Why did the parents of Chicago Blackhawks star Alex DeBrincat spend tens of thousands of dollars on youth hockey?
According to the Aspen Institute, the Utah State University Families in Sports Lab, and other leading researchers, the popularity of youth sports is declining across the country for various reasons, one being the expense. However, one sport that has remained consistently popular is ironically the most expensive: ice hockey. The average US family spends $693 per sport, whereas ice hockey costs an average of $2,583 per year.
So how did the DeBrincats justify the expense? They shared with us these 6 reasons.
- Alex and his older brother learned how to manage their time to be successful at both school and hockey. They felt like they were teaching good life skills.
- Although there was hockey almost every weekend, we were together. It was still family time.
- Their best friends played hockey.
- My husband and I met our very close friends through hockey.
- The time commitment required for school and hockey allowed for minimal downtime, keeping them out of trouble.
- Most importantly, for us, it was fun!
Having fun was our motto!
The DeBrincat’s main goal was to support Alex and make sure he was having fun. Alex did the extra things on his own to get better. He spent his spare time shooting pucks in the basement, practicing stick handling, shooting at targets in the backyard, etc., but he wasn’t pushed. He had a love for the game that other kids didn’t have. Working hard and chasing his dreams was just fun for him.
So do the Debrincats have any advice for other parents? Don’t make your child feel like your love depends on whether or not they have a good game. Over the years, I have seen parents yell at their kids for not having a good game and punishing their children if they didn’t perform. I have also heard boys say they hope their parents don’t show up to the game because they know they will be getting yelled at after the game. This is very sad in so many ways! I always took the approach that I am my son’s cheerleader. Parenting hockey boys are so much more fun when you leave the coaching to the actual coaches and focus on positively supporting your child.
Thoughts from Alex:
I think parents are vital to the success of an athlete. I believe parents should push their kids to work hard and do what they love, not to make them play a sport that isn’t a passion of theirs. Punishing your kid for a lousy game can result in depression and anxiety of performing, which can eventually be a serious mental health issue. Let your child grow their love for the game and let them follow their dreams, not yours.
Dr. Jon Coles is a former collegiate coach, administrator, and high school athletic director. He is now a practicing sports counselor and professor of sport management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org