In youth hockey, it’s about laying a foundation for growth both as a player and a person. Yes, there are those parents that will get upset because they think their child is the best and deserves special treatment. Every post-game or intermission talk by the coach will involve some sort of lesson for the players to try and grasp in hopes they take that lesson and apply it both on and off the ice. The most heartbreaking thing I have seen is when a player quits the game and then loses their path in life, this happens too frequently.

 

For my many years of coaching and training minor hockey players, I had many wonderful conversations with parents and answering their questions. Most parents that put their children in minor hockey have no real idea about what to expect when they signed-up their children, especially for new young parents. Many parents will be full of expectations and do whatever they can to make sure their sons or daughters get a good head-start with learn-to-skate programs, training camps, and a spring/summer league. At one point or another, parents will always look back and say these words during or at the end of our children’s minor hockey journey… “I Wish I Knew”

 

Here Are My Top 5 Parents “I Wish I Knew”

 

#1 “I Wish I Knew” – About the importance of volunteering sooner.

 

As parents learned their way around the league and get to know their coaching staff, they will develop a whole new perspective about how fragmented the knowledge-based between family to family and the importance of volunteering. Also, parents will learn and appreciate the many hours that the coaching staff puts in to ensure their children develop and be successful.

 

I know many parents will say Rep level coaches get paid to coach and you are right. Some Rep coaches earn an income, but not all coaches. Parents need to understand if you are coaching Minor Hockey it is a second job or at times, it can feel like your primary job. For example, the coaching staff will regularly meet at each other homes or at a Timmy’s to discuss practice drills, game strategies, review videos, how to improve players, all finances, tournaments, getting extra ice time, etc. This list can go on! The point is, Minor Hockey Coaches devote a lot of their free time for your children because they love coaching and giving back to the community.

 

Besides, I always challenged my parents to volunteer their time by coming up with ways to fundraise and create new fun exciting cheers for the team. For example, the parents will do a 50/50 draw at each game or a silent auction. Also, the parents will create a “Cheering” schedule and each scheduled parent will have to come up with a new cheer. This was a great way to have the whole team engaged and working together.

 

#2 “I Wish I Knew” – To have regularly and positively engaged conversations with the coaching staff.

 

As my son moved into his third year of house league and select hockey for the 2019/2020 season, I was no longer coaching every year. I noticed that most of the parents will start a casual conversation with me about minor hockey and what’s next. For many of them, I was like the wised elder that carried special knowledge of what to expect in the coming season or how the Rep levels worked. The truth is that many of them were like a deer in the headlights when I explained what to expect next season and the Rep levels.

I always advised parents to speak with their coaching staff and find out what the plans are for next year before the season ends, especially at the Rep levels. The reason why it is important to speak with the Head Coach or the Team Manager because plans can be changing directions at any moment. Rep hockey can be fun, but more often heartbreaking. By having regularly and positively engaged conversations with the coaching staff this will help parents to set the right expectations, be prepared financially, set training schedules, and in some cases, they may need to find a new team. I find the best coaches are the ones to be very open and lose the politics, which makes for an enjoyable season.

 

#3 “I Wish I Knew” – There was an easy way to choose skills camps.

 

Usually, Parents have no idea which camps were good, bad, or a waste of time. There was no way to tell where a Parent should enroll their child to develop their skills or get prepared for the pre-season try-outs. Parents sometimes do not realize their Rep coach (in Ontario) may operate their own camps/schools or work with reputable skills instructors. Also, parents do not speak with other parents on their team to see which camp they are enrolling their children.

 

Here are a few tips

 

Talk to People on your team – There are Rep coaches (in Ontario) that operate their own camps/schools or work with a reputable skills instructors. Also, speak with other parents on your team to see which camp they are enrolling their children and recommendations.

 

Google Reviews The beauty of today’s technology! Most Camps or schools will have google reviews and most reputable skills instructors will have a link to their Google reviews on their website.

 

Visit a camp in session – I highly recommend parents to visit a camp in session before enrolling your child. Parents can see what types of drills are being performed, how the instructor(s) are speaking/interacting with the players and you can speak with one of the parents to get their honest option. Also, if you noticed many players on the ice (50 players and up) don’t waste your time. It is a cash grab. Look for smaller camps, preferably 25 and lower.

 

Rotate between different skills camps – I highly recommend parents rotate between different types of skills camps. For example, one camp is all about stickhandling, shooting, and passing. Another camp can be working on strides only. And a camp that only focuses only on forward or defense development. The best part of rotating between different skills camps your children won’t become stagnant, start to become bored or uninterested, and having different voices will help keep them engaged.

 

The value of figure skating – As a trainer, I tried to well-prepare parents by advising them to enroll their children in figure-skating and provided them with a lot of community ice time. Players will learn their edges a bit more and become a much better skater. Figure skaters have learned how to use their bodies and know how to cut a corner or pivot the right way with speed, where hockey players just muscle through it without really much finesse. Playing hockey at a young age and participating in figure skating will help them down the road.

 

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#4 “I Wish I Knew” – Spring/Summer hockey wasn’t the only choice for my child.

 

In some parts of Ontario, Rep teams and parents become too focused before the season ends to play in a Spring/Summer team. The sad truth, Spring/Summer hockey programs are considered more valuable than the regular winter season. Talks would often start in late November with the secret games of assembling the team roster, the special invitations to these practices, and who will get to play in these tournaments. The problem, we forget there is life after hockey when the winter season is over. I am not knocking these programs. I have run my own elite Spring/Summer program call the G.T. Vipers, but I believe children should be playing other sports with their friends. Playing other sports will help reset their hockey mindset and be excited when the winter season starts again. Also, playing various sports can help develop other aspects of their game and health. For example, Soccer can help with their cardio. Baseball can help with their eye/hand coordination. Basketball can help with their reflex and quick body movements, etc. Lastly, just going outside to ride their bikes and/or rollerblading can keep them in a good healthy spirit.

 

#5 “I Wish I Knew” – Not to allow my passion to take over, but have great intentions for my child.

 

As parents, we have the goal, the hope, or the dream for our children to be drafted to the NHL one day. Let’s face the fact and the truth, there is a strong possibility that may not happen. So, what then? At the end of the day, your child got to play organized hockey with his mates and had a great time. There is nothing wrong with that. Maybe your child was lucky to play AAA hockey in Ontario but did not get drafted to the OHL. That is still impressive! Parents, please keep this in mind, your child will learn amazing long-lasting life experiences that other children will not experience. For example, your child will meet many incredible people and make lifelong friendships. Learned important tools that will help them in their journey of life. May have won Championships or lost in the finales. Will travel and play across Canada, the U.S, and maybe Europe. Finally, they may have earned a college scholarship through hockey. That is pretty awesome to me!

 

One thing for sure. Try to focus on making sure your children come first! Have fun and make it fun for them. A Small Tip – Celebrate something great after each game, it goes by so quickly!

 

I have shared 5 points of “I Wished I knew”. What are some of the “I Wished I Knew” you have learned over the years? Use that as a starting point for future conversation when encountering a new generation of Minor Hockey Parents, so their children can benefit from our experiences.

 

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Michael Orlotti

About Michael Orlotti

Michael has played various levels in Minor Hockey in the old MTHL league, High School Hockey at C.W. Jeffrey’s C.I., College Hockey with Seneca Braves - Now Called Seneca Stingers and was invited to play in Italy for the HC Milano Vipers. Attained his National Coaching Certification Level I & II from Hockey Canada. Also, Coached & Trained Players at various levels starting at the House League and through the GTHL A to AAA levels