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Helping Kids Deal With Game Time Mistakes
Jun. 20, 2012

Last month, a Responsible Sports Parent wrote to our panel of experts to ask: “Seconds to go in the game.... Your child misses a clear shot on goal that would have won the game. What would you do?”

-- Frank, a concerned parent

We asked two of our experts to weigh in. Matt Cunningham – USA Hockey Coach Education Program Coordinator had this to say:

“As a coach, I'd remind the player that he/she had done a great job of being in a position to have that last shot. The next game or practice will present new opportunities! Hockey is a game of mistakes, and you have to have a short-term memory.

I'd encourage the player to work on his/her shooting and other skills in anticipation of future scoring opportunities. I'd remind the player that wins and losses aren't the end of the work, and that skill development, being part of a team, developing a love of physical activity and fun are more important.”

And Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:

In the situation you describe, where your son missed a clear shoot on goal that would have won the game, I think you need to start by swallowing your own feelings, and ask your son how he's doing. In the rare instance, he may surprise you: "Dad, I did everything I could to make that shot, but my aim was just a bit too wide."

In the more likely scenario, he may not be ready to talk about it right away. Don't push it. You can ask how he's doing and then let him come to you later; if/when he's ready. When this conversation does happen, do your best to listen and to let him tell you how he's feeling. Make sure to avoid projecting your own feelings on him with comments like, "I bet you feel like you let your teammates down, but …"

You may want to keep some specific, positive things he did well in the past game ready, so when he's totally focused on the missed shot, you can remind him that the team would not have even been in contention to win without his assist and goal scored earlier in the game. Let him know you're proud of him, even though he missed this one shot. Also let him know you're proud of the way he handled it in the moment (keeping his head up).

Lastly, try to get him to focus on the future. Let him know he'll get another chance at this, and you have confidence he'll make it next time.

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