5 Words Every Hockey Player Needs To Hear

You gotta want it! Show them you have a little heart.”


“Great job!”

“Better luck next time.”

Those are just a few shouts from the parents watching hockey games around me. I used to be that parent, thinking I was helping by coaching and critiquing during and after games.

When I would say to my son after the game “great job,” what was I really saying?

I started to think about this language, and I started to reflect on what kids want. Well, what would I want? When I was their age, I wanted my parents to tell me they loved me and backed up their words by spending time with me. 

As I continue to reflect on “great job,” I realized I had been saying, “I liked how you performed. I liked how you scored or had an assist or hustled.” But what did his coach say about his performance? Was it the same as what I was saying?

As I continued to reflect on the phrase “great job,” I felt even more convicted by the confusion I was creating. I found myself in competition with the coach. I didn’t know the coaches’ feedback or my son’s feedback to the coach. I was in a vacuum, but I said “great job” anyway. 

After further thought, I realized my son had his own perspective and thoughts about his game or practice. I didn’t ask about his thoughts, I had no empathy so I just said “great job.” And after all this thinking and processing about the words “great job,” I landed on how complicated and confusing the phrase was to my son. And, more importantly, I was driving a wedge in our relationship.  

So what words could I use to bond us together, and wouldn’t compete with his mindshare on performance? After reflecting, I found, “I love watching you play.” 

Coaches Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller conducted a survey where “college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, amplifying their joy during and after a game. Their overwhelming response: ‘I love watching you play.‘”

“Watching” is the Key Word

Watching is being present and engaged. See the good. See the bad. Just see all of it!

Watching does not mean coaching from the sideline. It does not mean continually critiquing or second-guessing. It means simply being present, engaged, and attentive, so when they ask, “Were you watching when…?” you can say yes!

Many athletes indicated that parental actions and conversations after games made them feel as though their value and worth in their parents’ eyes were tied to their athletic performance and the wins and losses of their team.


Being Present & Praising

When it comes to our kids’ sporting events, I see many parents watching every practice or attending every game. But rarely are parents fully present. They are watching through the lens of a camera. Or the parents are staring at their screen instead of their child. 

What a son or daughter needs and what they will remember is their parent’s presence. They need to know you notice them. They need to see an example of what it means to be attentive and present. We set that example with our actions.

More importantly, if we want a strong relationship, our children need to know we have their backs and that we aren’t their critics. And when we are present, we can build trust and encourage players. “I love watching you play” are the sweetest feeling words a parent can say to their child playing any sport.

Taking the time to praise them, and not their performance acts as positive reinforcement. Research shows that people perform best when they get five pieces of positive reinforcement for every one correction or critique

That is why we must be intentional about the things we do when watching our kids play, especially when we are coaching them. We need to remember that we can simply say, “I love watching you play.”


“I love watching you play,” says, “I don’t care about your performance.” 

“I love watching you play,” says, “I don’t care if you messed up.” 

“I love watching you play,” tells your child that you value the time we spend together around this sport. 


When you say “I love watching you play,” as a parent, you’re actively building trust, which can bond you both to the sport forever.