Hockey, Kids, and Positive Coaching

Contributed by Christopher M. Meuse (Little Brook, NS)

This month we feature theories from the author of Hockey, Kids & Positive Coaching, a book that focuses on the significance of positive coaching and parenting that develops happy, confident, successful, and fulfilled individuals.

I RECENTLY PUBLISHED A BOOK titled Hockey, Kids & Positive Coaching, an inspiring story about a young boy whose love for the game of hockey is affected by the pressures placed on him by the adults in his life.

The story demonstrates the value of love and how a child’s growth and development are enhanced when guided by people who are more concerned about feelings of self-worth than numbers on a scoreboard. It illustrates the journey to true, peak performance is eased through guidance and education that go beyond skills.

A quality education focused on issues of self-worth will help create healthy conditions necessary for children to reach their greatest potential.

There are many theories and techniques that can be used to teach, coach and educate children. Some include strict discipline, tough love, the promotion of aggressive behaviour, acceptance and love, or a combination of all of these methods.

The value of developing a strong sense of self-worth, or self-esteem in a child cannot be over-emphasized.

The application of principled behaviours supported by empathic listening, understanding, and compassion can help parents achieve greater positive results when guiding their children on their journey through life.


Negative comments result in decreased strength and performance

I was motivated to write Hockey, Kids & Positive Coaching after witnessing negative behaviour in hockey arenas. It is likely that the adults exhibiting this behaviour had good intentions, but more of than not, resulted in diminished peak performance.

The joy of playing the game was also greatly decreased for all involved.

Negative comments and criticisms children experience — not only in sports, but in their lifetime — can be extremely disempowering and often lead to the formation of blocks, or barriers to learning and performance.

It has been scientifically proven that negative thoughts and comments result in decreased strength and performance.

I have witnessed very talented players become totally confused and disorientated on the ice after being yelled at by adults. The players were then further criticized after the game for their poor performance, the adults not realizing how their conduct actually contributed to the players’ poor performances.

We cannot empower children to do their best through negativity, whether in sports, at home, in school, or society in general.

This belief is demonstrated through the story and experiences of the book’s central character, Michael.


A coach who never used the word “win”

Renowned basketball coach, John Wooden exhibited many great character qualities as a coach, but also as a father, husband, and educator.

In an interview I heard years ago, the host introduced him as “a coach of love,” a coach who cared more about his players as individuals than he did about them as basketball players.

At the time of the interview, Wooden’s teams won more consecutive games and conferences than any other team in U.S. basketball history — an amazing result from a coach of love, who apparently never used the word “win” in the dressing room.


His explanation seemed to suggest that on a mind/brain (or neurological & psychological) level, a player can only perform at the highest level when focusing all of his/her energy on his/her own performance.

He believed that any percentage of energy that is used to focus on the thought of winning, or on scoreboards, or referees is energy removed from one’s ability to play at one’s best.

Wooden emphasized intrinsic motivation focused on one’s desire to play his/her best.

Yes, his players practiced hard and played hard, but the enjoyment aspect of the game was always emphasized. He never wanted playing basketball to be a chore.

The players’ challenge was with themselves. If they played their best than they were winners, despite what the scoreboard indicated. Obviously, Wooden’s record is a valid indication that his players usually played their best.


It’s important to be positive and compassionate

When young children are expected to play like pros, and are criticized for making mistakes, the results are seldom positive. The game becomes work and the play and fun aspects are lost far too early.

As Joseph Chilton Pearce writes in his  book Magical Child“through the function of play, the work takes place, and creativity unfolds … play is the only way the highest intelligence of mankind can unfold.”

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of being sincere in conversation with our children; positive reinforcement must be more than idle words.

There is great value in not merely using positive words in an attempt to manipulate children so that they will perform in a way that adults believe they should. It is important to be positive and compassionate simply because this is what children need and deserve.

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