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The Parent Partnership

By Jessi Pierce, 10/01/13, 10:30AM MDT


Without question, hockey is a team sport. Players on the ice have to work together to score goals and improve as a team while coaches join the effort and work with the players for the overall success, fun and improvement in any given season. But there is another line of “teammates” that can help the season run smoothly – ones who have invested themselves and their children into the season: mom and dad.

Hockey moms and dads are more than just shuttle services and can be a great asset in helping the team perform and prepare. Just like coaches have to work with their players, working with parents to become part of the team is essential.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in 25 years of coaching experience is that it’s no different than dealing with players,” said David Hoff, head boys’ hockey coach and athletic director at Bottineau High School in North Dakota. “You hear coaches say they are lacking leadership so just like we have to teach kids to be leaders, we have to teach parents to do the same as supporters and volunteers.

“USA Hockey does a great job for putting those materials out there to help parents serve in those roles and to help coaches delegate some of that workload to volunteer parents.”

Hoff said getting parents involved right away at the local youth associations is key. Those programs and teams should make the parents feel a part of the association – a part of the family.

Just like some of the players, parents can be nervous about stepping up into a group of people they may not be familiar with, especially if they are newer to the sport of hockey and some of the in-game needs and procedures. That’s why Hoff said in order to build a good relationship with parent-volunteers, coaches should be sure to find a fit for each parent – something not terribly out of their comfort zone.

“You need to find things that people are comfortable trying and in an environment where they are comfortable, too,” said Hoff. “I think about my own self when volunteering and what I would or wouldn’t want to do and I try and make sure there isn’t that intimidation factor when asking parents to help out.

“I think what really helps is if coaches and programs create the idea where the parents feel needed or where they are going to fit well. I remind parents at every meeting that they are a huge part of this program and that us as coaches need them in order for the program to be successful. Parents seem more apt and willing to help when you give them that appreciation and share with them that what they are doing does matter not just for their kids but for the team.”

Not every parent should have to do the game clock or bring snacks. Work with each parent on what they are willing to get involved in and how much time they have to offer.

What makes that delegation task even easier is if there is a parent that steps up into that leadership role. Find a parent willing and eager to help. See if they can assist you in assigning volunteers to various tasks and help take some of the workload off your shoulders.

It comes down to teamwork between the parents and coaches, who are all striving for the same goal – to see their kids have fun playing a sport they love.

“We need parent-volunteers,” said Hoff. “They are a tremendous help for us and for the kids. It can be as simple as bringing snacks one day or keeping stats another day. Remember a lot of parents want to see their child succeed and I think as coaches if you just remind the parents that they are a part of that, then they will be willing to try to help where they can.”