Brought to you by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program
Our American athletes were just thousands of miles away from home in Sochi, competing against the very best of the world. And our kids are were watching these men and women on TV in awe, wondering how they got "there."
Of course, these U.S. Olympic participants aren't just lucky or talented. They've learned a lot over the years to be able to make it to the top.
Lessons like the courage it takes to respect an opponent. Taking a "big picture" perspective. How to recover from setbacks.
As parents, these are great lessons for your kids to keep in mind as they were watching the Games.
The Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports team, together with the experts at Positive Coaching Alliance, have spoken with some of America's top winter athletes and coaches about what they learned in play—and how that made a difference in life.
Set Goals Together. At the beginning of any season, it's important that both you and your child each write down a separate list of youth sports goals. Then compare lists. Hopefully, there's agreement in important areas. Jim Craig, 1980 Miracle on Ice goaltender, speaks about what he calls a "shared dream": "And you have to understand that if you are going to be successful in life that you can’t do it individually. It’s really collective."
The Right Coach Is Important. It may not necessarily be the one who gives the most playing time or wins the most, but the one who teaches your children how to succeed off the field and sustains their love for the game. So take your time choosing your child’s team! Picabo Street, 1998 U.S. Olympic alpine skiing gold medalist, has strong opinions about this because of her four kids: "I will literally skate across town [for the right coach."
Give Them a Break. There can come a point when a young athlete plays so much that it isn't play for him or her anymore. This is referred to as "burn out." This can happen when an athlete practices too much, plays too many sports, or simply doesn't enjoy the game anymore. Let them leave the game if they don't love it. Sometimes, kids just need a long break to re-fill their Emotional Tanks. Katey Stone, 2014 U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey head coach, states, "Our kids need some time to step away from everything and have a little bit of balance, so they can be better players when they get out there."
Respect Your Opponents. Your kids look to you in the stands and will emulate your behaviors. So try to cheer for everybody, even the opponents! Sometimes, for various reasons, it can be difficult to respect the other side. It can take real courage. Jenny Potter, U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey silver medalist, once received a post-game compliment from a Team Canada goaltender, of all people!
Phil Housley, 2002 U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey silver medalist, points out that a current rival can become a teammate in an instant. “When you're growing up, you might be playing on a certain team within your city league. You might have to move to a different team. And all of the sudden, you meet some new friends, form new teammates, and now, you might be battling the guys that you were originally with.” So you can never be sure who your kids will be playing with next!
Be a Supportive Base. Kids need to know that no matter what, win or lose, there is one place where they have unconditional support. It's not necessary to talk about the game at home, unless they want to. And if they do, remember that home should be a place of positivity. Hannah Kearney, 2010 U.S. Olympic mogul skiing gold medalist, remembers coming back to her hometown after not placing in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, thinking that she had let down 3,200 people. She was wrong. "It made me a lot more comfortable four years later, knowing no matter what happened in Vancouver, I was going to come back home to a community that was going to accept me."
Look at the Big Picture. As we mentioned, kids take their cues from you, their parents, and from their coaches. If each game's result is treated as a matter of life and death, that pressure will seep into the fun your kids are having. Results matter, but another way your kids can "win" is with what they learn from playing. Tony Granato, 2014 U.S. Olympic men's ice hockey team assistant coach, says, "If we could just look at it as a game…understand that there's a lot of learning that goes along with it and valuable lessons that will be important later on in life."
At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of responsibility shown by people every day. We created Responsible Sports, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display responsibility. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the field. Join the Responsible Sports movement!
©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials.
USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?
Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.
USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season?
Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that.
The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.
USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?
Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.
USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official?
Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.
USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career?
Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.
USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?
Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.
USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?
Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.
USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career?
Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.