It’s the eyes that tell the tale.
The game is over and you’re waiting in the lobby of the rink with all the other parents. Some of them are engaged in conversation that enrages you even more then the contest you just witnessed, so you do that awkward shuffle and find a quieter spot to wait. That’s when you see your child, fire in their eyes, frustration in their posture.
“Well that was terrible,” you say.
The causes of a bad hockey game are too numerous to count, but it’s important to fit these causes into categories. Your kid playing bad is one cause, a loss for the team is another. Perhaps the little go-getter didn’t get the amount of ice time you’ve determined is appropriate, so in that case, the cause of the bad game is the coach. That’s cool, we know it happens.
But this isn’t about the reasons for a bad game. This is about the tact you require to deal with your child in the aftermath.
I still turn my phone on after games to messages from my Dad asking this question. It’s the best way to get the conversation started. When we lose, I usually clam up. When we win he can’t shut me up. This is what hockey players are - emotional rollercoasters that live and breathe with the success of the team’s results.
When you ask about the game, you demonstrate compassion and support. That’s what they need at those first difficult moments following the letdown.
If you’ll allow me a moment atop my soapbox, I’m about to commit to a shocking statement: kids these days take things for granted. So much focus is put on their academic aptitude, their sport of choice, and other activities meant to foster a young mind that their belief in the world revolving exclusively around them makes sense. It’s sure an awesome time to be a kid.
But all that attention comes with a price. After a brutal game, it’s natural for today’s young hockey player to selfishly consider only their own performance. When you ask about the game and they immediately launch into a tirade about their lack of offense or lack of ice time, it’s the perfect teaching moment to remind them they’re part of a team, and it’s the team’s success that counts the most. Sure, everyone wants to contribute their strengths to the cause, but it’s precisely that common cause that ought to triumph over any personal attempts at glory.
Woo, heavy stuff, I know. The bottom line is that if your child plays poorly and the team wins, that’s still better than your child playing well in a losing cause. Individual performance will line up with wins and losses in the longrun, so use those moments to remind your child of the bigger picture.
Whether you’re a player, coach, or a referee (hopefully), the sting of a poor performance hurts. There's usually no consoling a distraught hockey personality.
But to this point, the sun has risen with every dawn and it’s probably not going to stop tomorrow.
If you don’t know how to talk with your child after a brutal game, just get comfortable asking questions. Don’t dictate the conversation - guide it. Show support for the process.
Losing sucks. Playing bad and losing sucks worse. The last thing a young hockey player needs is reminder of this general sucktitude from the one person in the rink whose opinion matters most.