The underlying tenet of USA Hockey is to teach kids the game and let them have fun. Do not focus on specialization and especially winning. In fact they say the biggest detriment to youth hockey today are the parents, who want to win and put pressure on their kids to play hard and succeed. Apparently, the long term consequence of this is that the kids burn out and lose interest in playing.
I have yet to see this play out, but I am new to this game, and according to USA Hockey, this fact is being seen at the pro level, where American hockey players are dropping off and other countries are taking the lead, especially in Europe, where they don’t even play games until they are 12 and over.
This is a difficult concept to embrace in our success driven world, and we live in a rural setting, far away from a really big metropolitan center, where I’m sure competition and drive to be the best are huge. We do, however, live near an Ivy League college, and I’ve found that this breeds a hyper-competitive environment. I saw it in Providence, and I see it in Hanover. The parents are wound way too tight, and they really push their kids.
As a consequence, their hockey program is amazing, but their kids are playing all the time. They have the resources and will to accomplish this, and again, they have a winning program. The reason I bring this up is because we have a smaller, weaker program that can’t compete with them, but in many ways, that’s not the point. We are really more about having fun and not pushing the kids, but even then, we are constantly reminded of the other programs success, which we are continually reminded of by the other families as well as the local newspaper. Plus, they need ice, so they use our arena to have practices and even games, so we get to see our beloved neighbors in the flesh every week. What are you going to do?
We’ll stay the course and stress fun and learning basics. It helps that their respective teams are not powerhouses and for that matter, overly ambitious. The kids really just want to have fun, so we’ll go with it and not worry too much about beating up on our opponents. My feeling is, as long as A&N are enjoying the game and developing as players, that’s all that matters. Who cares about scores and winning? Not me, that’s for sure... at least until I read about the other team in the local paper.
Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Hockey Players For Kids for the pic.