Managing the Personal Struggle of Being a Hockey Goalie Parent

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Managing the Personal Struggle of Being a Hockey Goalie Parent

Do you feel the added pressure of being the parent of a hockey goalie?

Sometimes it is as if your child is holding up the whole team.  Other parents seem to think that way, anyway. And that means that if or when the team loses it is usually seen as your child’s fault, ultimately.

That’s a lot of pressure to feel.

And of course, you know that your child is a part of a team, where it should be that Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM), so if the team lost, everyone on the team had a part to play in that.

You’re the one boosting your child’s esteem when this criticism hits them from lots of sides.

You feel for them when they think that the Coach isn’t supporting them the way they think he should. Maybe it’s that the practise drills aren’t really set up for them, or that they get forgotten and told to practice on their own.

Their teammates don’t understand the full extent of the added emotional strain your child is under. There is added pressure being in that critical spot of making or breaking the result. And yet, they aren’t infallible, they aren’t perfect and sometimes goals go in the net.

It could be their friends who don’t understand hockey and laugh at them for suiting up in their pads and added gear. And yet it’s what they love and want to do; play goalie.

And every game you ride the emotional roller coaster ride alongside them, feeling the stops and the misses. Watching their emotional ride during the game. Knowing that when their head goes down, they are feeling as though they’ve failed.

All you want to do at that moment is hug them and tell them they’ve done a great job, win or lose.

Or you might watch their excitement and want to burst yourself, feeling so proud of their accomplishments. Yet in the back of your mind knowing it won’t last.  That might have been the weakest team in their competition, and they face the toughest opponent next game.

How Can You Support Yourself and Ultimately Your Child Differently?

We, as a parent, don’t realize how valuable our emotions are. We tend to overlook them, or tell ourselves we are too emotional, and therefore dismiss what we are feeling.

Our child learns to do the same, simply by watching how we react to situations; by being around us.

In that way, they don’t understand the value of experiencing the emotion and how to use that in a positive way.

For example, when they miss a shot, let one in and feel down. They are likely telling themselves they’re no good, useless, that they “should” have made the save. What if that was a great experience, a learning experience and you talked to them about what happened before the shot?

They might notice the defensive screen moved, or that they were thinking about which way the puck was going to move. Each of these things had an impact on their ability to stop the puck.

Whilst they can’t do anything about the defenseman not doing what was required at that moment, they can learn to stop thinking so much.

Remember in an earlier article I talked about letting go of the mind and working with what came naturally the reflex reaction.  That’s what you want to support your child in doing.  Not reacting, just letting their own natural instincts kick in.

We are all born with a natural survival mechanism. That’s deep inside all of us. And for your child who has chosen the role of the goalie on the team, they will be using their internal innate ability to save themselves.

Sounds crazy I know and yet why not?  Why wouldn’t it be the best way to sit in that spot and protect themselves from the puck. If that was their mindset, what might it mean for their own natural ability?

That Colorado Avalanche has a drill that they put their hockey goalies through where they blindfold them and shoot pucks at them.  It was amazing to watch the goalies use their other senses to pick up on the slightest noise change, and just instinctively save those pucks.

They did it by being tuned into the whole environment they were working in. Their instinctual sense of inner knowing, or seeing themselves stopping the puck, or being confident that they could save themselves from being struck by the puck. All things that happened by using their inner ability.

There are many ways to support yourself and your goalie.

First, be open to sharing your feelings. Have discussions about how you felt during and after the game and allow them to share with you how they felt.  Often sharing YOUR experience will allow them to open up and share theirs.

Talk to your goalie about ‘trying’ versus just doing what they know they can do inside.  Work with them to see that when their mind gets in the way, it stops them from doing what comes naturally to them, saving themselves and ultimately saving the puck.

And above all talk to them about how what other people say has nothing to do with them. If I have an opinion that they did a lousy job, whose thoughts or opinion is it? Mine. It is not saying anything about your child. It doesn’t mean they are bad at what they do. It doesn’t mean they made too many mistakes; none of that. It is simply my own opinion.

Ultimately how your child performs on the ice is their experience. You can’t make it better in any way. You can’t take away the hurt or sadness. For you, it’s about noticing your own emotional roller coaster and beginning the journey of exploring what that is all about.

What are the thoughts running in your head when you are on that ride?

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.