By Chris Gernentz
Benilde-St. Margaret’s School
Let me preface this episode with saying that I know that most of you are amazing parents, probably much better at it than I, but I also know some of you stress and struggle with this goalie parent thing!
As most of you are preparing for a full game schedule, I see the pacing start. You’re nervous trying to find your perch at games to avoid any contact with those who might pass on that feared, snide look. I joke with goalie parents that I should buy an RV, stock it with beverages and call it the Traveling Therapy Room! Those that have been to Roseau for a hockey tournament know exactly what I mean!
Fear not goalie parents, I’ve been there, through this lovely thing called goalie parenting! You know the feeling – your goalie pitches a shutout, other parents come hugging and comment on how well Jimmy or Becky played. On the other hand, if he/she gives up a “weak” goal, they pretend they forgot your name and your invitation to the after-party is rescinded! Let’s break this down.
1. The weak goal
For those of you who have played in the net, I’m sure you have your opinion on what is truly a weak goal. Yes, there is such a thing and we don’t like to see our goalie give one up, especially if it happens during a big game or crucial time. Fact is, they happen; a goalie will lose focus from time to time.
I find this more of an issue than it should be, and you know why? Whether you realize it or not, your goalie is often more concerned about pleasing you than him/her. I know, truth hurts, but the best way to alleviate this is to keep hockey talk to a minimum and only engage if they start the conversation. Don’t coach them, don’t say things that might add undo pressure. Lord knows, there’s enough of that! Remember these three words: love, encourage and praise. The fewer words you can use to say this, the better!
2. The shutout
As much as all goalies love to see 10 shutouts a season, reality is, well, that’s not reality. Remember my reality vs. nightmare vs. dream discussion? Over the years, my concern centers more on goalies thinking they “need” to get shutouts. It is the ultimate “I played my best” indicator, right? Not so fast. In an upcoming episode, I will talk about consistency. This is what all goalies should strive for. No use getting a shutout if you can’t back it up. It’s like hitting a 300-yard drive, then shanking your next shot out of bounds.
This leads me to one major fault we as parents need to correct. Setting the expectation dial to PERFECT is the worst thing we can do! When I ask parents how their goalie is playing, often the first words out of their mouth relates to number of goals given up. As a parent, this needs to be subsided as best as possible. Let’s shift our focus to how consistent he/she has been. What is their energy level? Are they developing? Are they learning new things? And most of all, are they having fun? If you can’t answer these questions, you might want to figure out a way to do so, or your goalie will burn out.
3. The blame game
In addition to the above commentary around goals given up, I hear how bad the defense played in front of Jimmy or Becky. I remember the second day my son was at his first goalie camp and the coach had all the goalies in a room after a session. His first question was, “So how do you feel about being responsible for winning and losing?” Winning is easy to shoulder, but losing, that is a tough one. We all love to win, but as a parent, staying away from allowing the proverbial finger to point outward is a must, unless of course it’s done in front of a mirror.
Sometimes the best thing for your son or daughter is to fail, let me repeat … LET THEM FAIL! Then, let them manage that failure. It’s not easy, and can be heartbreaking, but believe me, they will thank you later!
This is where my earlier word – love – comes in! I think compassion comes into play here as well. Let them have some time, and then check on them to ensure all is OK. I’m not suggesting you ignore them, especially if there is something else going on (kids saying something, or worse a parent). This is something you should discuss with the coach, but wait 48 hours. They will be OK, I promise!
4. The pull
This one word is probably one of the toughest for a parent to swallow. I’ve seen coaches have rules around pulling a goalie related to goals given up, but let’s be honest, if Jimmy or Becky are struggling to see the puck due to a distraction (sickness, home issues, etc.), it might be in their best interest for a coach to pull them. But for the most part, many coaches will let a goalie stay in and battle their way through, more on this below.
As a parent, understand the pull will happen. You can’t do anything about it, but help your goalie through it. They need to live to fight another day! Do you think Carey Price has ever been pulled? Most definitely! Did he fall apart after it? Generally, no. In fact, being pulled can help build character, heart and the will to compete. More often than not, being pulled serves as a wake-up call and is most likely deserved. Dare I say, I’ve seen it coming a number of times.
5. Coaches’ decisions
There really isn’t much to this, but it needs to be said. The coach’s decision is final. As soon as your goalie starts playing, learn to trust the coach. Your life will be much easier if you do. I know, it’s much easier to say than do, but remember that coaches see things you don’t – work ethic, locker room attitude, etc. These are very important elements in your goalie’s development and you have to let it happen. Now, this isn’t saying all coaches have goalies as their No. 1 priority, but as I mentioned earlier, a little failing and adversity is good for all hockey players!
6. How to survive
I can tell you, after having gone through youth and high school hockey, my life got easier when I trusted the coaches and encouraged my son. That’s not saying I always liked the decision, or that I wasn’t hard on him at times, but to this day, we still talk about games in Squirts!
Those parents of players who have never played goalie will never know the rollercoaster of being a goalie parent. It’s said over and over that goalies are a special breed, and that is true, but that then makes you, as the goalie parent, guilty by association. You’re as special as they are. It’s tough being a goalie parent, really tough – remember that!
And lastly, speaking of tough, kids are tougher than we give them credit for. They don’t let things bother them as much as we as parents do. I remember on more than one occasion that they taught us how to cope - they came home, grabbed their skates and sticks and headed to the park. Need I say more? It’s a parent’s job to be the parent. Sometimes just sitting back and enjoying the game is all you need to do. Love the experience, love your goalie and as I’ve said before, enjoy the ride. It goes way too fast!