How to Make Your Kids’ Sports Team Even Stronger (Surprise Tip!)

Readers — So many truths turn out to be counter-intuitive, including this little lesson from a Canadian Hockey Mom:

At a hockey tournament last weekend, where EVERYTHING was adult-organized, and the only “toy” these grade 6 and 7 boys brought along was a goddamned Playstation or Xbox or some crap like that with games where everyone is machine gunning each other to death, some kids self-organized into a little group playing soccer with a Wiffle ball in the hallway.

The hotel management requested that our group avail ourselves of the “breakfast room” that was not in use in the off hours, in order to have a “common area” out of the way of other guests. I jumped on it!

I guided the three or four “playful” kids into that room, and soon after, others joined. Soon enough, the whole team was there, and you know what they decided to play? MUSICAL CHAIRS. I kid you not. One boy sang “Pop goes the Weasel” while the others paraded around the chairs. It devolved into the WWF version of the game, but I just sat as the lone adult in the corner, focused on my own game (cup stacking, a decidedly low-tech endeavour), letting them whoop and holler and PLAY.

More parents trickled in, and I was able to calm them into submission as they drank their wine. We looked at the kids as though viewing wild animals, and commenting on just how happy they seemed. “This is what they need in their lives,” I told the parents. “More of this. A lot more of this. Hockey is fine, but they need at least as much of this as they do organized activities that adults lead.”

Some kids were getting called off to eat by their parents, and they were crushed, promising, “I’ll be back right after dinner!” Well, I commented, how often does anyone hear THAT anymore? I realized that the thing to do was order in Chinese so the kids could keep on playing and building community. Amazing how eager these parents were to “Take responsibility for my own kid” and whisk them off to some isolated restaurant meal rather than join forces with other parents, but I taught them about that, too. “Let’s just order a few plates of whatever and they’ll eat it. We can settle up later.”

After a good two or three hours of games, sweating and smiles, the party broke up and the team played the next morning, their last game of the tournament.

They were a different team. Their passing game had improved exponentially. All of us in the stands commented about how much more cooperative they all seemed to be.

Coincidence? I think not.  – Canadian Hockey Mom

hockey kids

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15 Responses to How to Make Your Kids’ Sports Team Even Stronger (Surprise Tip!)

  1. Nicole November 21, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Yay, I missed it, as i was at a second tournament, but our team did the same thing, but it was “pre-planned” – group meals ordered in and just let the kids go wild, in and out of the pool. Sadly my son did not like Thai 🙂 And they won the championship – actually, less than “free range” here is a plug for traveling to a tournament and having kids have fun together for a weekend.

  2. Jen Connelly November 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    At recess my 12yo sixth grader usually plays football with his friends a field outside the cafeteria. The school is an “open” design with little pods of classrooms connected by walkways.

    There are no teachers involved in this. He normally comes home from school covered in dirt or with a new tear in his pants.

  3. Alex November 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    What I like about this story is the little things:
    – Hotel management offers the room (liability, what is that?)
    – One mom “chaperones” by doing nothing
    – Have a cup of wine? (some parents I know would freak out about drinking in front of kids)
    – Order food for everyone (yay, impromptu potluck)

    All that together is what makes and strengthens a community!

  4. Lynnie November 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Nice 🙂 Sounds super fun. Kids need play like that.

  5. Eileen November 22, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    My kids played travel soccer and this was a pretty common occurrence. Knee hockey in the hallways (or wherever they could get away with it), pick up games on the beach (if we were at the beach), invented games in the pool (if pool was available).

    I do think it’s funny that the poster talking about her kid’s hockey team playing soccer at the hotel, when my kid’s soccer team played hockey at the hotel.

  6. Warren November 22, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Have been to hockey tournies where hotels have put the teams on the upper floors and left one floor empty as a buffer, for the regular guests, below. That was cool.

    We had a tournament in Stirling, Ont., nice town, not much to do. Power went out do to weather, so the two hockey teams had a nerf football game in kneedeep snow, snow coming down, in the arena parking lot. We lost, but had a great time.

    It is amazing what can happen when adults use common sense.

  7. nina November 22, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    I’m surprised how little comments this story has generated. I feel this blog needs more positive entries like this one. I think we, as parents, would benefit from more confirmation and encouragement of our parenting style. Plus positive stories might attract more followers for the blog. Why not show parents that there is an alternative to helicoptering and it is not called bad parenting.

  8. S November 22, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I always let groups of kids run wild and stay out of the way as much as possible. Some parents, though, make their kids be so sedate and polite all the time! My favorite memories of playing with kids involved being crazy and wild!

  9. C.J. November 22, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    We often go to dance conventions at the same time as the hockey tournaments. I wish more hotels would give them a room to do their thing in. Having groups of kids running up and down the halls until past midnight while you are trying to sleep is not fun. They hockey kids at the hotels we stay at are exceptionally loud. I’m all for free play but there is a time and a place.

  10. Melissa November 22, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Maybe it’s a Canadian thing? We own and run a competitive youth soccer club, and routinely go along with a team for a family weekend at a tournament. Either my husband is coaching or our VP is or both. We always make sure to book at a hotel with a courtyard and a BBQ, then each family chips in $15. We hit a grocery store when we get there for burgers and buns and condiments, and the kids have a BLAST. Also, it helps all of us parents get to know each other, and it’s a nice evening to have a few beers and sit outside while the kids run amok.

    I even put my little ones to bed in our room and leave the balcony door open a crack so they can call me if they wake, and continue socializing well into the night. The girls always play better the next day.

  11. EB November 22, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    A bit of irony here: kids playing free range while on trips for travel team sports.

    I actually might have benefited from a little more organization in my childhood sports-life — it was all sand lot, building rafts that didn’t float, and bike hikes. But would I trade? never.

  12. Steve W November 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Canadian Hockey Mom,
    That’s so spot on. As a US Hockey Dad of a Midget aged kid I’ve gone through many trips like that. Now I have to say that as our kid’s team has done Team Travel (only a couple chaperones, mgr and coaches…not all parents) the dynamic changes, for the most part for the better.

    That said, as a chaperone, the gather around various bottles of alcohol at night in the lobby helps too.

  13. Tim November 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Thanks for the story, but would you please not use that profanity, it is offensive. thanks.

  14. Erin November 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    The WWF version of the game? What do the pandas do while playing musical chairs?

    I assume you probably mean the WWE, though they haven’t used the WWF name since 2002. And, as noted, most pandas don’t play musical chairs.

    Though I’m sure there are some exceptions. That’s a video I’d love to see.

  15. Jenna K. November 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    Great story!