Youth Sports: How to Play the Game
By Greg Bach
Former professional hockey player Tim Cook, author of the new book Youth Sports: How to Play the Game, encourages parents to take close looks at the programs they’re eyeing for their kids.
And to ask important questions before showing up at the first practice of the season.
“The more information you have the better decisions you can make about the best place for your child, so do your research and take your emotions out of it,” says Cook, who starred at the University of Michigan, was drafted by the Ottawa Senators, and played professionally in the U.S. and Europe. “It’s not a value judgement on you or your child where they are playing. It’s ‘where is the best place for my child to be to develop?’ And a good mantra for parents is: How can this experience help my child to grow?”
Cook, a high school U.S. History and Economics teacher at Montclair Kimberly Academy in New Jersey, is also mega busy after school, as he coaches varsity hockey and middle school soccer and lacrosse.
“Asking a coach ‘what is your philosophy?’ and ‘what is your development model?’ are totally fair, honest and reasonable questions to ask,” Cook says. “You’re not asking them for anything besides information. And the more information you have the better decisions you can make about the best place for your child.”
His book features a wealth of insight from his athletic journey and many seasons’ worth of coaching experience, as well as insights from professional, collegiate and Olympic athletes that he spoke with.
Among the topics he digs into are visualization, short- and long-term goal setting, sleep, the value of experiencing failure and learning from it, and much more.
“We need those trying moments when we fail in order to learn about ourselves and in order to develop that grit and that resolve that I can pick myself up and continue on,” Cook says of why it’s so important that kids aren’t shielded from these rocky patches. “The more we can give kids the beauty and the gift of failure the better because they learn that they might bend a little, but they are not going to break.”
The book is also filled with exercises parents can do with their young athletes to foster growth and learning while squeezing many positives out of their athletic participation.
Plus, he shares some fascinating insights regarding the younger sibling effect.
“My brother was eight years older and I fell in love with hockey hanging around him,” Cook says. “I was lucky, I was a late bloomer. Until age 14 I didn’t even play top-level hockey and so I had so much time to develop, have fun, and play with my friends. If I didn’t have all that time to develop I never would have been able to play Division I.”
Conversely, away from the ice he cherished his time playing lacrosse.
“I was never going to be a college lacrosse player but I absolutely loved it,” he says. “I coach it now and it’s one of my favorite sports. I didn’t have to worry about tournaments or private lessons or camps. I played in the spring and it brought me a ton of joy and I think that’s a good thing.”
Parents can help their kids discover that same joy – it just starts with asking some key questions.
Follow Tim Cook on Twitter @Cookyouthsports
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