This weeks question comes from ?
"How can we help young kids (U8) to cope with the frustration of an intense game (especially when they are always a target)?"
Thanks for your question. I'm going to answer it in two pieces.
Firstly the frustration.
Frustration is an interesting thing in my experience. It is all about thinking I could do better or could have done better.
My mind also uses the word 'should' a lot. I should have stopped that puck. I should have done better in defence. We should have stopped them from scoring that goal.
Ask Them Why They're Frustrated
Often we notice the frustration and yet we don't allow our child to express it.
By telling them it's okay to feel frustrated you are giving them permission to have the emotion. A lot of times we think it's not okay to be frustrated, and yet that's what's happening.
Get them to tell you WHY they're frustrated. You might find they have a long story that contains lots of reasons for them feeling that way.
And you can listen to them and simply respond with "Wow, no wonder you're frustrated" or "You sound very frustrated"
Listening is the greatest gift we can give our children. Often what we want to do is fix the issue or take away the emotion.
That's not necessarily the best thing. Teaching them to express the emotion and then look at how to shift it works even better.
Have An Open Discussion About the Game
The trick is to turn that inner conversation into an outward one about what worked and what didn't work.
What you are teaching your child to do is to look for what worked the way they wanted it to, and what didn't.
So, for example, we should have stopped them scoring would become:
What didn't work?
- If I had moved to the left of the player coming down the ice I could have cross-checked him.
- If Jack had been in his position in the centre the skater wouldn't have had anywhere to go.
And also look at what worked?
- Dylan jumped in front of their player and they had to pass it off
- Sam cross-checked their centre
- Matthew (the goalie) stopped their first shot
In looking at the game this way it helps your child focus on what really happened and not what they wanted to happen.
When Your Child Is Always A Target
When I read this part of your question, I automatically went to thinking about bullying and the article I wrote last week about it. Perhaps reading that might help fill in the gaps as to why your child may be a regular target.
If it's older players that are making your child a target because of their lack of experience, that's a hard one to prepare someone for mentally.
What skills is your child gaining from being the target? Are they learning to become faster on the ice? Are they becoming tougher and more able to work through the attacks on the ice?
There will be a good that is coming from it, even though right not in may not be evident.
Helping your child understand why others bully and target other team members may help them have a better handle on why it is happening.
I believe strongly that talking through all that happens with your child and helping them see that all of what happens is not directed AT them, but more because of them.
If for example your son is fast on the ice and gets in the way of someone who is not as skilled as them, they will be targeted. Is it frustrating for your son, which is more skilled? Of course. AND it has nothing to do with him per se and a lot to do with the other person feeling inferior and not having another way of expressing that.
This is a tricky area to prepare for because you have no way of knowing what is going on in the other player's minds.
The only thing you can hope to do is to have your child be confident in their own abilities, work on what needs strengthening and allow them to express how they feel, no matter what's going on.
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.