The rst years of hockey are equally import- ant to kids in developing their passion for sport, teamwork and friendships. From the first skate of the season, you are guaranteed to see a mix of new skaters that may have never stepped on the ice before to players that are returning for another season. Player’s emotions range from excitement to fear to sadness. It is always hard to see, but you know that in no time at all, they will all be enjoying the sport that brought them together and the friends they will make from being a part of the team.
Our team this year was no exception. We start- ed the season with just the mix we expected and the coaches were prepared to take on the challenge of encouraging the kids to learn the skills for hockey, but more importantly, make it fun and enjoyable so that they want to keep coming back week after week, year after year.
Parents also feel the same emotions as the kids when their child is first starting out. As one parent stated: “This as you know was my son’s first year playing, I was super hesitant about him being ready to play with the more experienced players.”
A sign of a successful season is when we see, from the same parent:
“This season changed him… I’ve never seen him so passionate about something! The team, the competition (maybe a bit much on the competition ha!), and really being so in tune with good sportsmanship.”
From a coach’s perspective, the emotions are no different. The first few weeks not only involve introducing them to the skills of hockey, but also helping them get over any fears from not knowing anyone, nervousness from the rst time on the ice and even panic from not being near their parents and having to trust a stranger everyone calls coach. This can be a stressful period at the start of the season in trying to ensure all the kids and their parents are happy with the session because the rst few weeks can turn someone off completely from the sport, but also make them want to keep coming back.
And again, when you get feedback at the end of the season from a parent that reads:
“Our daughter absolutely loved hockey this season. Every Saturday morning she’d run into our room and ask if it was time to leave for her game. She couldn’t wait to get on the ice! It’s such a great feeling as a parent witnessing your child do something they love.”
“It’s an absolute joy to bring a child who willingly loves to partake. The combination of skill practice and games held their interest at such a young age. I loved the positive encouragement the children received and the dedication of the coaches.”
It is a great feeling, as a coach, to know that the not only are we developing the skill of our young players, we are also feeding into their passion for the sport.
At the early ages of hockey, it is quite a visible progression of skill that can be seen in all players. From day one, we expect to see some skaters that can “shuffle” at best and some even have a hard time standing in their skates. By the end of the season, seeing all skaters skating in strides and engaged in a full game scoring goals and working together on the ice gives a feeling of accomplishment Not only with what the coaches were able to help develop, but with what they were able to develop with each other’s help as a team. What is not visible, is the one on one coaching with kids diminishes because as they become friends and teammates, they start working together more
in drills and games and need less “coaching” as they play. The more they come together as a team and learn together, the more you see they enjoy coming out to play. This is very evident when our little players say things like:
“Today I met Braeden at practice, we’re friends now”
or if you ask what one of their favourite things of the season is and they respond:
“I love that my best friend was on my team and I liked my coaches.”
At this young age, the kids do not remember after the game if they won or lost. They are not tracking the score or the goals of the game. They only remember the feeling of when they get a goal, the fun they have playing on the ice and the laughter they share while goo ng around on the bench waiting for their time to get back into the game.
More from our kids this year:
“I loved scoring, doing face offs and sitting on the bench with my team.”
“My favourite part of hockey, is passing and getting goals”
“I loved scoring and playing with my friends.”
“I love that we all get together and sometimes give high fives”
As a coach for this age, we don’t track our wins/losses or the goals that we may or may not be getting in the games. We are focused on seeing that each and every kid on our team is having fun. The goal of a season is to introduce the kids to hockey, develop their skills and make sure they enjoy their experience enough to want to keep coming back. The team we had this year made those goals easy. Not only did we have a great group of kids, we also had a great set of support- ive parents that helped the coaches week after week and a great lineup of volunteer coaches that shared an awesome attitude and vision towards our season and dedication to the kids.
Submitted by Kevin Rutkauskas, IP Timbits Blue Coach