Hockey parents' positive behaviour can filter down to children on the ice, study says

Women chat while watching players at a rink in Chestermere, Alta., in May 2012. (Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A brief intervention that emphasizes positive behaviours can get hockey moms and dads to internalize those behaviours, improve their psychological well-being and change their children's conduct on the ice, a University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) study found.

The slip-ups of some parents who are a little too intense are usually the ones that get attention, but these parents are far from being the majority in Quebec arenas, said UQAM psychology professor Catherine Amiot.

"When we talk to the players in the field of hockey, when we talk to the coaches, also to the administrators, we see that there are still many parents with whom it goes extremely well," she said.

Amiot and her colleagues recruited 98 parents of young hockey players between the ages of eight and 17 in collaboration with the Lac St-Louis minor hockey association.

The participants were divided into two groups and given seven tasks. The tasks for the experimental group dealt with sportsmanship, learning and fun. First, they were asked to read a text that presented changes in hockey attitudes through different examples. They were then asked to reflect on their own values and behaviours.

The tasks assigned to the control group required a similar effort, but focused on technical aspects of hockey, such as equipment and schedules.

"We want to emphasize the fact that in hockey, there are very positive, pro-social values that are valued, to focus on what is positive," said Amiot. "In this way, we could theoretically put forward norms that are very pro-social, that are in favour of sportsmanship, of this valorization of player development as such."

The purpose of the study was not to examine the impact of the intervention on parents' behaviour in arenas. However, the researchers found that parents in the experimental group internalized values related to team spirit, fun and learning more than parents in the control group. They also reported greater psychological well-being, more energy and less anxiety.

The intervention was designed to highlight to parents the positive changes that have occurred in the hockey world, such as the reduction in the number of penalty minutes in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or the great athletes who remind them that to perform well, it is important to set one's own goals and have fun developing.

A PASS IS AS GOOD AS A GOAL

The researchers then wanted to know if the intervention would motivate parents to encourage their child to be a good sport and have fun playing hockey.

By looking at the scoresheets, they saw that the children of parents in the experimental group got more assists in the two games after the intervention than the children of parents in the control group, indicating an ability to prioritize team play and group spirit.

"We can't conclude that the study decreased aggression in the parents, I didn't measure that, but we can conclude that the short intervention had an impact on the parents' motivation to encourage their child to be a good sport and have fun playing field hockey," said Amiot. "We saw a link between this intervention and the number of assists following the online questionnaire."

The researchers also found that the more motivated parents who encouraged their children to be good sports and have fun playing hockey, heightened their psychological well-being, had less anxiety watching, and more energy and vitality.

The findings were published in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychology.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 24, 2022.