You’re only eight months old right now. Any day now, you’re going to crawl. And not long after that, you’re going to walk. Then, you’ll run. After that, you might skate.
No pressure, of course, and I mean that. Who knows if you will ever play any sport, let alone hockey? Maybe you’ll gravitate toward soccer, like your mom. Or books, like both of your parents.
But if you do start skating someday, and you develop a love of hockey like so many of us in the Upper Midwest, you will appreciate this promise that I’m about to make: I will never try to coach you in the car when we’re on our way to or from one of your games.
I’ll be tempted. I know this already. I’ve been a parent for less than a year, and already I can tell how much I would be paying attention to every single moment of action that you were involved with on the ice. It’s human nature to watch your kids and want what’s best for them.
And I know that I’m a competitive person. Baseball was my main sport growing up, but I spent countless days on the outdoor rinks of my hometown in North Dakota playing pickup hockey. Even with nothing on the line but pride, I never wanted to lose – so much so that I would even pay keen attention after throwing my stick in the middle with all the rest to pick sides, hoping I would get paired with the best players.
I’m going to have to check that competitiveness because it’s not yours – it’s mine. That competitiveness might make me want to rehash every moment of the game or to point out things you could have done to gain an edge. I might be tempted to think it’s the perfect time to do those things because the moments are still fresh in your mind.
But let’s say you’re 10 years old. Everything I’ve read about 10-year-old hockey players is that the last thing they want to hear on the car ride home is instruction about the game. They’re still learning and growing in the sport, but more importantly, they’re still growing as humans. Hockey is a small fraction of their ever-expanding lives. The whole idea of keeping score, winners and losers – all of that is still pretty new to them. It will be new to you.
I assume video games will still be popular when you are 10, since they haven’t gone out of style in the past quarter-century. You’ll probably want to bury your head in a game, listen to music, text with friends or send a hologram to somebody (assuming that, too, will be commonplace in 10 years) on the car ride home. Maybe you’ll just want silence.
But this is almost certain: You will not want to hear me coaching you. You probably won’t mind hearing me congratulate you on your effort or a great play. Positive reinforcement is a nice thing. Negative things, though – about the other team, about officiating, about playing time and especially about anything you did – will either create insecurities or cause you to tune me out. I don’t want either of those things to happen.
Now, if you want to talk about the game in the car – tell me about the things you’re proud of, tell me about the things that frustrated you – I’ll be all ears. That’s much, much different than me trying to coach you.
I’ll be an active listener. But I won’t be a car coach. You will already have a coach, and I assume it will be a very good one who knows far more about the intricacies of hockey than I do. He or she will dole out wisdom at the appropriate times.
And I’ll be there to drive you to the practices, watch the games and drive you home. We can probably even stop for a treat sometimes – not for winning or losing; just because it’s fun and kids should have fun.
But I won’t coach you in the car, Anabel. I promise. There are times that it’s going to be hard, but I know that it’s the right thing.