I didn’t want to be a head coach—not yet. I was happy chipping in when I could, not having to make the big commitment, not having to plan practices and carry extra gear.
I played some hockey, so it seemed natural that if my kids enjoyed the sport and wanted to keep playing that, ultimately, I’d end up coaching. I was, however, fully prepared to hang out on the sidelines until it seemed clear there was some level of commitment from their side, as well. In fact, I was looking forward to it.
But it happened. Our team was in a bind where no one wanted to take on that role, and so I caved. Head coach.
It’s funny how our perspectives can change in the blink of an eye. In a moment, I went from a fairly relaxed parent and bystander whose only obligation was to have my child on the ice on time, to an intense head coach who quickly realized that it really is all about me.
What’s that you say?
I’ll say it again. I’m coaching a team of 6 and 7-year-old kids and it really is all about me.
It’s about me providing a fun and safe atmosphere for these kids every time we are on the ice.
It’s about me teaching them that failure isn’t just OK, it’s an absolute necessity if you’re going to get better.
It’s about me showing them what good sportsmanship is.
It’s about me making sure that every kid on the ice is getting the attention they deserve.
It’s about me leaving my ego not just at the door but in some far-off distant place.
It’s about me leading by example.
It’s about me knowing that winning a Mite hockey game doesn’t matter (no matter how many people think it does).
It’s about me remembering that, more than a game, hockey is a place where kids either build confidence or they lose it.
It’s about me making sure every child is given the same opportunities to succeed (read: equal ice time).
It’s about me being brave enough to ignore the critics and stay focused on the kids (so they build confidence and don’t lose it).
It’s about me doing everything I can to make sure my players leave the rink feeling better than they did when they walked in.
So much of every practice and every game comes down to me and how I prepare and how I execute.
These kids are smart and many of them are very competitive. They usually know if they won or lost a game (even when there are no scoreboards). It’s awesome to see them celebrate a goal or a win; it really is. Some of their goal celebrations are absolutely priceless and their toothless smiles can make me laugh out loud. But on the list of what’s important at this age, I can’t think of one thing that winning would come before.
Believe me, when I see coaches shortening their benches at the end of a close Mite game, or parking cherry pickers in front of our net when the puck is at the other end, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little rush of adrenaline. There’s that little voice in my head, that competitor, whispering in my ear; “Are you going to ignore that?” or “if you don’t match them, people will think you don’t know what you’re doing.”
I know. I see it. I hear it. And that is when I must be my bravest. That is when I have to decide between trying to win a Mite hockey game and undermining the confidence of a child by changing my messaging, skipping their shift or pulling them off the ice.
I guess when I think about it that way, I don’t have to be so brave, after all.
Brave or not, one thing I will always remember is that this really is all about me.
And, parents, it’s all about you, too.
This anonymous writer is a former medal winning Olympian who is involved in everyday youth hockey in Massachusetts.