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Parents, how to help ourselves from ourselves.

December 20th, 2016

Being a parent means many things; educator, confidant, disciplinarian, Sherpa, manager, nurse, counselor and coach. We all want to provide the best for our kids, but when passion and aspiration takes over, the focus on success may be in the wrong place.

I’m writing this blog as I am flying back from a weekend baseball showcase with my 15-year-old son. After having spent thousands on a trip to help heighten his chances of getting a college scholarship, I ponder if this was the right decision, as all parents of athletes do… How much is enough? How much is too much? Will they achieve their potential without our constant prodding? All good questions, and many with open ended answers. I can tell you, as a professional hockey agent for the last 17 years, and after having played the sport for almost 25 years preceding my current career, that many parents should be forced to ask these questions.

As our values seem to erode with every new generation, and the “right now” effect brought upon by constant technological breakthroughs creates impatient and entitled individuals, the answers to these questions carry more value than most parents want to know. As we rush to fix every little blemish in our kids’ lives and try to influence their way to success, we cause more irreparable damage than we know. As a parent, seeing one of my children fail is extremely difficult, but the lessons learned from a failure always seem to stick forever, while the successes seem to offer a short blip of happiness in a lifetime.

Throughout my career, I have seen grown men, playing in the NHL, not able to make simple life decisions without Mom or Dad heavily involved. I have sat in meetings with high end prospects, only to find out that Dad wants it more because of his past athletic failures. I have painstakingly sat by, as parent after parent professes their non-involvement in their kid’s career, while 6 months in, I find out that the client is on the phone with his parent outside the locker room after every game. Yes, we live in a society that expects it “now” and without paying the price, but we have no one to blame but ourselves! Can this change? I believe that it can, but it starts with replacing helicopter parenting with empowering our kids. Hold them accountable instead of helping them find excuses. Support them unconditionally, but let them fail on their own. I have found that the majority of athletes I have had the pleasure of working with have been able to sustain success longer if they have failed along the way. Failing forward is a powerful learning experience. The elite athlete who has excelled at all levels along the way is less equipped to deal with the ups and downs of a pro career than one who has experienced some sort of hardship along the way.

As I hound my son right now to study for his chemistry test on the flight back home, I realize that the lesson that will really stick will be the result he gets from his efforts, not my constant nagging. I know we all want success for our children, but wouldn’t we all trade in a day of glory for a lifetime of growth? The foundation of a great athlete (pro, amateur, and at any age), comes from realistic life teachings at home, allowing for failure moments to happen, overcoming obstacles and teaching how to have a plan B. The best we can do is nurture and coach them (and ourselves) along the way so that they have the built-in tools to handle any situation life can bring.

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing” – J.K. Rowling

Photo Credit: Jaime Hogge

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