Sports Parenting is Hard: A Hockey Mom’s Perspective

June 11, 2024

Steph Dukesherer

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real and any hockey parent that tells you otherwise, is a unicorn (and could make millions by sharing their secret).

The Journey

Most youth sports parents agree that the reason they put their young child in sports was to develop valuable life skills while creating physical health habits and memories to last a lifetime. If you have not read Toph’s mom’s blog post, go check it out – it’s gold.

Many families are perfectly content playing local, rec league sports with aspirations of perhaps playing for their high school team one day. But somewhere along the journey, most families are also presented with opportunities that will change the trajectory of the goals and dreams.

Embracing Breaks and Acknowledging FOMO

We often (ie, almost always) hear high level players and coaches – in any sport – talk about the importance of athletic development versus early sport specialization. When your child loves a sport and wants to participate in it year round, it’s hard to enforce a break – even when you know as a parent, it’s what is best for them long term. We pick our battles every day with our kids, and every sports parent eventually asks themselves, “Why on earth would I CREATE a battle by taking away something they love, that is keeping them active – especially when their friends and teammates are on the ice year-round, or close to year round?”

Why? Because breaks are good. Breaks foster that love because they end up missing it, and hit the ice each fall with energy and enthusiasm. Taking breaks encourages them to find other passions, expand their social circle, connect with other mentors, and develop as an athlete. 

Is it easy to force that break when you see teammates jetting off to every development camp, every showcase, and every “elite” tournament in the summer? No, no it is not. But the best things in life are not easy. Parenting is NOT easy – and sports parenting can be next-level hard.

Making the whole experience even more difficult as a hockey parent is the fact that every child’s journey is different, regardless of the final destination. And, rather than focusing on the finale that you or your child dreams of, learning to stay present and locked in on what works for your family is the key to staying sane.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real and any hockey parent that tells you otherwise, is a unicorn (and could make millions by sharing their secret). When players are young, it’s generally the parents who have the fear of missing out on opportunities – and there is a BIG difference between KNOWING an “elite” showcase for 8 or 9 year olds is absolutely not going to impact their track to the NHL, and embracing that your player heading out to play Little League, or lacrosse, or soccer during the summer at 8 or 9 might actually impact their track to any high level athletic endeavor. 

Development isn’t happening in summer showcases and tournaments – more is not better at the younger ages. High level exposure is NOT a thing in the summer – but high level experience could be. If you have the opportunity for a terrific family experience and the means to make it happen – go for it. But if exposure is the driving factor, you’re better off spending your dollars on a family vacation, a strength & conditioning program, or regular season hockey fees. Look in the mirror and tell yourself as a parent, that this IS a battle you’re willing to have FOR your child. And no, there is no magic potion to make that decision less hard – at any age. This is where having the right leadership or the right coaches and mentors is pivotal. Having those opportunities available for kids and families that want to take part is fine (ish), but making families feel as if not participating could jeopardize a player’s spot on a team, just should not happen in youth sports.

Hall of Fame Parenting

We recently had Hall of Famer, Chris Pronger, on the podcast (if you haven’t listened yet, seriously do yourself a favor and go listen HERE right now), and he dished out some unreal insight regarding parenting. He talked about how his parents forcing him to put the bag away every spring and summer fostered his love of the game – and the passion created as a result, was ultimately a major contributing factor to the success he had on the ice. 

Sometimes, fostering that passion means setting boundaries (like taking breaks) and then watching your kids thrive while learning lessons for a lifetime.

“Support your child in their passions. I think most parents want the best for their kids, but (parents need to) stay out of the way. Let them own the fun – it doesn’t matter what they’re playing as long as they’re having fun. Every parent should want their kids to be happy and work hard. They learn what work ethic is and learn the value of putting the work in and seeing what happens after that, and it follows them into adulthood.” ~ Chris Pronger

At the end of the day – we all just want to be the best we can be for our kids and help raise good humans. Sometimes, we can get in our own way and rob them of valuable lessons and opportunities for growth because of our own fear of messing up. Here’s news: we all mess up, we all make mistakes, and our kids are better for watching us navigate them.

The sports journey is ultimately theirs, and we should try every day to let them have it, regardless of how many mistakes we may have made the day before.

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