Having lived the hockey parent dream (or nightmare?), it was pretty obvious to both of us that our children’s repetitive hockey schedules, while enjoyable, were time consuming. As researchers, we decided to study this phenomenon and learn more about what coping strategies other parents used to balance both their hockey and work commitments. From our interviews, with over 50 hockey parents, here are four coping strategies that we discovered were used by parents that you can adopt that will help keep your life in good order - whether you are a hockey, dance or music parent.
1. Prioritize communication with family and work. Make sure your family talks as a unit. Make the kids part of this process so that they understand the commitment you are all making. Hockey is probably not the only activity in the family, particularly when there are other siblings, extended family and work to take into consideration. Parents who were most successful at coping with hockey schedules had a family meeting once a week with the calendar in front of them and made everyone aware of what the week looked like.
On the work side, be honest with your boss. It is especially helpful if, like our participants, you have a boss that has firsthand experience as a hockey parent. Hockey games alone may not be problematic (except if you are on shift work), but the practices and the extra training required to keep your child competitive in the game will usually impact time at work. Acknowledge that your job comes first. If an emergency arises, make other arrangements for your child.
2. Be organized. Several of the participants prominently posted their color-coded chart for the family to see. Juggling four siblings, for example, all involved in different activities can be mind boggling for anyone, so being organized is absolutely essential.
While waiting at the rink during practices or before games you can catch up on work - writing, preparing reports, making sales calls, marking papers, completing patient charts are just a few examples. If you need to, drive around to find coffee shops with an Internet connection, go grocery shopping or go to the gym. At away-tournaments, don’t feel guilty if you go up to your room to finish work.
3. Build supportive networks with the coach, extended family, friends and your hockey family. Supportive networks are essential to surviving life as a hockey parent. Building great relationships with other parents leads to everyone helping one another. We found that parents who did not make friends with fellow parents were at a huge disadvantage. It’s a reciprocal relationship and when everyone doesn’t share fairly with carpooling, for example, the child is the one who stands to lose. Besides the games and practices, there are also hockey tournaments that you might not be able to attend and you will need to get someone else to take responsibility for your child. You don’t have to become best friends with fellow hockey parents, but you do need to be cordial and help one another through each season.
A good relationship with the coach will also go a long way in lowering your stress level. While no one in our study had experienced the horror story of the coach that benches a child because they had to miss a game or practice, it helps if you have a supportive coach who understands when children have other commitments or an illness and had to miss a game or practice.
4. You can’t do it all! So your house might not be clean, your family might not get a home cooked meal every night and the laundry will pile up - that’s a given. Parents in our study hired help, such as cleaning people or, in the case of house repairs, just procrastinated until hockey season was over. One parent whose child played at a provincial level had to hire a driver to bring their son to practice an hour away on a weekly basis. While this example might be extreme, it demonstrates that you can become creative to cope with the demands that hockey can bring.
Dr. Deborah McPhee, Goodman School of Business, and Dr. Julie Stevens, Department of Sport Management, are both associate professors at Brock University in St. Catharines, and co-authored a book chapter on this topic. For more information, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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