I was home for the holidays and went to watch an 11u hockey game. My Dad is helping out as an assistant coach this year.
In 80 minutes of sitting in the top row of an ice rink, I observed a lot.
Mostly poor behavior.
And if you can make it through this entire article, I promise to share some tools. Some of this might hurt your “ego” because you engage in certain behaviors. My question is… Would you change your behavior now so your kid doesn’t fall out of love with a sport he is currently obsessed with?
Be an adult and read some hard truths so your poor kid doesn’t quit this game.
Here are two mental models you need to understand.
Thomas Waschenfelder explains inversion succinctly in his article, Inversion: Solving Problems in Reverse (click to read entire article)
What’s one way to get more of the thing you want? Avoid the thing that will destroy the thing you want. To get more life, just avoid death. To get more good, avoid the bad. This is inversion.
Know what disaster looks like, and then avoid doing the things that will lead to it.
So as a parent of a child who plays hockey, what does disaster look like for you?
Your kid falling out of love with the game?
Your kid resenting you?
Your kid quitting something before he can extract life lessons?
Those will be on my list of things to avoid.
However, in observing this game, I think parents are clueless to this mental model because they engaged in many net-negative behaviors that will lead their kid closer to the “disaster” and further from the “NHL.”
Here’s a rule of thumb to consider…
Every behavior you think as a parent is getting them closer to the NHL, the more harm it’s causing in reality. I’ll walk through a few examples. I don’t think you have ill intentions, I think your energy is misguided.
Yelling from the Stands
Parents that yell think:
I’m encouraging my son/daughter to try harder, be better, etc
I can give them quick advice they can hear and apply
The coach isn’t telling them to do this so I’ll yell it quickly
Parents that yell in reality:
Create a quick injection of stress for their son or daughter which hurts their ability to think and make decisions on the ice( learn the science of that here)
Disrupt the signal and create more noise for your son/daughter to sift through which again hurts their ability to play to their best ability
Distract from the messages the coaches are sending the players… Which, you guessed it… Makes them worse
Taking Notes of Negative Things for the Car Ride Home
One father of this 11u team… (bless his soul) was keeping a game sheet of notes for his kid. But he only wrote down negative things.
And on the car ride home… His poor kid was going to hear about all of them.
If you’re this dad, I’ve got some inversion for you… Stop being this guy immediately.
Your kid is 11. Take him for ice cream after the game. Tell him you loved watching him play. Tell him even though that between the legs, saucer pass, through traffic didn’t work to keep looking for creative ways to make plays.
Joke with him about falling down trying to stop at the faceoff in the 2nd period.
But for fucks sake, do not lecture him on everything he didn’t do up to your standards in an 11u game. That is not how to avoid disaster…
That is how you ensure it. How would you like those things to happen to you?
That’s where we are going next.
User experience is defined as “the overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or a computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.”
An experience is created for:
your kids every time you interact with them
When you say something or do something to them, they think something and feel something.
This is where empathy and social awareness come in.
You need to get inside of the user’s head and understand how your behavior makes them feel. Just as good companies survey their customers, you need to check in with your kids. If you’re engaging in “disaster parent behavior” ask your kid open-ended and non-leading questions:
When I yell from the stands, how does that make you feel?
When I go over the things you did poorly on the ride home, is that enjoyable/beneficial/fun for you?
What do I do as a hockey parent that you don’t like or wish I would stop doing?
Understand user experience, how would you like to be subjected to “death of 1000 cuts?”
Avoid disaster. Invert your parenting. Your kids will love the game and love you more for acting more intentionally and less impulsively.
To being better,
(Just an observant coach who cares)
P.S. If you’re a coach and want a potential solution to your “parent problems” read my next article and run this experiment.