Positive Reinforcement - A productive drive home

When I was younger the long drive back from a game made for a perfect time to reflect on my play. My father was always good at starting off by telling me all of the positive things he noticed in my game and then asking how I felt. This was very helpful for me to debrief about my own perception of the game and reflect on what I could have done differently. Whether it was a misread on a 2 on 1 or being impatient on a breakaway I was able to break down what I did and explore with my Dad how I can be prepared for the next time. This was a crucial part to my maturing and learning as a young goaltender.

When your son/daughter gets off the ice they are already aware that they had a good/bad game. This is again reiterated in the change room with their coach and teammates. Therefore, when they get in the car after a bad game the last thing that will be helpful is to hear yet again what a bad game it was from their parent. These young athletes are already feeling low therefore after a tough game give some space and time to decompress and then start off with a few positives you observed in their game. Let them be in charge of expressing their difficult moments in the game, validate their feelings and then exploring solutions together.

As the conversation comes to an end remember to end on a positive. I see players getting frustrated with themselves because they can’t do a certain movement in practice or when they have a tough game. It’s our role as coaches and parents to remind them that not everything comes easily and that it takes patience/hard work to be able to dominate a skill. We need to encourage these kids to keep pushing themselves and praising their efforts and commitment to the game. Shine light on their abilities, strengths and progress.

We need to remember the effect of positive reinforcement on our kids self esteem and mental health.