Hockey Parents Dilemma: Too Invested?

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hockey parents dilemma
M I K E M O R R I S

Are you too invested in your child’s hockey? How to tell and what to do about it.

By Tim Turk

Having a child that plays hockey is a big commitment. There are the practices, the games—not to mention tournaments, some of which can be far away. Registration fees and gear can also cost a pretty penny, and watching your child play can be stressful. You’re worried about them performing well, about whether they’re having fun, if they’re being treated fairly and of course about their safety. That’s the hockey parents dilemma.

These things bring up an important question that arises for many of us in the world of hockey: Are parents too invested in their child’s hockey? To properly answer this, we should consider these three forms of “investment”: financial, emotional, and time.

Hockey Parents Dilemma #1: The Financial Investment

Depending on the skill level and area you live in, paying for a child to play youth hockey for one season can be quite expensive. You can expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to (gulp!) $10,000, which includes registration fees, game fees, and equipment costs. This means that to have a child play hockey for 10 years, parents can be paying up to $100,000 to fund it!

Of course, this is an extreme case where the registration fees are ridiculously expensive, and your child is taking very poor care of their equipment (or growing way too much every year). But you get the point: this is an enormous sum of money for a child to be able to play a recreational sport, but countless parents shell out the money nonetheless and are happy doing it.  And to further compound matters, some even have more than one hockey player in the family!


Hockey Parents Dilemma #2: The Time Investment

To gain a clear understanding of exactly how much time having a child that plays hockey can take from a parent’s week, let’s consider Robert, proud father of Jake, a 13-year-old hockey player. Every week, Robert brings Jake to one practice and one game, which take approximately two hours each considering the travel time. But since Jake is so driven to be the best he can be, Robert also takes Jake to lessons with a personal hockey trainer on the side; this adds another two and a half hours out of his week.

If we also consider the trips to purchase gear and spending full nights away from home for out-of-town tournaments, Robert can be spending upwards of 40 hours a month dedicated to Jake playing hockey. And certainly, this example is not far off from the amount of time that most hockey parents dedicate to their hockey-playing children.


Hockey Parents Dilemma #3: The Emotional Investment

Everyone wants to see their child succeed and be happy, and that is certainly no different for parents who have children that play hockey. It becomes a hockey parents dilemma as everyone worries about their child’s safety while playing. This includes their mental and emotional well being—i.e., whether they are accepted by the other members of their team, if they’re making enough friends on the team, and most especially, if they’re being treated right by their coaches.

And to varying degrees, hockey parents also worry about whether their child is truly enjoying themselves while playing the sport, and that they’re happy with their performance in the games. As well, many of the parents also have an innate love for the sport; they may have played it as a child or had always wanted to play but never got the opportunity. So, there is a significant amount of emotional investment there as well.

To determine if you’re too invested in your child’s hockey career, first think about the three areas mentioned above and place a solid guess on exactly how invested you are. Next, consider the following questions:

How much is your child enjoying playing hockey?

If your child tries to make excuses for missing practices or games, complains when they end up going to them, or just generally seems disinterested in the sport, then it might be time to make a change (but next season!). Explain that they need to fulfill this year’s commitment, but perhaps change to a different sport or activity next time around (which in turn may save money and time).

How much are you enjoying seeing your child play hockey?

Being happy because your child is enjoying themselves and having fun is awesome, but achieving your own sports dreams through the actions of your child should be carefully considered. It may lead to the realization that your child truly doesn’t enjoy playing hockey, but is only sticking with it because they are feeling pressured. In this case, it might be time to consider the first point again, or at least attempt to decrease your emotional investment.

How much do you think your child really needs (or wants) your support?

This point is geared more towards those super-involved hockey parents who pace the boards during games and shout at just about anything they can. We all know a parent like that, and if you can’t think of anyone off the top of your head, then maybe it’s you!

In a lot of cases, vocal and overly involved parents can embarrass their child more than displaying the sense of support which they intended. Therefore, this behavior should be carefully checked to make sure that the child is okay with it. If not, then it might be time to really decrease your emotional investment.

The question of whether parents in general are too invested in their child’s hockey is truly an opinion and open to interpretation. But with a bit of self-reflection and using the method outlined above, any hockey parent can figure out if they themselves are too invested and make the appropriate change if needed.

In the end, it can go a long way for both your own happiness, and the happiness of your hockey player.

Tim Turk is a frequent contributor to CrossIceHockey.com. He has been an NHL-level skills and shooting coach for over 18 years, and continues to work with NHL players while making time for minor league hockey teams and players. For more information visit his website, www.timturkhockey.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Awesome article. Thankfully we live in an area that has plenty of options for the kids, so the financial, even on the high end, isn’t nearly as bad as other cities. Plus, it’s fairly easy to find decent used equipment through networking around here.

    Of my 3 kids between 6-10 only one showed immediate interest and wants to do it year round. So, even this time of year, I have no problem getting him about 3 days of ice time. 1 spring game, 1 skating coach, 1 skills clinic/group skating. Maybe a day of spring practice, but not that common. My 10 year old likes to play, but wants to wait til spring season next year. So, once a week on the ice is fine. My 6 year old is just learning.

    I’m also staying away from tournament teams until at least 13 years old.

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