When looking back over a season, many sports organizations like to count the number of trophies, banners, or other awards their teams have won. For Seafair Minor Hockey Association, it goes deeper than that.
“Absolutely, winning banners and awards is rewarding for everyone,” says Nigel Shackles, president of the Seafair Minor Hockey Association, “but what’s really important is what kind of year did the kids have? Did they have fun playing hockey? Did they learn lessons, such as how to handle the disappointment of losing a game, or the challenges of conflict?”
Seafair has been helping kids develop their life skills as well as their hockey skills since the 1991 when they grew out of the private Gulf of Georgia Hockey Club. Now a successful community-based minor hockey association, Seafair offers programs for kids aged from four to 20 years old.
“Last year we had some of the best coaches we’ve ever had,” Nigel notes. “It was also the quietest year for dealing with incidents in the stands. Success to me is how many issues and problems came up and how did we deal with them as an organization? That’s what’s important.”
Seafair prides itself in developing kids to be outstanding citizens as well as good hockey players. The association has been a leader in developing some of the most talented hockey players in Richmond, seeing players drafted to both the NHL and WHL.
“The thing to remember,” Nigel says, “is that it’s a very competitive landscape. It’s such a small pond to be king of. I tell the parents of our younger players to enjoy the fact that their kids are good at something and enjoy it. So often I see kids training for the sport, rather than playing the sport. At the younger ages, just let the kids play and enjoy themselves.”
Nigel encourages parents to be realistic about their children’s abilities too.
“You can’t manufacture something that’s not there,” he notes. “A great hockey player is in the DNA. Just because your kid had a bad year or a bad coach at the age of seven, doesn’t mean he’s lost his chance at an NHL career. On the other hand, all the skills training in the world isn’t going to make him a top notch player if he doesn’t have the talent.”
Relax, is Nigel’s advice to parents.
“If the worst thing that happens in your child’s life is that gets cut from a team and you don’t think he should have, then he’s going to live a very charmed life,” he says. “Take that lesson of adversity and teach your kids how to handle it. I don’t think anywhere else in their upbringing are they going to have such focused lessons.
That’s my idea of success.”