Hockey, Kids & Positive Coaching
By Christopher M. Meuse
Christopher M. Meuse is a retired teacher living in Little Brook, Nova Scotia. He is the father of three children, and a certified hockey coach under the Canadian National Coaching Certification Program.
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.
I recently published the book, 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. It 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. The story illustrates that the journey to true peak performance in life is eased through guidance and education that go beyond skills. A quality education which is focused on issues of self-worth will help to create the healthy conditions necessary for children to reach their greatest potential.
I was motivated to write Hockey, Kids & Positive Coaching by negative behaviour that I witnessed being displayed in arenas where children play hockey – behaviour which adults probably used with a positive intent, but which often negatively 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 performance. 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.
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 excellent 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. In the end, children and adults will have greater respect for each other while achieving greater levels of excellence.
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