Hockey parents get a bad rap for their lack of sportsmanlike conduct. Yes, we’re loud (omg, we’re loud) and we get into the game.
But you can not possibly tell me that soccer parents aren’t just as bad. I’ve been to the fields, I know your dirty little secrets, soccer parents.
Same goes for you, baseball parents and swim team parents.
Here’s the deal, we all do it. We all get so wrapped up in supporting our kids that we lose our minds a little. I’ll be the first to admit it.
Prime example: The first year Boy #1 was in Novice, the team didn’t win often. We would be lucky to tie a game in a tournament. But the kids had fun and we as parents enjoyed cheering them on.
During one of our regular season games, towards the end of the season, things came together as a team. One game we just so happened to be winning. By a lot.
There is a mercy rule in house league hockey where once one team is winning over the other by 5 goals, the time keepers stop updating the score. Don’t fool yourselves, the kids are still well aware of the score, but at least the adults aren’t rubbing it into little faces.
In addition to this, the parents take their…level of enthusiasm, we’ll say…down a few notches. Which is what our team did. We cheered on the other team’s goalie when they made a really good save. We cheered on their team when they had a good play.
And then one of our kids scored his very first goal of the season.
You have to cheer then. If you aren’t, I’m wondering how you keep warm with such a cold heart in your chest.
We celebrated his goal with him. You could see his joy from the stands.
Apparently one of the dad’s on the other team didn’t take it so well. He stormed past our side of the bench, but not before lecturing us as parents for our lack of sportsmanlike conduct. Ok. Fine. We can disagree on things. But then he made his way over to our coach and started in on him, during the game, over top of our kids about our team.
That, folks, is not ok. It’s a poor example to children about how you handle conflict.
In an effort to spare you from both sides of this spectrum, let’s go over a few tips for maintaining decorum in the hockey rink (or the soccer field, or the baseball diamond…), shall we?
- The 24 hour rule. If you read no further than this point, you’ll likely save yourself a great deal of embarrassment. You know the saying “Don’t promise when you’re happy, don’t reply when you’re angry. Don’t decide when you’re sad”? Wise words, my friends. The 24 hour rule is a fundamental component of the Respect in Sport training all parents are required to take prior to their children participating in hockey. At least in our area. Basically, it states that all parents should wait for 24 hours before they speak to a coach or team manager about something that bothers them. This, of course, assuming that there is no imminent injury. If you disagree with how a coach spoke to the kids, or how they ran a practice, give it 24 hours and then address the issue. You’ll be calmer (hopefully) and better able to communicate.
- Do not chirp the referees. You can disagree with a call. But you are not the person on the ice watching the play. Also, and I say this often, this is house league hockey, a bad call will not make or break a game. And even if it does….house league hockey. The referees are out on the ice doing the best they can. They are not out to “get” your team, they are not targeting your kid. They are doing a job. Let them do it without being harassed.
- Follow your kid’s lead. Do they ask you to calm down in the stands? Do they smile on the ice when they see you cheering or are they embarrassed? Take your cues from them. Example: Boy #1 celebrates every play. Even if he wasn’t directly involved. He skates over and celebrates with us in the stands. So we celebrate. One of my most favorite people in the world swims competitively and she can’t have people in the stands watching her compete. So we are there in spirit. Doesn’t diminish our pride in her accomplishments. We follow their lead.
- Contribute, don’t criticize. Want to know why people don’t want to volunteer for team manager or as coach? It’s not because they don’t want to be involved in kids’ hockey. They don’t want to deal with the parents. Based on some of the behavior I heard of last season, I don’t blame them. If your first introduction to Initiation level hockey is having nasty emails sent to you from irate parents, you wouldn’t be inclined to volunteer next year either. So if you feel like your coaches are struggling, or you are dissatisfied with how the team is being managed, by all means address it, but from the perspective of “how can I help?” rather than “you’re doing it wrong”.
- Focus on the fun. I told you I say this often….house. league. hockey. Multimillion dollar business is not relying on how the coach runs a practice, or how the kids play. Focus on the fun of the game. Encourage the kids to love the sport. By all means, address the areas for improvement, but end on the high notes.
Here’s the thing, you don’t have to listen to me. You don’t have to take any of this advice. But here’s where the alternative gets you. Sportsmanlike conduct, at a minimum, will keep you and your team out of the news.
See you at the rink. I’ll be the one cheering on the kids. All of them.