Q: My 10U hockey player doesn’t seem to care whether his team wins or loses. Should I be concerned about his competitiveness?
A: Not at all. At his age, having fun is more important than wins and losses. Besides, the scoreboard shouldn’t be the measuring stick for competitiveness at young ages. Instead, pay attention to how your child handles himself when there are loose pucks. Is he aggressive in going after it or does he tend to shy away? This is the type of competitiveness that we are trying to nurture in young hockey players, and we do it by practicing and playing in smaller areas. Station-based practices that feature puck-battle drills and small-area games are how we foster a high compete level at a young age. The more often these players are put in those types of situations, the more competitive they will become.
Here’s a little side story. I have a friend who has a young hockey player. While traveling a few years ago, I went to go see him play as a 10-year-old. I was running late and didn’t get there until there were only three minutes left in the game. Looking at the scoreboard, I saw that his team was winning by a goal. I looked at the bench and saw he was the next player to go out onto the ice. The young boy noticed that I was there, looked up at me and waved. His coach, who is my friend and the player’s dad, looked at him in amazement that he was more concerned about saying hello to me than getting engaged for his last shift of a tight game. Then he remembered – he’s a 10-year-old! It was an eye-opening experience for both of us.
Fast-forward to today and the 10-year-old is now a very competitive 15-year-old hockey player with aspirations of playing in the NHL someday. So, to bring it all home, remember that fun trumps everything when they are young.
In addition to this story, read the article below by Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun to further illustrate this point.