The transition from youth hockey to competitive hockey (High School Hockey, Tier 1 Hockey, etc.) can be a tough pill to swallow for both the parents and the players. Here are some basic guidelines to help outline the expectations for both you and your athlete.
- Playing time is not equal and nor should it be. There’s a reason that I put this rule at number one. This is one that I’ve seen kids and parents struggle with the most. It’s likely that your player is not the greatest hockey player since Wayne Gretzky. With that being said, it’s also pretty likely that your son or daughter’s coach has reasoning as to why they’re not on the ice at all times. At the High School and Tier 1 level, shortening the bench is common and necessary. Not only does it teach youth important lessons but knowing who to put on the ice and when will lead to winning games. I promise that your little Jimmy will survive missing a few shifts.
- Knowing your role is extremely important. Athletes: knowing your role on the team is imperative to your success. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to accept your role. Some players are great defensively and when your team is up by a goal with a minute left, you’re likely a player that your coach will put on the ice. Some players are goal scorers and these players will likely be on the ice when a goal is needed. Not every player falls into one of these categories but that doesn’t mean that they are any less valuable. Some players have the role of getting the puck out of the zone, getting it deep and grinding it out and some players have the role of being a great teammate from the bench. Knowing your role is beneficial to the success of the team and being a team player. Accepting your role is something that you can choose to do or not. No matter what, it is always the athlete’s job to do what their coach says and to respect and buy into their role. However, the athlete can always choose to work towards putting themselves in a different role. Parents, your one and only role is to support your kids. Your role is not to coach your kid from the stands, it’s not to car coach them or tell your kids coach how to do their job. Again, your only role is to support your kids. Period.
- Habits and discipline are huge. Doing the little things and being disciplined leads to success- not only on the ice but also in real-life scenarios. Habits are created at practice. If the coach tells the team to skate all the way around the circle, then the players need to do it. When the coach says to skate all the way to the line, the players need to skate to the line- not 6 inches before the line but all the way to the line. Habits are what players will revert to when in quick-thinking situations. If the coach allows the players to cut corners at practice, they will cut corners in games. If players think they are making themselves look better by slacking, they’re not. Coaches see this and it will be noticeable come game time.
- Expectations are to be exceeded. At this level of hockey, the players need to willingly exceed expectations without being asked. A few of these expectations include:
- Being early to practices and games (if you’re not ten minutes early, you’re late)
- Dressing in game dress
- Receiving good grades
- Never missing a practice (unless you have extenuating circumstances such as the stomach flu or a death in the family)
- The player (not the parents) let the coach know when they will not be at practice
- Taking ownership of their actions and success
- Giving 110% at every training (off ice, weight room, practice, game, etc.)
- Working out 3-5 times per week
- Hitting it hard during the off season
- Being physically and mentally ready to work in the weight room and on the ice
Keep in mind that each team has their own set of expectations. These are a few general expectations that exist on all successful teams.
- The program is bigger than any one person. This is a huge one. Although it may be hard to accept, the program and the team are bigger than any one player. Ultimately, anyone involved with a high-level program needs to have the “team first” mindset. Players that pout when they miss a shift or complain, cry and make excuses when they don’t get to be on special teams are the worst kind of teammates. Always keep in mind that ice time is earned. Ice time is a privilege, not a right. The program existed before you got there and the program will exist after you leave. Respect the coaches, respect the program and respect the decisions made. Herb Brooks said it best, “when you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates and the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.”