There is nothing more frustrating as a parent than watching your child play the sport they love and feel unseen, unacknowledged for all of the hard work they put into it. Especially by their Coach.
Am I right?
You watch them practice and practice and practice night after night, week after week, all to be better at what they do in order to get that prime spot on the team.
Then what? The Coach overlooks them for someone else. Some other child that is nowhere near as good as your child.
Or maybe your child is the one in that prime spot. The Goalie, for example. Not too many others are willing to take that spot. Yet they aren’t recognized within the team or by the Coach for their efforts.
You, on the other hand, give them all your support. You share your ideas with them and coach them as best as you can on the sidelines because that’s what they need. Right?
Hard as this might be to hear, your Coaching is NOT what they need.
Here’s why. They may already feel deflated, unseen, unwanted on the team, unacknowledged. And whilst your ‘Coaching’ might seem as though you are helping them, it is not the connection they are looking for.
Your child is wanting to be seen and acknowledged. They want to feel wanted.
Feeling wanted or part of something bigger is something we all strive for. We think that if we feel wanted life will be better for us. We think we’ve made it, big time.
Yet the truth is that it’s not really about being wanted by others at all. What is missing is our own sense of being okay with who we are. Good or bad at playing hockey. Successful or not.
They don’t need the pressure of someone else telling them where they are making mistakes and how to fix them.
They certainly don’t need someone else giving them advice on how to be better.
Be a parent. Don’t be a coach.
Talk with them about their feelings. And I know you are going to say “Oh, but boys don’t open up about their feelings” or “That’s sissy stuff.”
You’re wrong. We all have feelings. Even you, though you might not want to admit it.
And the best way for your child to explode into this world and use every bit of talent that they have is to use what they’re feeling in a positive way.
If they’re angry, let them use that anger if their firepower when they take a shot.
When they’re hurt, teach them to use that to be more focused and present to the play.
Emotion isn’t a bad thing, it’s a very useful thing, and especially when you are open to exploring what thinking was going on being the emotional reaction you had.
What I’ve noticed through doing mindfulness work is that whenever I become emotional it has all stemmed from what I was thinking BEFORE the emotion reared itself.
The best support you can give your child is to talk with them about how they are feeling. And I don’t mean peppering them constantly with that question “How are you feeling?”
That’s just as bad as constantly coaching them, even when they have a Coach.
No, what I’m talking about is noticing their demeanour and making comments like “You look happy” or “You’re looking a bit down, want to talk about what’s going on?”
And don’t be surprised if it takes a while for them to open up, especially if this is a whole new approach to you interacting with them.
If they haven’t seen you be vulnerable and share your emotions they won’t trust that they will be okay sharing their feelings. Give it time. Be caring and show empathy.
The greatest gift you can give your child is a connection. Only when you have an extraordinarily strong connection, where they feel comfortable sharing what’s going on with them, can you begin to share your coaching ideas!
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.