What You Gain from Watching Your Kids at Practice, Not Just Games
Learn more about your child as you observe their interactions with the coach and others
Most of the time, it isn’t typical to observe your child during the school day.
We, as parents, don’t get to see if they are a good listener, if they respect authority or if they follow directions given by the teacher.
We also don’t get to see the dynamics of the playground, and how they relate to other kids.
But every week, for a few hours, I see him at his hockey practices, and I learn so much more about him than I gain from the few conferences at school.
I am one of the rare parents who watches practice as well as games.
There are a few others, but most are on their phones or talking to each other, and barely focused on whatever the coach is deciding to do with the kids for the day. I love the social aspect too, and I definitely relate to chatting with other parents, but I do it while staying primarily focused on the practice in front of me.
What can be gained from watching a practice?
On the negative side, I have watched as my son was, unfortunately, called out for being the one joking around when he was supposed to be listening. Did the coach come out afterwards and tell me about it?
No. But I saw it, because I was watching. We were able to talk about it at home, because I was able to see exactly what he was doing, and exactly when the coach pointed to him and told him to knock it off.
While I can’t see his classroom, I can guess that he struggles with this listening and respect problem there too, and there have been a few times it got to the point that she did feel the need to talk to me about it after school.
He now knows that he gets consequences at home when he is not listening to his coach, because we want to teach him to respect the authorities in charge of him both at practice and at school, and we hope that by getting him into good habits on the rink, he will continue those habits at school.
But I can also see his social skills when I watch practices.
I have seen that my son gets along great with the other kids on his team. They joke and laugh together, especially in the time before practice starts (and yes, sometimes during as well). He isn’t a loner, and the interactions are easy for him, and it gives me confidence that he is going to have friends growing up.
I get to see his love for the sport too, as his face is beaming as he does informal scrimmages with these guys, and how he lingers when practice ends, wanting to keep the fun going just a little longer.
Not to mention, there is value in it from an athletic perspective.
I’ll admit, we take sports seriously in this house. He is on a travel hockey team, and we want him to do his best. We have seen how fast he is capable of skating, and we know that he has a great clear shot, when he decides to use it.
So, as we watch practice, we are watching to see if he is trying his best, and putting everything into improving and honing his skills.
Honestly, a lot of the time, he isn’t. He tries much harder at games than at practices. Unlike the disrespectful moments that have consequences at home, this is just a conversation.
We don’t punish him for a lack of effort- but we do notice it, and use it as a teachable moment to talk about why teams practice and how putting out more effort on these nights can translate into better games, and he gets it, because he wants the better performance at games.
Watching the team’s practice helps us know how to practice on our own as well.
I watch the drills the coach has him do, because we can get to the rink on our own time, and then we can duplicate the same drills.
Plus, since I watch the team practice, not just my son, I can talk to him about what skills I recommend for him to work on based on his capabilities compared to his teammates.
For example, he can hold his own when he is skating around the rink puck handling, but when he goes skates backwards, he lags behind some of the other kids. So when it comes time to practice outside of the official coach’s practice, we can spend our time focusing on things like backwards crossovers.
In every sport your child plays, just like in school, there might be key skills that come easy to them, and other skills that they actually aren’t as fast or as good at as the other kids around them. I’ve found that the best way to find out what these skills are is just to watch practices.
I have overheard some parents asking what their child needs to work on, and I know that our kids doing their very best matters a lot, and honestly, the best answer comes from just watching the practice time.
I know, I have outed myself as somewhat of a “crazy sports parent.”
I won’t deny it.
I will cheer for him as loud as I can at tournaments, and I practically live at the rink between the actual practice times, the open stick times, and we even get him to goalie lessons that need shooters to help the goalies learn to block.
It is a lot.
But I also see how proud of himself he is after he makes a goal, a block or a great defensive play. We asked him after his last tournament what his favorite moment was, and it wasn’t one of his goals, but instead a defensive play he made from his knees after he fell.
This child of mine asked for his walls to be covered with hockey players, and asked me to make him a hockey fitted sheet for his bed. You see him walking around in his Penguins gear, and he can tell you his favorite players from the team.
For career day, my son decided to wear an NHL jersey, as he has high hopes of being in the NHL someday. Is it a long shot? Sure. Is there a chance of him being in that small sliver of the population who makes it? Yes.
But I also know that the small sliver isn’t made from just sheer talent or natural ability. It is a natural ability combined with hours upon hours of practice that get those players to a level of play that is the top of the nation.
So, I’m a mom that wants to help my kids reach their goals. For my daughter, who wants to work in the medical field, she has countless anatomy books, real nurse’s manuals, and I allow her to watch surgery videos which she finds fascinating.
Since my son wants to get to the top level of hockey play in the nation, I will do everything in my power to help him get there, and for me, that means watching practices, and getting him that extra rink time outside of practice. It means reminding him of the drills, and being there to time his sprints around the rink when he asks me to.
But I truly think it is beneficial for the regular moms too.
Who among us doesn’t wonder how our kids act around authority when we aren’t right next to them?
Who doesn’t want to know if their child can play well with others and have a friendly?
I like knowing what I have learned from watching practices, and I love seeing him improve as well. When you see the same practices, week after week, it is easy to see growth that might be difficult to see if I only watched the games.
You might just gain a lot of insight into who your child is if you watch what they are doing out on the court, diamond, field, or rink when it isn’t to try to win a game, but to improve in their sport with their team.
Why not give it a try?