A Father's Message: Remember to smile
By Dr. Jon Coles
Starting at age 17 when he moved away from home, Chad Billins has called his dad before every game he’s played.
Those 15 years included competing for the Team USA men’s hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics, NHL games, the AHL All-Star Game, the NCAA Division I Championship game, and professional games in Russia and Sweden.
His dad’s message has always been the same: “Remember to smile.”
Billins grew up in a hockey family. Mom played, both his brothers played, and his dad played and coached him as a youth player. Hockey was always fun.
Even as a 32-year-old professional player, Chad does not see it as a job. He attributes that to his parents and his upbringing.
“They always kept it fun,” he says.
Below are three tips from Billins for the upcoming season on how to keep it fun for your young athletes:
No peeking ahead: Billins didn’t look ahead at the next level until he was 16 and decided he wanted to play college hockey. He lived in the moment, stayed grounded, and made the best of where he was. He and his parents were never looking for the next best team or league. “If you’re good enough, they’ll find you,” he says. Billins didn’t play elite Triple A hockey until he was 16.
Zero parental pressure: His parents never put pressure on him. He was self-driven, loved the game, and rarely felt his parents were overinvolved in his experience. His parents were not screaming from the bleachers or lecturing him on the car ride home. “They were supportive no matter what,” he says.
Enjoy your teammates: His best memories are the times with his youth teammates in the locker room. “It’s not the wins and losses, it’s becoming a better person through hockey, working hard, and having fun,” he says. “My parents instilled that mindset in me as a kid and it still holds true today.”
In summary, Chad loves the game of hockey, and he plays his best when he’s enjoying it. Make sure your child is happy with the sport they are competing in and remind them to smile.
Dr. Jon Coles is an assistant professor of Sport Management at Grand Valley State University in Michigan researching parental involvement in youth sport.
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