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5 Ways to Deal with Late Night Practices

By Tammy - STMAYH VP of Communications, 11/10/15, 3:30PM CST

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5 Ways to Deal with Late Night Practices
By Jessi Pierce, Touchpoint Media

Posted on http://www.minnesotahockey.org

“Practice is at what time?!”

Many parents and coaches have likely asked themselves this numerous times throughout a season. As registration numbers continue to climb, so does the demand for ice time. That in turn can lead to some teams taking the ice for practice when they should be hitting the sheets for the night..

A former player turned hockey dad and head coach of the South St. Paul girls’ high school team, Dave Palmquist has been a part of his fair share of late-night practices.

“As with anything in sports, it’s all about prioritizing and making sure you know what needs to get done first,” he said. “Make sure the parents and the kids are on the same page and make a plan for what needs to get done and when.”

How do you make it work for your player and the family? Palmquist offers these five tips to manage those late-night skates.

Homework and Chores First

Schoolwork and household chores should always be a priority for kids while they’re in sports – even if they don’t necessarily agree. Late-night practices put more emphasis on getting the big tasks done first before allowing him or her to go out and have fun on the ice.

“You want to instill early on in the season that as soon as the kids come home from school, they get a jump start on their homework and chores,” said Palmquist. “You don’t want it to wait until after practice. Then it turns in to a bad habit that’s hard to turn off.”

By creating a routine of chores, homework, dinner, then practice – or a similar variation – it sets an organized plan into motion. Help establish an order of responsibilities, and it will help alleviate stresses for you and your player.

Hot Meal on the Go

Dinner is one of the big challenges families face when it comes to the hockey season, no matter the practice time. While practice at a later time can allow for some hearty home-cooked meals, it becomes too easy to suggest hitting up the nearby fast-food joint instead.

“Supper is important not only for the health and energy benefits, but for the family time, too,” said Palmquist. “A lot of times during (hockey) we think it’s easier to just grab something and go to the rink, or eat at the rink. But we should really be making an effort to have a real meal, too.”

To avoid the fast food route, prepare meals ahead of time. Check out Hockey Mom’s Crockpot for some delicious ideas.

Keep the Energy Level Up

Between school and work, it can be a long day – for parents and kids. With late-night practices it can sometimes be hard to keep that energy level up. But with simple conversation on the positives of the practice, you can make sure their excitement level stays on the high end of the scale.

“You want them to still be excited to go to practice, even if it’s late at night,” said Palmquist. “Get them thinking about the fun they’re going to have on the ice instead of thinking about the time on the clock.”

And after practice, remind them how important it is to get out of the locker room quickly so they can maximize the amount of sleep they get and maintain their energy level throughout the week.

Free Time and Family Time

Even between the chores, homework and dinner, make sure there is some time for your child to unwind from the day.

“Kids need to have time for free time,” Palmquist said. “It can’t be go, go, go all the time. Let them have some time between their homework and getting in the car for practice to unwind and simply play outside or in the basement. They need to have that unstructured element, too.”

Another important use of that time is to spend it together as a family. Hockey families are constantly on the go. Don’t forget to spend any spare moment together that you can.

“I think we as parents sometimes forget what’s really important,” he said. “We obviously want nothing but the best for the kids, but we can’t forget about family time either. Let your child know that it’s great that they are going to be a part of this team, but remind them that they have a commitment to the family, too.”

Limit the Late Nights

At the end of the day, late-night practices aren’t ideal, but they happen. With hundreds of teams across the state of Minnesota and far less available ice, the more coaches and associations can limit the late-night practices, the better everyone can deal with them.

“One thing I’m a big proponent of is shared ice,” said Palmquist. “The more teams that share ice, the more we can prevent a team from skating after 8 or 9 p.m.  As coaches we can accomplish a lot on half a sheet of ice and kids will fully utilize that space, unlike what can happen when there’s just one team per sheet. The more shared ice, the less late night practices there are and I think, especially for kids Peewee-aged and younger, that’s an important thing.”