5 Reasons Why Kids Lose Interest in Hockey

 

Being in a position to work in player development has allowed me to focus on what’s best for a particular player at a specific time. In this role, I often get questioned by parents about my thoughts on development. Here is a common one:

My kid doesn’t seem as interested in hockey anymore. What can I do to increase their engagement?

To answer this question, you have to take inventory. Ask yourself the following questions:

 

1)  Are they playing too much hockey?

With everyone and their dog running clinics, schools and camps all year long, sometimes it’s important to step back and realize that sometimes less is more. Desire and passion can often be negatively affected by burnout. Don’t become wrapped up in keeping up with the Joneses. I often see kids in the sessions that I run that are ragged, tired and going through the motions, while their parents shell out thousands of dollars thinking that the more their kid is on the ice, the better they will become. This is one of the biggest reasons that kids lose interest in sports, today.

 

2)  Are they playing at the right level?

Kids develop at different stages, both mentally and physically. Some kids reach their peaks earlier than others. This doesn’t mean that Sammy Superstar at 10-years-old is going to still be Sammy Superstar at 18-years-old. Understanding that kids develop at different stages allows parents to take a step back, assess what level their kid will have the best opportunity to get ice time, gain confidence, and have fun. In the end, this will be better for their overall development and will help them become better, happier players faster.

One of the best stories I ever heard about finding the right fit at the right time came from a former Clarkson University teammate of mine, Mike Sullivan. At 15-years-old, Mike was at a crossroads. He didn’t have a strong desire to play hockey anymore and decided to drop down from AAA to play A-level hockey. During that season, Mike regained some passion for the game and decided to try out for the local junior C team in Uxbridge the next season. After a successful year in Uxbridge, Mike starred for the Stouffville Spirit junior A team and was selected by the L.A. Kings in the 8th round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and accepted a full-scholarship at Clarkson University. Mike Sullivan’s story is both inspirational and educational.

 

3)  Are they playing with their friends?

Sometimes desire to play hockey is directly linked to surroundings. Kids feel more comfortable when they are surrounded by their friends and will exude attitudes that are more conducive for development. The turning point in my own career came when I was cut from my local AAA team. Up until that point, I always played nervous, had zero confidence, and felt like an outcast in the dressing room. Being cut and going down to play A-level hockey, allowed me to play with my friends and feel valued. In turn, this increased my confidence and desire, and accelerated my development.

 

4)  Are they playing for a coach that best develops their talents?

In hockey, there are varying coaching styles from one side of the spectrum to the other. There are drill sergeant types, coddling types and everywhere in between. With motivation being key for young players, finding out what best motivates your kid and trying to find a situation that is the best fit can make a world of difference in development.

This isn’t to say that you should always pick and choose situations based on coaches. Sometimes coaching has nothing to do with a sudden decrease in desire. If it is determined that this is the reason, it may be beneficial to have a discussion with the coach or possibly find a better fitting situation.

 

5)  Do they really want to play hockey anymore?

Kids often hold back how they truly feel about something from their parents out of fear. It’s a fear of disappointing the ones they love. Knowing this, as a parent, it is important to also understand that your desire isn’t always reflective of your kid’s. You may have a strong desire for hockey or for your kid to excel in the sport, but your kid may have other passions or interests they would like to pursue.

Remember, for 99.9% of hockey players, hockey is simply recreation. If it isn’t fun anymore, there is no use playing, no matter how much you have invested into their development. Don’t block out this possibility if you see sudden changes in your kid. Sometimes, simply taking a year off from hockey can do wonders for regaining desire.

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

18 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Kids Lose Interest in Hockey

  1. I can vouch for the friends aspect. My son is a 2005 who has been seperated from his best friend who is a 2004 for the past 2 seasons due to some questionable birth date related separation by the organization and this summer not only did they find each other in the passing game, they inspired the entire team to share the puck and be completely selfless. That team out passed the competition every game, out shot and spent more time on attack than any other team. Led by two guys who hadn’t skated together since they were 7 and 6 years old.

    • Thanks for sharing Greg. It’s amazing the difference you’ll see when kids are in a comfort zone, playing with friends.

  2. My son almost quit hockey this year because of bad experiences with coaches the last 3 seasons that NEEDED to win. This meant shorter shifts for him and at one point he was benched as they felt he was a “non-impact” player” as one of the coaches described him. When the hockey association decided to back the coaches decision making by saying every child wants to win regardless of what they tell you and that winning was the goal of the game we decided to pull him from this association and enrolled him in a private league. Thankfully he seems to have found the joy of playing again.

  3. I’ve read a few of your post and I didn’t them insightful. What if they aren’t playing for a coach that best develops the talents they have? My son wants to get to the next level. What is our recourse? The coach is nice and kind to the kids but because it isn’t the next level hockey there is limited incentive.

    • That’s always a tough one. Ultimately, it would be great if you could always have coaches that are extremely well-rounded and capable, but the reality is, organizations struggle to get top-notch coaches in place. Most are volunteers who generously give their time and have good intentions, but they aren’t always equipped to develop all types of players to achieve the levels they are striving for. Where I feel organizations can address this is through partnerships with skill development companies or through hiring experienced development specialists to work with the different teams within the organization (ie. a roving goaltending coach, power skating coach, defenceman coach, etc.) This is already being practiced in some jurisdictions, but should be more common practice. The reality is, even the best coaches aren’t equipped to handle all the development requirements of their teams. Since skill development is the most important aspect of progression for youth hockey players, this should be prioritized. If I were you, given your situation, you could speak with other parents and see if you can come to a consensus and speak to the coach. Research skill development specialists in your area and see if you can get them to come to a practice. It’s best to use existing practice ice-times because it keeps the costs low. Also look into trying to have this specialized development built into the annual curriculum for registration costs. If you were to enter one less tournament per year and invest in specialized, advanced skill development, you would actually be saving money in overall registration costs.

      Thanks for reaching out!

  4. Any advice for an 18 year old junior A player who is in his second year, loves the team , team mates and everything but is starting to lose his desire to go the rink ?

    • Sorry for the delay. I would need more information to get a better handle on the situation. I know from my own experiences, there is alot of pressure on 18-year-olds in junior hockey. It’s around the time that highschool ends and all the other kids go on to post-secondary schools, trade schools, etc. I had an overwhelming feeling when I was 18 that I was possibly wasting my time trying to continue to play junior hockey in the hopes of securing a scholarship. I was filled with alot of doubt and felt a bit left out when my friends were all moving away from home for school and I was still living with my parents. I still loved hockey and had a good coach, great teammates, but I started to doubt myself at that stage.

  5. Thanks the reply . So, in your experience is there any way to ” keep it fresh” ? I think the situation is as you described , he feels what’s the point of playing another year. I wonder as well if seeing the rookies so excited , as he was when he was a rookie, kind of makes him feel that he should be more excited too , although it’s not new to him .

  6. My son has dropped the bombshell that he doesn’t want to go back to hockey. He’s aged 11. He’s been playing the game for six years now in Scotland. He says simply that he doesn’t love the game and wants to quit. The club, coaches and team have been very supportive and say ultimately it’s his choice, don’t force him to do what is suposed to be his hobby. He has been training two nights per week, U12’s and training up witht the U14’s. He practices very well, but when it comes to a game he holds himself back. I believe it’s lack of confidence and fear of making a mistake. In some matches he seems to satelite pay and doesn’t ‘get stuck in’. In public skate sessions he’s a flying machine, exudes confidence and has remarkable skill. Hockey teaches so much to kids, skill mastery, working in a team, working hard, selflessness and pride. I’m desperate to be in this world. I’m keen to keep him away from wondering about the streets and being aimless in life. Do I accept hockey is not his passion or motivate him to er-think his decision?

    • Hi Scott,

      It’s always tough as a parent when your son or daughter expresses an interest to quit an activity that they’ve been heavily involved in for a number of years. The first thing you need to do is separate your connection and emotion from the decision and offer up support and just be there to talk about it with without fear of judgement. Kids often are afraid to disappoint their parents and if they feel they are being pressured or judged, they will be more reluctant to be honest about their true feelings. If you don’t feel they will open up to you about it, maybe there is someone else they can talk to? (sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent?) If they really do feel that hockey isn’t something that they want to do right now, there is nothing wrong with stepping away from the game for the year and try something else. One of the best experiences I had as a player that helped reinvigorate my passion for the game was to take 6 full months away from hockey and anything to do with hockey. This happened right before my final year of junior hockey when I was 19. I actually quit hockey and eventually came back and had the best year of my career. The good news is that your son is still very young. There is alot of time to figure out what he truly wants to do.

      Be patient and be supportive.

  7. You forgot another big one. Sometimes, some kids are being (voluntaryly) pushed out by the system solely because they are not part of the “click”. By not being a long-time friend of the coaches kid quite often result in a rejection during the try-out process, causing some kid with obvious potential to lose interest and quit. I’ve seen this often and unfortunately, some of those so-called “clicks” are so closely knitted that they are impenetrable and are a lost cause from the get go. Sad really.

  8. Hi Jamie,
    I came across your Blog as I’m desperate for answers to understand my son who’s played hockey for the last 6 years. Before the 2016 – 2017 season he began dropping hints about hockey always being at inconvenient times or that he doesn’t like hockey. It’s possible that his friends (playing other sports) were all getting together and therefore it was pulling at him. I’m not sure if he’s just going through a rebellious period because on the other hand he pushed for his mom and I buy him new skates so the message is conflicting. He play’s at the A level and quite honestly plays and skates beautifully (and I’m not just saying that because he’s my kid). But I also don’t believe he’s playing at his full potential. He doesn’t talk much and it’s difficult get any words out of him. Prior to the season starting I suggested he choose a different sport to try but decided he would just stay with Hockey. I’m not sure where to go from here and I’m tiered of falling on my face as his dad. I am his biggest cheerleader regardless of what he chooses. But I had hoped that he would play through High School with kids form the community instead of Club which pulls kids from all over.

  9. Hey Im currently 14 years old and i’m looking for advice. I have played hockey my own life and really loved the game in 2 year atom I was leading scorer in the league then the next year i had problem after problem My breathing went to crap with asthma and with my horrible coaching beaching me for only 3-8 shifts a game and also my grandma died during the break and since then its been 3 years I have only 5 goals in 3 Years so my question is: Is it because my Body can’ handle it anymore or is it that i lost interest i took this year off to see if i can get back my school tournament is on Wednesday so do you think i can get it back by then so i can prove everyone i can still play

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