Why Children Give Up Hockey At Age 15
15 is an interesting age for any child. It’s that in between space of not being a real child anymore, yet you aren’t an adult yet either.
From my experience with having a son, it’s the age of real asserted independence. And that for me makes the difference as to WHY they chose to give up hockey.
Don’t get me wrong. You are likely to argue with me that they have been the ones choosing to play hockey all this time up until now. And you’re probably right, they have been. Sort of.
Remember back to your own childhood. Weren’t there things you did that YOU really wanted to do, yet somewhere in the back of your mind it sort of felt like your parents were making you do it?
It wasn’t the case, of course, yet you thought it was. And that’s the difference here.
We aren’t talking about reality, we are talking about the monkey mind that chatters away in the background of most of our mind’s day-in, day-out.
The Formative Years Up Until Age 15
As a child you are learning about what this ‘life’ is like. You are nurtured, challenged, shown, educated and basically instructed on how to be a human.
Yes, you get to make choices and children do. They are pretty clear, if you listen to them, on what they want or like and don’t want or like.
So, if they chose hockey as their sport, it was because something about it caught their attention. They get to enjoy the highs and lows of learning a new skill and mastering it, or not.
Playing with their mates and winning or experiencing defeat, and managing their emotions.
Sometimes the choices they make regarding their hockey are informed by what their parents say. And that could be to play in A specific team or not; to participate in representative teams, or not, for example.
Ultimately during those first 15 years of life a child is dependent on their parents, guardians or friends to be taken wherever they need to go, to play their chosen sport, hockey.
In these years hockey can be the thing they focus on, especially prior to moving to High School, as the focus on academic life, whilst important might take a backseat to their enjoyment of their sport.
Then Comes 15
All of a sudden, they are studying Year 11 at school and life from the outside world is different. Everyone is talking to these young people about future career choices.
Reality hits that not many people end up making it to the NHL or WHL so all of a sudden, hockey isn’t so great anymore. The fantasy world they imaged bursts and all of a sudden playing for fun just isn’t the same anymore.
At this time, they get to realize for themselves that they haven’t made that elite level enough for them to play elite sport or become a full time sportsman or woman.
They will have been tracking their peers during this journey through hockey life and noticing those people who just seem so good at playing that it seems effortless. Yet for them, that’s not the case, they need to try. A lot!
So they turn aside from hockey and focus on the real world and the real life that everyone has to have.
Pretty awful if you come to think of it. We tell these young people that life in the corporate or business world is more important than following their dreams. The dreams they had for so many years of their lives to that date.
The Emotional Aspect of This Change
We don’t stop to think about the emotional side of all this for a young hockey player. Deep down inside they are likely to feel incredibly sad. They won’t tell you this of course, because that would be weak (in their minds at least).
They believe they have to give up everything they’ve wanted in life to that point. Sadness, hurt, possibly some anger, are all emotions they will possibly be experiencing.
So, if they appear moody on the outside to you, it’s no wonder. Hopefully, you will now have a bit more understanding as to why.
What Can We Do to Support These Young Athletes?
Looking statistically according to the NCAA
In 2019, 33% of players on the NHL roster had played College Hockey.
That says that one third of players, playing at the elite level finished high school and went on to college where hockey was their number one love, still. Yes, they got a college education, and that could have been in something to do with sport so that they continued to do what they loved each and every day.
This says to me that instead of talking to these young 15-year old’s about getting a ‘real job,’ why not stop and encourage them to follow their passion – hockey.
Talk to them about what it will take to make it to the next level. Ask them what they see their strengths as and where there are room for improvements in their game. Support them to find mentors and coaches that will help them overcome any limits they have.
Let them continue to dream of making it to the NHL. Why not?
Anything is possible if you believe it hard enough. With the right mindset who knows what the eventual outcome of their playing career might be.