By Tracy Walter
One evening, my husband and our son (Joey), who was 3-years old at the time, were watching a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game on TV. After much watching and asking questions to his dad he finally asked, “Dad, can I play hockey?” My husband and I gave each other the “Oh boy” look. This was a question that continued to surface over the entire hockey season that year. My husband quietly researched places our son could potentially play hockey. The closest place to play was almost an hour away from our house. We found for his age level (by this time he was just turning four), it was two evenings a week, how bad could it be? It’s only for a year….
Twelve years later, Joey is now 16. What we thought would be a “he will try it a year and be done” has turned into a 12-year love of ice hockey for him. We now travel an hour and a half just for practices three days a week and games (the other 3-4 days) we are in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and even some travel into Indiana for tournaments at times (other states occasionally as well). I’m not putting this out there for any reason but to help paint a picture of the dedication it takes especially for the children when involved in sports as a school-age child and beyond.
Some readers may be thinking “I would never drive that much for a sport” or “you are nuts for that travel, it’s too much for a kid”. However, as a parent who saw the love our child had for the sport, the hard work he put in to learn the rules, learn everything that goes into the game, and so much more, there are more benefits for children playing sports as a school-age child than not.
From the time Joey was four, he learned what hard work is, both on and off the ice, time management that goes into if you want to play a sport and concentrating on schoolwork first. You must maintain your grades if you want to play the sport. He learned the importance of good eating, proper sleep, and the results if you don’t make those a priority in your life as well. He learned what it means to be on a team. Sometimes you must do things you don’t want to do, play a position that may not be your favorite, but at that time, that’s where the team needs you and you willingly do it. He learned how to encourage others, be a team player and what it means to have a “hockey family”. He learned that if you decide you don’t want to play anymore, you still need to fulfill a commitment to the team, finish the season and still give 100%. You don’t quit in the middle. Joey learned that sometimes when it’s hardest, that’s when it’s most important to continue. He learned dedication, commitment, time management, good health, the importance of exercise and self-discipline. If you don’t succeed, you try again. He learned self-reflection. We used his love of hockey to help him understand the importance of always critiquing yourself. What did you do great, what do you still need to work on? How can you make it happen? He learned the importance of using his reflection to set goals. I feel like all the things mentioned here are just the beginning of great skills that our son learned through sports as a school-age child.
Whether your child participates in a sport, music, dance, or other form of art or extracurricular activity, it’s an important part of life for them. They learn life skills that will stay with them through their school years and into adulthood. The skills and relationships they gain through sports and activities is priceless in my opinion.
You have heard the saying, “Everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten”; for our son, we use “Everything I learned, I learned from hockey”.