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When Should Hockey Players be Tying Their Own Skates?

04/29/2016, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech


Equipment malfunction is a phrase absolutely no one wants to hear. Of course I’m referring to pilots, skydivers, and, most importantly, minor hockey players. I’ve talked to several former hockey players who have recurring dreams about equipment malfunction. 

Imagine bearing down on a breakaway only to lose an edge and wipe out in front of your teammates. You’ve forever cost them a championship. It’s a nightmare that’s too frequently played out in real life on rinks all over the country. 

There’s nothing worse than knowing these mistakes could be avoided. Young hockey players with poorly-tied skates are automatically set up for failure. 

So, the question then becomes: when should they tie their own skates and take care of their own equipment.

It would be nice if they didn’t need help tying their skates, but it’s not always a nice world, is it? More than once this past weekend at a spring hockey tournament did I have to convince a 10 year-old to let me tighten his skates. 

There’s an age at which it becomes important for minor hockey players to take care of their own equipment regardless of their ability to do so proficiently. That’s great, the sooner Mom or Dad can leave their children to their own devices, the better, right?

Are we still talking about skates?

A Player’s Chosen Path

We’re down to one hockey post per week here at the ol’ NSWC blog, and the tennis and swimming communities are rejoicing. However, everyone needs to pay close attention to this issue. 

Whether we’re tying our children’s skates or we’re holding our breath with every serve or every dive, one of the most difficult aspects of being a parent is letting go. It’s their chosen sport, it’s what they love to do, but it started somewhere. At some point, at some age, parents need to take a step back and make room for the natural development of their child. 

Full disclosure, because the twitter brigade is going to be all over me for this one: this is coming from the perspective of a coach. I don’t know what it’s like to retreat into the shadowy corners of the arena to let my child take charge of their own hockey experience. It must be excruciating, but what I have seen is a plethora of players with a fraction of the determination and drive possessed by their parents.

Now, there’s a stark contrast between parent support and involvement, and I’m not calling for an elimination of either. But much like the coach who sometimes has to refrain from reciting each small thing a player has done wrong, sometimes the parent must also focus on positive independent development as well, even if it takes more time. 

An Analogy For a More Important Issue

I bet you thought this post would actually answer the question of when a hockey player ought to tie his to her own skates. I’ll get there, but first: parents can be supportive and be less involved as the child gets older. It ain’t going to be easy, I get that - you’ve put your life on hold for the first few years of hockey because it’s exciting and represents a grand new challenge for the entire family. 

While, it won’t always be exciting. Sometimes it will be stressful. Sometimes it will be downright aggravating, like this past weekend when I was within ten paces of a Dad screaming at his son for icing a puck and changing too early. Just…wow. We’re furious with short shifts now?

But anyways, the takeaway here is A) I’m definitely writing to a topic about which I have precisely zero practical experience and B) it’s up to you and your family to tactically allow room for self-reflection, self assessment and natural growth. 

So, when should hockey players be tying their own skates?

When they can. 

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