My kids are genetically average (from an athletic point of view) – I am ok with that.

We have exposed our children to as many activities as life, time, and money will allow.

We’ve tried hockey.
We’ve tried soccer.
We’ve tried baseball.
We’ve tried rugby.
We’ve tried dance.
We’ve tried ballet.
We’ve tried theatre.
We’ve tried basketball.
We’ve tried karate, tae-kwan-do, and yoga.

Our kids were ok at all of those activities.  They tried hard, they worked hard, and they had fun. Never the standout star of the team, but always a valuable part of the team.

Should we have picked a lane and just focused on one sport like hockey? Should we have looked for spring leagues, power skating camps, and hockey academies to accelerate and improve skills?

I don’t think so. We accept what is. Sport for kids should be fun, not a job. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it ain’t the infinitesimal chance of making the NHL or the Olympics, it’s happy, confident kids.   Ask any professional athlete or coach what it takes to get to any elite level?   Most would immediately say “genetics!”

While dedicating weekends and weeknights to hockey wasn’t super appealing, the costs of elite rep hockey are staggering from equipment to coaching, camps and even hotels at faraway tournaments. Could we afford it? Maybe for one kid, but I have 4 children. Does only the one that shows the most promise go and we buy colouring books for the others?

Don’t even get me started on the politics of elite sports like hockey or figure skating or the crazy parents that inhabit those worlds.

But I will openly admit, I do struggle with the notion of not pushing my kids in activities. If they show promise and interest, am I doing them a disservice by not making maximum opportunities available to them? I want my kids to know sacrifice, working hard, and dedication as corner stones for a strong adult work ethic, but should hockey, for example, be our chosen vehicle for these life lessons?

Because we have jumped around from activity to activity with our kids, never spending more than two ‘seasons’ at any given activity, our children have never really had the chance to improve skills over time. Was that a mistake?

Exposing them to different opportunities was important to us, but also allowing the children to choose their activities has been equally important. Their sport/activity resume looks like a job-jumpers work experience nightmare, but it’s what they wanted. They were choosing a sport because THEY wanted to try it, not because they thought it was what WE wanted.

I don’t want to live vicariously through my kids. I have a life and so should they. My ego is my ego, not theirs.

I coached my oldest son for year at hockey. He loved it and I loved it. He was good, not great, but he enjoyed it. However, he was lukewarm when the topic came up the following season. I was worried that he might choose to play hockey to please me and unless he is bolting out of bed and really jacked for a 6am Saturday morning practice, I wasn’t pulling teeth to get him to play. So we chose to not play hockey and he did break dancing that fall with,  apparently, no regrets.

I was fortunate enough to play every sport growing up and was pretty decent too. Sport can be tremendous source of confidence and self esteem. Now, I enjoy sport for the exercise and social connections. That is what I want for my children: to have the skill set and coordination for many sports. Shoot, pass, skate for beer league hockey. Leave the left wing lock to the pros.

TAKEAWAY POINT: Where is that balance of push and pull? Knowing when to encourage your kids to help achieve a higher level or accepting what is and letting them choose their path of experiences.

Although, parents are terrible judges of their own kid’s ability, you still know your kids best. Be honest…. Do they really love it? Or do they love it because they think YOU really love it? Forced participation can not only hurt the self esteem of your child, but also build resentment; resentment towards you and the activity!

Every parent’s goal is a happy well rounded kid. If pushing your child to excel is working and you are blessed with an elite athlete, then go for it. But for the other 99% of us, let your kids lead their way to happiness by helping provide opportunities for a variety of activities and experiences.

Be a fan and cheerleader on the sidelines, with front row tickets to the best game in town!

Until next time…

PS… Hockey families?   Do I have it all wrong?  Are we missing out on something?