Some months ago, over in a LinkedIn hockey forum, Steve Dyck introduced his rather open feelings on a sometimes tricky topic. It struck home with us, both because of the subject matter, and because of the heartfelt way in which Steve approached the subject.
There’s little doubt that his thoughts belong here within American Youth Hockey – Coast to Coast. If nothing else, all of us should at least ponder what kids, parents and coaches go through when it comes to parental involvement with a youth team. Just where we should run this essay was yet another matter.
In the end, we realized that Steve was raising as good a question as he was making a statement. And for that reason we decided to place this article here in our Poll section.
At the very bottom readers will find easily clickable choices — for whether a parent should or shouldn’t head coach his or her child’s team. Of course there’s a third choice, as well, with that one deserving of a little explanation.
An Observational Editorial submitted October 30th, 2013
by Steve Dyck
As a Hockey Canada Certified Coach, I started volunteering in 2009 as head coach when my oldest son started with the local minor hockey association and I have helped as an assistant coach every year since. My local minor hockey association relies on unpaid volunteers for the entire coaching staff from squirt to midget.
I don’t mind coaching my own children, and in fact enjoy watching their progression from one practice to the next. However, being a Dad and a coach to your children can create certain challenges. At times I think my children don’t like to listen to dear old Dad as a coach because they already have to listen to him at home. This is especially evident when the challenges of a parental relationship and situations at home are carried onto the ice during practices or games. We may try our best to separate the two roles at the two different locations. However, we are only human and tend to remember the hurt feelings and bad attitudes witnessed as we walked out the door in the morning. Becoming an unbiased Coach to your kids can be very challenging at the best of times. Below are two of the most evident challenges to parent/coaches in my experience.
In my local Minor Hockey Association once players get to Atom (9yrs Old) two things happen:
1) At the Atom age our local minor hockey association tiers their divisions into Gold, Silver and Bronze. This is done at an evaluation camp before the season begins. As a coach I would want to evaluate the players that may be coming my way. As a volunteer, I want to coach my child so we’re not going two different directions on the same weekend. As a parent, it can be almost impossible to be objective as a coach. For example; I may believe for arguments sake that my son is “good enough” for the Gold team, even though he may not be, the evaluation process is instantly unfair to the rest of the children being evaluated. Or on the flip side, I may be too harsh a judge on my own child and, even though he may have all the skill and talent to be on the Gold team, my evaluation may put him down to the Silver or Bronze team. Again, this is also unfair.
2) Skip ahead to the end of the season. At the Atom age our local association hands out individual awards. An example would be for Most Improved Player. In this case we witness a child receive a medal/recognition for being the first one to the rink for all practices and games. Perhaps this recognition is deserved for other reasons that weren’t mentioned, but it has the tendency to look bad when the player didn’t have a choice when to arrive. After all, his Dad’s the Coach! Even though my child may deserve an individual award, as his parent and coach, I am very hesitant to award it for fear of it appearing as favoritism, even if all other Coaches are on board with the decision.
Every parent that is a volunteer must face some difficult choices as to what’s best for themselves and their individual child. So even though I enjoy Coaching and Assistant Coaching, I have decided not to coach my own children in Atom and beyond. This decision does not come lightly, but I am confident it’s the right one.