Whether it’s academic success, a healthy lifestyle or success in the business world, there is little doubt that playing sports, especially for those that continue through high school, is associated with a positive impact on players’ futures.
Ask adults who played sports themselves and it’s easy to find stories of how athletics teach the values of hard work, overcoming adversity and being a good teammate or leader.
Many of these lessons occur while on the ice or other playing field, but there are also a number of critical life lessons that take place off the ice. Here are five things parents and coaches can help kids learn off the ice this season.
Actions Speak Loudly
Children are typically very good at learning by watching others. Yet, they often fail to realize that people are watching them as well.
Sports can play a critical role in helping athletes learn the importance of non-verbal communication. Whether it’s making eye contact with coaches, body language on the bench or reactions to mistakes on the ice, reminding young players how their actions communicate to their teammates and learning how to do so in a positive way is a huge part of youth hockey.
Whether you’re five or 55, being criticized is not fun. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.
But it is also often unavoidable. If your goal is to be the best you can be, it may even be necessary.
The Positive Coaching Alliance does a great job of providing youth coaches with tools such as the Criticism Sandwich, ELM Tree of Mastery and Filling Emotional Tanks to ensure kids have a positive experience while making mistakes and receiving criticism. These concepts also help young players grasp that criticism is targeted at a certain behavior or action, not the person, and the intent is to improve performance.
This distinction is key to maintaining confidence and self-esteem later in life when criticism may not feel like its intended to be constructive. Sports can help young people understand how to manage their response to criticism by others and use it to motivate themselves in positive way.
As players get older and reach higher levels of hockey, it’s common for coaches to place more emphasis on areas such as strength training, sleep, nutrition, hydration, etc. Good habits in each of these areas are linked to enhanced performance in sports and a greater likelihood of healthy habits later in life.
A key reason why athletes often continue that active lifestyle is also an under-appreciated lesson of sports: self-awareness.
Once players see and feel firsthand the impact getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and being in good shape has on athletic performance, it’s only a matter of time until they realize those things have a similar positive effect in areas like taking tests, giving a speech or an interview.
One of the keys to success in any facet of life is knowing how to work with other people towards achieving a common goal. This isn’t always easy because every person is different, and those differences can lead to conflict.
Good teammates (and leaders) are aware of situations that may cause conflict, understand how to diffuse unnecessary conflict and resolve types of conflict that must be dealt with.
Athletes in team sports are frequently exposed to a range of conflict from minor issues like who had a certain place in line for a drill to serious incidents like bullying or hazing. Regardless of the severity, each situation provides an opportunity for young players to learn strategies such as dealing with conflict early (before it escalates!), managing emotions, showing empathy and looking for win-win resolutions.
Have you ever felt your son or daughter cares more about their stick’s tap job than their math homework?
While that is undoubtedly frustrating as a parent as you try to instill a high level of effort in school, there is a silver lining. Your young athlete is showing signs of caring for their equipment.
Many young kids have a tendency to leave a path of wreckage like a tornado everywhere they go. A key part of growing up is learning how to care for and maintain your belongings, and with the type equipment hockey has, there is a significant opportunity for players to see for themselves the effects of poor vs. proper care of their gear.
So don’t be afraid to put your player in charge of tasks such as airing out equipment at night or knowing when to get skates sharpened. These can be great first steps towards taking care of much bigger and more expensive items like a car or house.