Avoid the trap of overestimating your child’s abilities
By Warren Tabachnick
Like most parents (especially of the hockey variety), you probably think your child is the best. You wonder why they are not on the first line or given more ice time… or why they’re not the starting goaltender. As a parent, it’s only natural for you to feel this way.
But let’s face it, there comes a time when every parent needs to step back and look reality square in the face. Unless you’ve actually suited up and taken to the ice or stood behind your players on the bench, it’s almost impossible to be objective in evaluating your child’s skills and talent to play the game. This is how you can fall into the trap of overestimating your child’s abilities.
Like it or not, our emotional attachment to our offspring impedes our ability to fairly assess their performance especially when stacked up against their teammates, of whom we can be much more critical.
The fact is your child’s current relative skill level may not hold up as they move on in their playing career. As they get older and move into higher levels, players just keep getting bigger. Also—heaven forbid—injuries can totally derail the trajectory of a youth hockey career, as can a simple change in your kid’s focus. Maybe they’ll find themselves getting involved with another sport or hobby, or with a love interest who takes up much of their time (they are getting older, aren’t they?). You get the picture.
If you see that your child is working hard and doing everything they can to improve but it’s just not happening, it’s a good indication that you are overestimating your child’s abilities and they’re not as good as you think they are. Your child’s coach might let you know that he or she lacks the ability to play a specific position (or even make the team). That doesn’t mean they should quit playing; it just gives you some better perspective.
In fact, if your child does possess noteworthy athletic ability, you can be sure those around you will let you know. Perhaps the best indication that your child has got skill is the reactions from his/her teammates.
It’s not so bad to be overestimating your child’s abilities sometimes. But if it causes you to react in a manner that creates friction with the coach or the other parents—not to mention your child—it’s time to look yourself in the mirror.
If on the other hand you truly believe your child is the next Sidney Crosby, get a second opinion from a qualified coach or someone who has played at a high level. They will know best if your kid has what it takes to move on.
Warren Tabachnick is the editor & publisher of CrossIceHockey.com. You’ll find him on the ice, weakly.
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Yes, I’m in this world of reality currently. I have a 15U tier 1 AAA who is so passionate about the game and gives it everything. But…for all his effort I see him as an average player and looking at what is next for him.
He has the size, speed, strength, grit, pretty good hands and pretty good hockey sense but lacks some of the natural movement and fluidity of the game. I see the higher level players that check all the boxes and lower level kids with better hockey sense that just always seem to be around the puck. His coach typically refers to him as the grinder player and is always telling him to light up the other team to “set the tone” (surprisingly he does not spend much time in the box).
He does what he is told but it’s not who he is. He has had some very nice scoring moments and shot blocking ability, passes the puck well. He does a lot of nice stuff but he just can’t seem to pull it all together.
The big issue coming up is the next couple of years and his dream of playing junior hockey and then college. The amount of time, energy, and financial resources is crazy at these next levels and I feel like you can see the kids that are going to the next level, and the others that are there but not really sure if they are legit players and mom and dad standing there with their checkbook.
Sometimes I have buyer’s regret but try to keep things in perspective with it all. I tell my son he has to continue to work hard, take non of this for granted (he is privileged to play this game), and be the best teammate he can be, on and off the ice. I’m due for a talk with his coach as a check in, not sure what I’ll hear. Sometimes I feel like we are just there to make sure the numbers are covered on the team, and coach likes having a “good” utility player that can play all the positions and handle a bit of the dirty work.
Maybe that IS what my son is and that is the reality. He is not a super star just super hard worker. He gets a lot of ice time and is usually called upon often but sometimes there is no consistency in his performance. These are the questions I need to ask so I can get some clarity of where things might sit. I feel his compete level is right there, just sometimes he gets himself out of position and that gets him in trouble. In some regards I would say it’s a development thing and he just needs more time, but as this whole things starts playing out…
When do you run out of time and the game has moved on and you really need to take that deep, hard look and ask yourself are we really doing the right thing? Sign up for another season, pay your dues, and see what happens. If the opportunity is there do you take it and make the best of it while continuing to develop and keep showing up? That is what we are suppose to do, right? But when do you say enough is enough?
Let’s drop the circus (be a dream killer) and get on with the outside world. But as many people have told me, you should take it as far as you possibly can because you never know… Don’t have regrets with the ‘I wish I would have seen how far he could’ve have gone…’
Up until a year ago he was a great multi-sport athlete (football, baseball, track) and all the HS coaches are asking if he will be coming out. I regrettably tell them No, as the boy has his sights set on one sport now, and says he has no interest in them and this is all he wants to do. He is a freshman this year and with Covid this season we are fortunate to have what we have.
I am grateful to be able to allow my son to play this game but get resentful on how it is playing out. Yes, I have expectations but the hard part is feeling like we just aren’t there and are chasing something that honestly might not be there. If you read this far, thank you. Just having a parent moment. Thanks, Rob.
That’s quite a story, Rob. Of course, the last thing you want to do is burst your child’s bubble. But at the same time, the situation requires you to sit down with your son and have a straightforward talk. Tell him how much you support him and his dreams, while bringing up the facts. Your talk should include a discussion about the chances of making it in the highly competitive upper levels of the sport, as well as a look at the resources available to see him through his journey. Total honesty on both sides is a must.
My son is above average but not elite… He was awesome at the lower level but when he moved up it became more obvious he wasn’t the best of the best. He is getting better all the time but is lacking in size and can’t keep up with the cream of the crop. I’m happy that he is progressing as a second tier player and plays well at this level, not beyond for now. It’s all about getting these kids at the right level to enjoy the game.
When people ask about my one son I always say he still sucks….people seemed shocked by that response too but I am 100% honest about my kids abilities. Hockey is not going to be his main thing. The other one is pretty decent but not the next McDavid…LOL
Brutally honest, but it’s good policy to keep things in their proper perspective. Thanks, Kristie.
Well stated. My parents did not overestimate my academic abilities. They’d seen my report cards! We’re working to bring that kind of transparency and clarity to youth hockey and other sports.
Good article. I have played and I have coached but I still seek the advice from others regarding my own kids just in case I might be missing something, or have a blind spot to something. That said if I know I see something, and another objective coach validates what I think and the current coach he has says the opposite it can get very frustrating to say the least and that’s when even I struggle with the right way to handle things. I try and let the kids advocate as much as possible for themselves but I’m never sure where to draw the line if something overtly wrong is going on. Anyone else struggle with this?
Politics play a part and I know first-hand after coaching that opinions vary vastly. Some (most) are focused solely on a particular aspect of the game and not the game as a whole. Lots look at just the goal scoring and not the defensive effort and positioning. I’ve heard both parents and coaches totally think a kid is the next Sidney Crosby because of his goals, but look right past that he steals pucks from his teammates, and doesn’t pass or play defense. It is hard because even when evaluating the team with the other coaches, I’ve noticed completely different perspectives.
I started coaching because I felt politics were screwing my kid… and I was right. However, my kid was better than his placement but not as good as the elite kids.