Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Working with Hockey Parents-Motivation

Sad but true for many coaches.
     Sarah Palin once remarked that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was lipstick. For some I would say that is very true, but you could also add, a sense of logic and optimism on the pit bull's behalf.  Let's face facts folks, the very small but vocal minority of hockey parents get 99% of the attention in the rinks, and that is really sad.  These folks self-centered attitude gets in the way of the many countless unpaid hours that great hockey parents do, whose only reward they ever seek is to watch all the kids (and not just their own) have fun playing this great game.  Fortunately in Canada, we have the Fair Play code, which came to attention through the fine folks at Dartmouth Minor Hockey, who forever changed the way parents act in hockey rinks, and it was all for the better.  But I digress.  I'm here to give you a few hints and methods for working with hockey parents.  Try these out some time.  I have tried them for years and they work for me.

What Motivates Your Kid?
         Kids play hockey for a variety of reasons; they like the sport, they do it cause their friends do, they like the feeling associated with playing, they want to be a great hockey player, and the list goes on and on.  Every kid plays hockey for their own intrinsic needs and wants.  Of course, if you don't know these or you place such great emphasis on extrinsic rewards such as trophies and the win column, conflict will arise on your team.  That I can guarantee you.  Worse yet, if your players and their parents are involved in hockey for differing, conflicting reasons, tensions will rise, and some times that tension will find its way into your program through uninspired play, lack of motivation, and parental conflict.  So how do you find your way through this maze?  Well the total process takes time and by the end of the year, you will know your players well enough, you will know what motivates them and what doesn't.  Here is a simple exercise to help you on your way.

     At the beginning of the season, preferably after a practice, hand each of your players an index card and a pen.  Tell them they have one minute to give you three reasons why they play hockey, even if its in point form.  This cuts down on any long-winded responses and generally you'll find the most honest answers are the ones that come immediately to mind.  Once they're done that, tell them to put their name on the card and hand it in to you.  Now you have the chance to see why your players play.  Their answers will surprise you. I have seen answers that range from the typical (want to play in the NHL) to the strange (I hate soccer), to the interesting (I want to be more Canadian).  Write these down and study them.  They will help you.

    Here is where it gets fun.  At your first parent meeting, give each parent a blank index card and ask them to write down three reasons why their kid plays hockey, and place the card face down in front of them.  Assure them you will not take their card and you don't need them to tell you unless they feel free to do so.  Once again, this exercise only takes one minute.  I suggest doing this before the meeting has begun or even before you've introduced yourself.  Now at the end of the meeting, remind them of that card and ask them to look at it again.  Once they have the card in front of them, walk over and give them their child's card.  The joy for you is watching their reaction.  Some times you will see surprise.  Often times you will need not say a thing, but ask the parents to keep those cards with them throughout the season as a gentle reminder of why we are all involved in the first place.

Comments?  Anything is greatly appreciated.

Have fun and keep your stick on the ice.

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