Positive Coaching Alliance
“Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you. That’s truly the meaning of the game and in some ways, that’s life too.”
Building on the foundation set by Evanston Hockey Director Del Morris’ four pillars of respect, sportsmanship, honesty and responsibility and in alignment with Evanston Hockey's mission, Evanston Hockey signed a new partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) starting with the 2017-18 season. PCA is a national, non-profit organization that develops better athletes and better people through resources for youth and high school coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes.
The program works to disseminate the best practices for coaching and player development. Its mission is to create a climate where our youth athletes not only improve their performance, but develop a lasting passion for sports and bring the lessons learned off the rink into their lives.
Each month we'll feature on a different theme as tools for parents. For those of you interested in more resources on managing the pressures of youth sports culture, communicating with your child’s coach, or long term player development —please check out their website at www.PCADEVZONE.org.
NOTE: If you missed the recent Positive Coaching Alliance parent workshop, you can access an online version by being one of the first 20 people to activate the code found here.
TOPIC ONE: HONOR THE GAME
The first monthly topic, Honor the Game, is a major principle of PCA. Honoring the principles of sport and those who came before you means practicing humility, understanding your role as part of a team and practicing your craft with a code of ethics. The premise of the Honor the Game slogan is simple, and we encourage you to share it with your players. It is a good reminder for parents and coaches as spectators and participants in our hockey community.
Honor the Game is summed up by the acronym ROOTS:
RULES: Rules keep the game fair. Play by the rules even when you think you won’t get caught if you break them.
OPPONENTS: Without opponents, we could have no game. A good opponent pushes us to do our best, so we should be grateful for our opponents.
OFFICIALS: Officials have a very hard job, keeping the game safe and fair for both teams. Officials are not perfect and sometimes they will make calls not in our favor but they deserve our respect.
TEAMMATES: Later in life you will be often be part of a team and it is important to learn how to work together. When you are on a team, your words and actions-before, during and after practices and games-reflect on you as well as your teammates and coaches. Treat them as you would want them to treat you.
SELF: Honor the game no matter what the other team or its fans do. We need to set our own internal standards and we live up to them no matter what.
Here are some additional resources related to Honoring the Game:
Video: Honor the Game Whether You Win or Lose http://devzone.positivecoach.org/resource/video/honor-game-whether-you-win-or-lose
Article: How Can We Honor the Game When the Opponent Does Not http://d3kv8ayplk3lle.cloudfront.net/sites/uploads/files/AskPCA_HTG_whenOpponentDoesNot.pdf
TOPIC TWO: THE SECOND GOAL PARENT
The second goal parent is aware of both the immediate goals of having a successful season and the long term goals of enabling our youth athletes to learn the many life lessons sports can offer. These are the “teachable moments” that build resilience and character. This involves parents changing their mindset from winning at all costs in this season to looking toward a future path for their children into adulthood. This includes learning teamwork, how to “fail” or make mistakes, and the drive to always improve. These skills translate into better students, community members and employees.
An interesting goal for this holiday season — in addition to enjoying some hockey games during the Wishbone tournament, focus on the lessons that Thanksgiving teaches us.
1. Thank our coaches and hockey director who dedicate many hours of their time to our children and to their development as players and people. Have your players thank them too.
2. Sit next to a parent at the next game that you do not know well. Ask them questions about their holiday and their family traditions. This is a community that goes beyond the rink. Model that for our players — ask them to do the same with a player that they do not know well.
TOPIC THREE: MORAL COURAGE
As 2017 draws to a close, it seems pertinent to address the topic of moral courage for this month’s Positive Coaching Alliance topic. Moral courage is standing up publicly for what you believe is right even when your friends and teammates don’t. Being a member of a team and observing good and not so good teamwork is an important way to practice this skill. Aristotle argued that a person becomes good not by studying morality but through practicing it; as parents and coaches, we need to help our players tackle these issues in their own world to build moral character.
Social membership in a group is important to all kids-but particularly in later childhood and early adolescence. Speaking out against the behavior of the group or a perceived leader of the group takes a great deal of courage because it risks loss of belonging. Unfortunately, most bullying takes place when adults are not around, so it is important to empower our players to step in as a team member and give them tools to practice this skill. This means we need to create opportunities to discuss how to stand up for a teammate, or a friend or anyone in our community who has less power in any given moment.
Playing a sport gives kids and adolescents a taste of confidence and increased social power because of their performance. They can use this power to exclude others or to do tremendous good. Examples of this include: mentoring younger players, participating in community service, and practicing leadership skills by stepping in and questioning behavior that is not reflective of community and teamwork. During the break, try and have a conversation with your child about a scenario where one teammate is provoking or putting down another: ask your child how they might address this situation if an adult is not present. Talk to them about the risks of stepping in as well as the risks of standing by and help them reason through possibilities.
TOPIC FOUR: VALUE OF MISTAKES
Sports performance from beginners to Olympic athletes is a process of learning and development and when the focus is on short-term goals of winning a game, progress and growth can get short-changed. In fact, the best way to learn and master a skill or solve a problem is to first learn what does not work. Every major scientific discovery and technological advance has come after hours in laboratories and many failed experiments.
Yet, we get frustrated as parent spectators when there is a mistake on the ice. As parents, it is important to approach the world of youth sports as a huge laboratory to build motor skills, resilience and teamwork. In all labs and start up businesses, most of the early ideas fail and the scientists and developers who succeed are committed to trying in innovative ways to improving their process. In fact, the best learning happens outside one’s comfort zone when things feel just a little bit out of control. Failure and mistakes are a natural part of learning and the only way people develop grit and resilience is through falling down and trying again.
There are two unhelpful responses to mistakes that all parents have at times: 1) reassuring and rationalizing and 2) instructing and lecturing. In the first, we try and protect our children from adversity because it is hard for us to see them disappointed. We jump in quickly to reassure them instead of tolerating their feelings. This results in a lost opportunity for kids to learn how to tolerate disappointment and then recommit themselves to greater effort.
In the second scenario, we want to teach them or help them “learn” how not to fail the next time by giving them instruction and feedback—often in the dreaded car ride home. This robs the athlete of the opportunity to develop their own process of learning and puts too much pressure on the outcome instead of the learning process in which they can creatively cultivate their own solutions.
Finally, it is important to remember and deconstruct the phrase “that which does not kill you makes you stronger.” Tremendous growth occurs after times of challenge and adversity: it brings out grit, commitment and self-reliance. It is hard to watch our kids struggle, but in sports and in life, the ability to allow for mistakes is a necessary part of growth.
TOPIC FIVE: GROWTH MINDSET -- DOES IT MATTER?
Watching the Winter Olympic games, you may have noticed that Norway won a lot of medals. And you might have said to yourself—those Norwegians have a lot of cold weather and mountains: of course they are good at winter sports. You would be mostly wrong. The youth sports program in Norway does not formally begin until children reach the age of 13. Sports are seen in the development arena and a place for children to grow and learn to be teammates. Formal competition and team placement does not begin until age 13. Contrast this with the United States, where 70% quit organized sports by the age of 13 often because they are no longer “fun” or they are already burned out.
Norway is a lot smaller and a whole lot more socialist than the USA, which certainly helps this approach. But this brings up the concept of the “growth mindset,” which is increasingly being applied to youth sports and has always lived in educational circles. A growth mindset (Carol Dweck Ph.D., Stanford University) is the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work: talent may be where someone starts but is not predictive of where they end up. A fixed mindset starts with the idea that talent is responsible for success and the focus is more on outcomes and scores than the process of learning.
In children, whose bodies and brains are growing and developing, there is a lot of cognitive and motor learning in all sports. When kids feel like their learning and development is being recognized, they develop an internal sense of pride and accomplishment and want to keep working. When the focus is on winning games and pushing kids to be the “best” player on the “best” team, this creates a fixed system and sacrifices many of the benefits that our Norwegian colleagues have cultivated for many years in early childhood. Early specialization and early success does not often predict future athletic performance just like early reading ability does not predict Nobel laureates.
At home, reward and acknowledge effort. Educate your children on the value of working hard and loving your sport, your coaches and your team. You will have happier and healthier kids who will stay with sports longer and this will translate into resilience and commitment in other challenges in life. If you are interested in learning more about Norway and Carol Dweck’s research on the growth mindset, please see the attached video and article.