34 Reasons Why Ice Hockey Is The Best Youth Sport To Watch

34 Reasons Why Ice Hockey Is The Best Youth Sport To Watch

After 10 years as a sport parent of many sports, I declare that the best youth sport to watch is ice hockey. My journey of being a youth hockey parent began in January 2011. My wife and I currently have four kids. Three boys and a girl. Our middle boy Brayden was four-years old when he asked us if he could play ice hockey.

At the time, I jokingly blamed our neighbors for getting us wrapped up in this expensive sport. (Now I thank them.) We lived on a cul-de-sac and the kids in the neighborhood all started playing street hockey together. Street hockey quickly elevated to roller hockey.

Once he could inline skate, Brayden got the urge to learn how to ice skate. We took all three boys to a few open skates and they all loved it, especially Brayden. After he got the hang of ice skating, he started asking, non-stop, if he could play ice hockey.

That Christmas his gift from us was a session of Learn-To-Play Hockey at our local rink. Since that moment, the game of youth hockey has been the gift that keeps on giving to our family.

Absolutely No Clue

I came into the youth hockey world completely clueless. I never had the pleasure of playing ice hockey as a kid. As we walked into the rink for that first Learn-To-Play session, I felt totally out of my element. I wasn’t even sure how to gear Brayden up properly.

The rink locker room was packed with other kids sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on benches that lined the walls. Parents were also shoulder-to-shoulder kneeling down in front of each kid to help get their equipment and uniforms on. There were huge hockey bags and gear all over the floor.

Totally Hooked

Once Brayden was geared up, laced up and ready to hit the ice, he was smiling from ear-to-ear. He couldn’t wait. And once I saw him step out there and skate around, I was hooked. Youth hockey clubs aren’t stupid. They make their Learn-To-Play programs extremely affordable. They know that once kids and their parents experience youth hockey, they’ve got ’em hooked.

What Makes Youth Hockey So Great?

The thing about hockey is that there are so many different elements of the game that kids need to develop. In other sports there are just a handful of things kids learn how to do during their first season or two playing the sport.

During the first season or two of soccer kids learn some basic foot skills with the ball like dribbling, passing and shooting with both feet. They may also learn throw-ins and how to settle the ball. But that’s about it. Most soccer games with four and six-year old kids are nothing more than games of heard ball. All the kids bunch up and kick at the ball and each other.

Basketball

During the first couple seasons of basketball kids learn the basic fundamentals of dribbling with both hands, passing and shooting the ball. They may learn different types of shots like layups, bank shots and free throws… but that’s about it.

Football

In full disclosure, I don’t have any experience with youth football, so I’m going off of something you should never base opinions around… assumptions. I know there’s a ton of technical skills and knowledge kids need to learn in football. But I’m guessing that from a football parent’s perspective, during your child’s first season or two of football you see him learn how to block, tackle, avoid tackles, get around blockers, throw the football, catch the football, kick the football, hold the football while running with it… and that’s about it.

I imagine watching four to six-year olds play football is somewhat similar to soccer. Once they hear “hike” it’s a massive game of heard ball where every kid on the other team is trying to get the ball.

Hockey Parents See Growth In Every Practice & Game

In other sports kids get better over the course of the season. However, you don’t really notice the progression from practice-to-practice.

Instilling Grit and How To SHOW UP.

GehrigEvalsLast night I had a pretty cool opportunity to teach my 12-year old son a little about grit, and the importance of showing up. His 3rd & final round of ice hockey player evaluations was set for 7:50 PM. He performed really well in the first two rounds. I was proud of his effort and focus.

He was hit with some adversity.
He stayed home from school yesterday after getting sick in the middle of the night and early morning. He’s had a cough & allergies acting up for a couple days now. He stayed in bed much of the day but was able to eat and my wife kept him hydrated with water & a couple bottles of Rehydrate OTG.

At 7:00, he didn’t really want to/feel like going to his evaluations. He said he was tired. Since he had been eating and drinking for the past 10 hours, I felt that he would be OK to go to his evaluations.

I just had a gut feeling that this would be an awesome teachable moment for him.
We talked about the importance of seeing things through & finishing. We talked about digging deep to find that desire and determination to pull him through tough moments like this when he’s not feeling the best.

Sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do is to SHOW UP.

The easy thing would have been to stay at home on the couch & go to bed early. But that wouldn’t help him build upon his great performances and effort in the first two rounds. That wouldn’t help him reach his goal.

I told him that he has made it into the top grouping of players battling for spots on the top two teams. A1 & A2.

“The spot you want is there for the taking.” I said. “You just have to go and get it. But you can’t do that unless you show up to claim it.”

He decided to go and give it his best shot. I couldn’t have been prouder last night. We’ll have to wait and see if it was good enough to get a spot on the A1 team or not. But at least he’ll know that he earned whatever spot he gets and there won’t be any room for second guesses or “what ifs.”

The best part about last night is that I believe he will be able to pull from that experience for the rest of his life. In 20 years from now when he’s tired, not feeling great & really wanting to cancel an important meeting with a potential new client, he’ll reflect back to last night and remember how rewarding it feels to dig deep and SHOW UP, even when you don’t feel like it. And hopefully that meeting will change his life.

Opportunities and moments like these are why I love youth sports.