There’s nothing that gets the adrenaline running and the heart pumping quite like an intense minor hockey play-off game. And I’m not describing the players here – although I’m sure they experience those physical effects too- I’m talking about the parents in the stands who can barely contain their excitement or dismay at their child’s play-off game. Although I consider myself a passive parent, even I sometimes find it difficult to hold back the primordial competitive urge to transform into a raging lunatic at my child’s play-off game. Over the past few years, my son has been on a team that has won a play-off banner and on another team that never made it to play-offs. This season marks the first year that things are really unforeseeable for him. Following his first play-off game today, it reminded me that the stakes are higher this month for the players and their parents. And I think it’s a good time to write about what we need to do to push down the banshees in us all and enjoy the play-off games – even with the tension, bad calls, poor performances, and stress that might come with them.
When you sit in the stands as a spectator for your child’s game, here are a few things to remember:
(1) Your child might be feeling nervous for the first time!
If this is your child’s first time in a play-off game, they might actually be nervous. They know, just like you do, that the end of their beloved season might come to an end much faster than they would like. It might also be the first time your young player might be feeling stressed or nervous over any game. Consequently, it’s important to recognize that some children struggle to perform under stress and pressure. As such, they may not be performing in the same way they have all season. Although this might make you want to scream and shout (and let it all out), allowing your child to learn how to perform under stress is a good thing. Hopefully, they’ll learn quickly how to cope with this typically healthy level of stress. But remember that this is a learning process for them and placing additional parental pressure might exacerbate their stress level.
Check out this article on sports anxiety in children and how to build your child’s confidence if they are struggling with higher than typical performance anxiety.
(2) You’re not the coach and you’re not the referee.
Since you didn’t take on either of these roles, be respectful of those who did. They might make mistakes and they might miss things you don’t because of your panoramic view in the stands – but that’s hockey. Remember that the coaches and referees are trying to do the best job they can, and sometimes they make mistakes. But so do you and every other person on the planet. If the mistake is critical, then there are processes in place for official complaints to be made. However, most of the complaints you’re going to make in the stands are going to be based on minor issues. Frustrating? Yes. But not critical.
(3) Bring maturity and not madness to the rink!
I have seen parents act completely inappropriately in the stands. I’ve been embarrassed for them, their child and their child’s team. Don’t be that parent. Be the parent that chooses to act maturely and appropriately even when you’re frustrated and upset.
(4) Be a cheerleader and not a critic!
Whether you like it or not, the hockey season is about to come to a close. Remember that leaving the last game (or series of games) as a cheerleader for your child and not as their critic could make a difference on how they view their entire season. When they leave the ice for the last time, whether it’s a first round loss or a championship game win, let them know what they did well. This will continue to reiterate with your child that you are there to support them through any game and through any season they choose to play.
The following video provides some great insight into what children think about parents watching their play. It’s a great message and it could also be a great conversation to have with your own children.
Enjoy the play-offs!
Happy Hockey Days!