Watching your child slip on hockey gloves and take the ice for the first time can cause a moment of anxiety for most parents. Pro hockey rosters are full missing teeth, crooked noses and broken bones. But should your fears deter your kids from playing the game?
Hockey mom Cynthia Downs, a Canadian Tire brand ambassador, shares her advice for parents wanting to put their fears on ice. Mom to pro hockey player Frazer McLaren, she has advice for parents looking to keep their little hockey player safe.
Hockey Injuries Exist, but Aren’t as Common as You Think
Downs says the anxiety over injuries in hockey is, for the most part, unnecessary.
“Parents should relax,” she says. “Frazer has been playing since he was five and he just recently broke a finger. Never lost a tooth.”
Not to say that there is no risk involved: A 2012 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicates that roughly 20 per cent of winter injuries in Canada during 2010 to 2011 were hockey related, with boys ages 10 to 19 accounting for half of them.
Hockey Safety Starts With You
Keeping your child safe while playing the game goes beyond making sure they have the proper equipment. “You need to reinforce safety skills,” Downs says.
Part of that reinforcement is cracking down if and when you see in-game fighting. Watching from the sidelines gives parents a great view of their kids’ on-ice behaviour. Think your kids are playing too rough? “You have to call them out on it,” says Downs. “Point out dangerous behaviour.”
But the responsibility to keep your kids safe on the ice is not solely yours as parents, either. Your kid’s coach should be teaching defensive skills along with shooting and skating drills.
Downs says she has seen a recent shift in coaching styles that include teaching children how to avoid dangerous situations, such how to safely retrieve a puck from the corner, or how to be aware of where other players are while skating.
“It’s a good evolution in hockey,” she says. And it may be something to bring up with your kids’ coach.
Don’t Focus on the Final Score
Something to keep in mind as a hockey parent is to not get too stressed over the possibility of an injury. “You can’t protect your kids from everything,” Downs says.
The best thing any parent can do for their child is to support them as best they can and not pressure them to win every game. Downs made sure to keep her son’s life in balance and never let his hockey games become too much.
“We never asked him if he won the game, that’s just setting him up for failure,” she says.
Downs suggests that when it comes to talking to your son or daughter about games, never talk about winning or losing. Instead, she recommends you ask questions such as “what was your best play?” or, “did you have fun?”
“Be supportive,” Downs says. “[The game is] about so much more than winning.”
Want to be a Hockey Canada-certified safety person for your kid’s hockey team? Learn more at Hockey Canada’s Safety Program page.
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