I remember that July day when my husband, Robert, suggested that our 7 year old son Tyler join the local House League Hockey team in September. My heart sank. Since Tyler had a speech-language delay, he faced challenges in communicating at the same level as his peers and making himself understood. Although he had a lot of friends, these frustrations sometimes impacted him socially. Robert strongly felt that hockey would improve Tyler’s social skills, help him feel like part of a team, and expose him to life experiences like other children his age. I questioned whether it was already a little late for him to start hockey. I then realized that the potential benefits outweighed my worries about whether he would fit in and I gave in.
The season started and Robert volunteered to coach the team and I as the manager. The true method to my madness was to be closer by to help Tyler, if needed. Tyler dove in with enthusiasm. He was a middle-of-the-pack player and seemed to enjoy playing along with his teammates, much to my relief and surprise.
Although the games were going well, the practices were another story. Tyler had a hard time sharing his Dad with the other players. The roles of “Dad” and “Coach” were hard for him to distinguish. He would sometimes skate to the side of the rink and sulk if he thought his Dad was not paying enough attention to him. It was hard for me to see and his behaviour did not improve as the season progressed.
I called Valérie Marcoux, our Children’s Integration Support Services Resource Consultant. She always had good advice, and this time was no exception. Valérie created a wonderful social story entitled, “My Dad is the Coach” and included Tyler’s name, pictures, and details to make it personal. He loved it. We read it often, especially before practices. We also used a motivational system which allowed him to earn Pokemon cards. Slowly, by using both tools, Tyler’s behaviour started to change as he began to understand that his Dad was there for all the players, including him. Rather than being sad about having his Dad as the coach, it was actually something to be proud of.
As it turned out, hockey was good for Tyler. He found common areas of interest with his teammates that led to many new friendships. Over the course of the season, he matured into a confident child who now understood his contribution to the team. As he learned that not everything can go your way all the time, his patience and self-regulation also improved. In the spring, his team went on to win the Divisional Championship, Tyler even scored a goal in the final game. His self-esteem increased (maybe a little too much!). As for me, I learned to have a little more faith and to worry a little less.
A proud hockey Mom