.
DO treat coaches as volunteers. Believe it or not, the majority of coaches don’t get paid to teach aspiring Sidney Crosbys how to shoot a puck. So when you’re sitting on the bleachers watching your daughter’s hockey practice at 6 a.m. on a cold, dark Saturday morning, remember that her coach is there because he wants to be.
DO offer to help. An extra set of hands is always appreciated, especially when it comes to little ones who need help getting ready. Buckling helmets, lacing skates and filling water bottles are great ways to lighten the coach’s load. “Before a practice or game, let the coach know that if she needs anything, she can give you a wave in the stands and you’ll come right over,” says Miller.
DON’T jump to conclusions before talking to your kid. If you’re wondering why your daughter was benched for half the game or why your son—who’s usually the star defenceman—is now playing goalie, take time to chat with your child before speaking to the coach. “You’ll learn that your daughter didn’t play because she hurt her foot or that your son was interested in playing a new position,” says Miller.
DON’T approach a coach right after the game. Many coaches like to take time before or after the game—typically 15 or 20 minutes—to go over the game plan with the team or discuss anything that needs to be addressed. “Give the coach and the team this space, if requested,” says Miller.
DO take time to cool down if you’re upset. If you’re not happy with the way a certain situation was handled, take 24 hours before you speak to the coach. “The biggest mistake that parents make is to burst into the locker room and make a scene after the game,” says Miller. If you still want to talk after this cool-down period is over, it’s fine to reach out but in a collaborative way (it’s always a good idea to ask a coach about his preferred method of communication at the beginning of the season).
DON’T speak badly about the coach in front of your player. Coaches are always trying to teach specific lessons to their players, explains Miller. Even if you don’t understand or agree with their approach to a game, don’t take away what your coaches are teaching by discussing your difference of opinion on the car ride home from practice.
DON’T freak out when the coach yells. Yes, the coach is raising his voice at your sweet six-year-old but not for the reason you’re thinking. “We’re not yelling at your kid; we just want to ensure that he can hear us,” explains Miller. This “coaching voice” is necessary because all team members need to hear the coach’s instructions, especially when players are at the other end of the rink.
DON’T be that sideline parent. We all know the one: the dad who yells a little bit too loudly after the ref calls a penalty or the mom who makes a scene when her kid gets benched. “Many parents don’t have experience coaching,” says Miller. If something happens during a game where you strongly feel the need to voice your opinion, pause and take a deep breath. Trust that your kid’s coach will do her job and act in the team’s best interest.
DO apologize, but don’t dwell on any inappropriate interaction with the coach. If you’ve crossed a line with your sideline behavior or said something rude to your kid’s coach, don’t stress about it too much. Apologize for your behavior, don’t make the same mistake twice and move on. “I’d argue that not a coach in the world would take it out on a player because his parents became unhinged,” says Miller. Coaches understand that parents get really passionate about their kid’s sport.
Celebrate Scotiabank #HockeyDay in Canada on February 18 at 12 PM (EST) / 9 AM (PST) on Sportsnet.