“Perception is Real”

The seven-year-old hockey player struggles to stay on his skates.  This is his first year playing organized hockey and he is not quite used to all the heavy equipment.  Skating without falling is his biggest chore but with help and encouragement from his coach, he improves with each passing game.  His mother watches from the stands and shouts encouragement.  A busy schedule has kept his dad from almost every game and practice.  The youngster is determined to score a goal this year but for now, he must contend with following the play without falling down.  The ninth game into the season is an exciting one for him.  His dad is at the game.  He dreams of scoring a goal but has yet to even touch the puck with his hockey stick.  The first period ends and he didn’t fall once.  His mother cheers the effort; she has seen the improvement.  The second period saw him fall a couple of times but he rises to his feet in a split second.  Halfway through the third period the puck comes near him and with nervous excitement he races to the puck and gets to it.  He carries the puck for the very first time that sends his mother to her feet cheering.  He attempts a pass to a teammate that an opposing player intercepts and quickly skates down the ice and scores.  He doesn’t care; he just touched the puck for the first time and he passed it.  To the young player what happens after that is irrelevant.  He just handled the puck, made his first pass, and for the moment that was all that mattered to him.  That is all a seven-year-old hockey player in his first year needs to care about.

After the game during the ride home, he is still all smiles patiently waiting for Dad to comment on the great play he had made.  He really thought he did something spectacular.  Unable to conceal his excitement he asks his dad, “did you see the play I made tonight Dad?”  The response is not what the excited lad wanted to hear.  “Yeah, you blew it silly.  You passed it right to the other team and they scored,” joked Dad.

Although his dad meant no harm, the seven-year-old became silent.  The way he perceived the play was real.  Of course, most adults see the play as a bad one, but remember this child could not even stand on his skates when the year began.  Perception is real.  The child thought he made a great play and his dad missed an opportunity to encourage his son.

Encouragement is a fundamental building block for self esteem, especially for the very young.  Even when older children make a mistake, they need encouragement not put-downs.  They know when they make a mistake and the last thing they need are the joking remarks from the adults in their life, especially from Mom and Dad.

In kids’ sports most children perceive everything they do as being fantastic and there is nothing wrong with that.  Seize the moment and understand the way children see things is important and your reaction will encourage them or it won’t.  Which is better?  Try to see things the way a child does and go from there.  A bad pass in a hockey game from a seven-year-old?  Nonsense.  They are learning and if your remarks are not encouraging them, leave them alone; they’re having fun.

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