By Brandon Naurato –
The topic of specialization in youth sports is more popular than ever. With that said, the message I am trying to send today will not go over the positives and negatives of one thought process versus the other. The truth is that it is not black and white and every kid has a different path that may or may not work for him or her. Your route to success will be dictated through your body of work and passion for the game, not whether you played three sports or one until you were 15 years old.
Youth hockey is a great example of this and it has definitely become a year-round sport, whether we like it or not. Parents are asked now more than ever to make huge time and financial commitments for their children with the dream of opening up doors for their future to give them a better life. You will invest in the coach of your team, an off-ice trainer, a skills/goalie instructor, and maybe even a personal nutritionist. And parents are all looking for the same thing….A RETURN ON THEIR INVESTMENT!
Follow the tips that I have provided below and maybe one day when your son/daughter puts down the pads you can look back and say that it was all worth the investment.
Do Your Research – The most important part when looking to invest in a coach is to do your research on where they played, who they have learned from, what players they have developed on the ice, and what type of impact they have had on players off the ice. You wouldn’t take financial advice from someone who is bankrupt or receive shoulder surgery from a mechanic. Why would you take advice from a coach that hasn’t been through the path that your child is going through now?
As a parent, I would look into the character traits of the coach. First thing’s first – do a background check through safesport.org. Look for people that genuinely care about your child and have their best interest in mind. I want a coach who is going to challenge my son or daughter and make them feel uncomfortable at certain times of the season in order for them to step up and grow as a person. I want someone who is teaching life lessons through the game of hockey, to help them better prepare for the future. We are all quick to give up on a kid that “doesn’t get it.” Did you get it when you were 15? It is our job to take that kid under our wing and ask them how school and family life is going to better understand our players, so that we can help them “get it.” Find a coach that is a mentor and student of the game, not just a hockey coach.
Buy Into The Process – You have done your homework and found a coach that you trust and believe in to help develop your child this year. Now it is time to buy into the process.
Imagine setting up a personal training and nutrition schedule with the goal of losing 15 pounds in eight weeks. After two weeks you have only lost two pounds and start to become frustrated, so you stray away from the plan. You take advice from another trainer or a friend that recently lost weight and now you are on a completely different page than the original plan that was developed. Eight weeks later you aren’t happy with your results. Is it your trainer’s fault? No. You weren’t bought into the process! Now you are going around town to every gym in the area telling people that this trainer doesn’t do a good job. That is exactly what is going on in the hockey world today. This is exactly why USA Hockey implemented their Long-Term Athlete Development Program and they are spot on.
You trusted your coach to have a plan and now it’s on you to stick to it. At the end of the season when you have bought in for nine months you can reassess the situation and see if it was the best fit for your child. You need to give it time and slowly the results will come. Any feedback negative or positive that we give to our kids in the car or at the dinner table will directly influence them on and off the ice. So keep it positive and don’t allow them to make excuses when things aren’t going their way right now.
I take personal pride in helping young player’s develop the physical tools they need to help them have success on the ice. But the most rewarding feeling as a ‘Hockey Life Coach’ is truly developing a player’s attitude, character, and mindset off the ice to help them grow as an individual away from the rink. Unfortunately as coaches, we can’t get through to every player we work with and a lot of that has to do with some of the examples I mentioned above. The truth is that the players that bought into the process are the same players that achieve their dreams at the end of the day with zero regrets. If you are investing all of your time and money in order for your son/daughter to receive an NCAA scholarship or sign an NHL deal then my advice would be to invest it somewhere else. If you are committing to teaching them good life lessons and allowing them to enjoy life through hockey, then you have hit a home run and everything else that comes along is an added bonus!