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An Important Message for Parents

By Staff, 10/22/19, 3:30PM MDT


Yale Lewis Delivers Powerful Speech at AJH Back to Hockey Night

An Important Message from Yale Lews, MS, LPC

The Aspen Counseling

The game of hockey translates perfectly into the real world: if you practice or study you will become better or smarter; if you work hard you will succeed; if you are a good teammate you will be a team employee and so on…

Hockey and the coach will teach and develop your kids Work Ethic, Discipline / Commitment, Team Work, Failure/Success/Resiliency.  This development can only happen if you the parents allow the Coach to coach and the Player to play.  The coaches are hand-selected by Shaun and volunteer to coach your kids, so to me that says they love the sport and want to hand down what they learned, experienced, enjoyed. When your child is at the rink and especially on the ice, the coach is the boss.  The coach may make decisions that you disagree with or that your child disagrees with but again YOU’RE NOT THE COACH.

Let your kid learn and flourish. In order for this to happen, you as the parent have to step a step back and let it happen. Your kids need to fail to learn how to succeed.  Your kids need to be benched if they aren’t working hard, listening, taking penalties, aren’t being a team player.  If you as a parent get in the way of this process you are causing your child to go backwards. Please don’t prevent your child’s development.

Parents, you have the best job—being your kid’s fan and a silent source of encouragement BUT let the Coach coach and the players play. Your child may not always like the practice, the game, and/or the coach’s decisions or style, but as you know, in order to be successful you must be able to adapt and adjust, or have a conversation with the coach (the player not the parent).  There is nothing worse for a coach, players, and team then parents who talk negatively in the stands or disagree with a coach’s decision. Please don’t make something out of nothing because the only person it ends up hurting is your kid and the team.

The best team and most fun I had as a coach was with a Peewee A team. The team wasn’t full of great players, but it was full of players who embraced the message… the philosophy, work ethic, and the culture of the team we were building together. There were growing pains and it was hard on and off the ice, but the main reason it worked was because the PARENTS supported the coach. A perfect example of this: a player goes home to their parents and says, “I don’t like hockey. The coach is mean; he picks on me. The practices are so “hard.” And the parent responds with: “The coach is just pushing you, and he’s not picking on you but challenging you, and the harder the practices are the better you and your team will be."  The worst thing you could do as a parent is immediately call someone and say the practices are too hard, the coach is picking on my kid, and the coach is mean.

There is no such thing as a coach’s favorite. Normally those players are the ones that work the hardest, listen, love being at the rink, and want more…

Parents, you have the opportunity to let someone else (COACH) help develop your child through the game of hockey.  Think of a hockey coach like a teacher at school. Every teacher or coach has a different personality, style, expectations, and not every student is going to connect with the teacher’s personality, style, or expectations. But the teacher and the coach are going to find ways to help the student or player.

If your child ever comes home and complains about practice, ask them why are they complaining? If the player responds with a complaint about his coach — he was mean to me — you should then ask how was the coach mean? Player “He yelled at me” Parent “What about” Player “I don’t know” Parent “Were you listening? Working hard? Messing around? Not paying attention? Late for practice? Being lazy? If the player finally answers with I was messing around, then you as the parent need to agree with the coach.

The coaches that Shaun hand-selects are not people that would just yell at a kid, or pick on kid, or embarrass a kid. So, parents, if you jump to conclusions and side with our child no matter what your only hurting your child and the team.  I understand working through this with your child is hard, but in doing so, you’re developing a strong relationship and pushing them to be their best and they will do better in hockey and life.

Another thing that seems to always be a part of youth hockey is the complaint that the coach is playing his favorites, which is unfair. First, the supposed favorites are usually the kids that works harder then everyone else, loves the game, wants to be at the rink, and listens, which is the reason why their one of the better players on the team and thus getting more ice time.  Again, if your player isn’t playing as much as you the parent would like, it’s not the coach’s fault; it’s the players, because I guarantee the player isn’t working hard, goofs around, doesn’t listen, and in turn… causes the team problems.

Parents I understand how hard it is to look at your child objectively and rationally, but if you don’t accept what’s really going on. You’re teaching your player BAD habits that DON’T translate to success or to being a good person.  The odds that your player makes it to D-1 college hockey are 1% (the odds of playing in the NHL are even less), so that’s not why they’re in AJH. They’re participating in AJH because they love hockey, they’ll learn skills that will serve them well for life off the ice, they’re making friends, and their developing into great people though the sport of hockey.

Parents, back to the objective: your player may not want to play hockey, your player may not even like hockey, he/she may be the goofball because they don’t care. They may NOT deserve anything more than they have given. In this case, talking to Shaun or the coach about how you’re player deserves to be playing completely undermines AJH, the team, and most importantly the individual player. If you, the parent, are sending the opposite message: the player deserves more, you works hard, you listens, the coach just doesn’t like you, the player will never get anywhere developmentally.

Parent’s it is ok if your child get’s yelled at, verbally pushed, disciplined, called out for being lazy and not listening, not being a team player, not paying attention, and especially for talking back to the coach.  When I coached I had a rule that if I hear of any parent talking negatively about the coach, other players, other parents, they wouldn’t be allowed at the next game. I held a bi-weekly meeting with just the parents, at which the parents could say, ask, complain, disagree, and talk with all of the other parents. You would be amazed at how little the parents have to say when the whole team is present. To those parents that talk negatively about coaches, other players, and other parents YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

I also strongly recommend that the players start taking charge of their equipment, knowing when practice is, knowing when they have to be at the rink in order to be ready on time, talking to the coach if they have questions or issues. The earlier you start this transition to self-responsibility, the more prepared your player will be later on.

I will leave you with this: the teams that have the best year, the most success, the most fun, are the teams in which the parents buy in and let the Coach coach and the players play. Please don’t solve your kid’s problems, prevent failure, and get in your child’s way. Your kids are fully capable and when you the parent allow them to control their fate, you are only empowering them. Will the players make mistakes? Absolutely. Will your players fail? Probably.  But when your player makes a mistake, they have to come up with a solution. And when your player fails, they have the opportunity to redeem themselves and in the process realize what they are capable of and how powerful and strong they can be.

“ Losers quit when they fail, winners accept and learn from the failure enabling them to overcome”

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement”

“Failure is success in progress”

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failure” – JK Rowling

“At the end of the day you are solely responsible for your success and your failure. And the sooner you realize that, accept that, and integrate that into your work ethic, you will start being successful as long as you blame others for the reason you aren’t where you want to be, you will always be a failure”

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly” JFK

“Failure should be our teacher not out undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing”

- Dennis Whitley



Written and presented by Yale Lewis, MS, LPC

The Aspen Counseling

Yale Lewis is an alum of AJH, starting his playing career at the age of 4.  He left Aspen to attend Cushing Academy, a top hockey prep school in Ashburnham, MA.  He left Cushing to play for the USA Hockey Under-17 National Development program before landing in the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Lancers 20U Junior team.  After Omaha, Yale accepted a scholarship at Northeastern University in Boston.  Following his collegiate career, he played professional hockey in Europe before his career was cut short due to injuries.  He currently resides in Aspen, establishing a private practice counseling youth and parents.