USA Hockey Magazine

November 2015

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line change ADVICE FOR PARENTS, REFS AND COACHES ILLUSTRATION BY Darren Gygi 08 NOVEMBER. 2015 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM For a humble man like Mike Connor, being nominated as the Volunteer of the Month is as surprising as being inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame. When he moved to Somerset in 1979 there was no hockey and no indoor rink. In 1986 Connor was elected to the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey board of direc- tors. At the time he only planned to stay for three years. Thirty years later, he is still active, not only to get high school hockey and a rink established, which finally happened in 1996, but because of his love for the game. "I get to care about the whole state, not just my little town," Connor said. Within the first 10 years of serving on the WAHA board, Connor has seen the number of registered players double, and high school hockey grow at the same rate. Connor dubbed it "the best years of growth for Wisconsin Amateur Hockey." He doesn't see himself giving it up anytime soon. "It's hard to put down," said Connor, who was enshrined in the WAHA Hall of Fame in 2008. "After investing so much of yourself in all these years, its kind of hard to say 'well I'm going to retire now.' Plus it keeps me young." We sign our kids up to play sports because we want them to learn and grow, to know what it's like to be part of a team, to work hard to achieve a goal and to learn how to deal with adversity. But sometimes it's difficult for a parent to stand back and watch the learning process unfold. It's part of our DNA to feel that we should do whatever we can to help them. But there is a fine line between coddling and caring. Take the skate-lacing dilemma, for instance. There's going to come a time when you're no longer allowed in the locker room, and your kid is going to have to tighten those laces on her own. The same goes for carrying your child's hockey bag. That was a huge pet peeve of my son's former coach, who wasn't shy to take parents to task for slinging their kid's bag on their shoulders. Hockey mom Linda Aitcheson has a rule for her 9-year-old goalie, "If you wear it, you wheel it." "As a parent and coach, hav- ing children tie their own skates and carry their own bags [when they are old enough to do so] is not tough love at all," says Matt Sweeney, a Baldwinsville, N.Y., coach. "It is teaching them to be responsible and independent — two important life skills." Sweeney has a point: by doing everything for your child, espe- cially when they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves, you teach your son or daughter to rely on others for everything. Eventually, they'll lose confidence in themselves and you'll end up with a child who may not be capa- ble of standing on his or her own two feet. As my friend, Mary Gaspirini, a 12-year Syracuse hockey mom, sagely says, "We are parents first, and one of the primary goals of being a parent is to teach our children how to take care of themselves." For example, when it comes to your child learning how to lace up his or her own skates, Gaspirini suggests trying it dur- ing a few open skates. It's a stress- free environment as opposed to trying to learn this skill right before a game or practice. Sometimes it's best to just sit back and let the game itself reveal something about your little one, say, when you see your child strug- gling with others on the team. By letting them figure things out for themselves, you're help- ing your young hockey players develop into confident, capable kids that you'll be proud of. "Again, this is a great opportu- nity to teach life skills such as how to be assertive and how to properly resolve conflict," Sweeney says. So remember, the next time you're about to hoist your kid's bag on your own shoulder, ask yourself if you're really lightening their load further on down the line. Syracuse, N.Y., hockey mom Christie Casciano Burns is the author of The Puck Hog & Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid, now available on VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH Mike Connor Somerset, Wis. HOCKEY MOM COLUMN BY CHRISTIE CASCIANO BURNS "We are parents first, and one of the primary goals of being a parent is to teach our children how to take care of themselves." Hockey Parents Walk A Fine Line Between Coddling And Caring

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