Soccer, Hockey – Great for Kids, But What About the Parents?
—Doron Eisen, M.D.
I am a father of three, and two are in hockey. I am also a family doctor in Pickering, in the thick of a town that lives for its kids, and its sports.
There are very few things in life that can match the thrill of watching your child on the field or ice, running or skating hard, getting exercise, learning discipline and maybe even scoring a goal. As a father, I would never want to miss a minute of that.
As a physician, however, I've come to wonder about what the sport culture does for the parents, specifically when it comes to their health. At the risk of infuriating my readers, I would like to tell you why I think that hockey/soccer is as unhealthy for parents as it is healthy for kids.
So here are the three reasons sports can harm you:
1 No time to exercise. I can't count the number of parents of kids who play sports who have told me that they have no time for their own exercise because they spend all their spare time at the arena or field watching their kids play? This is, of course, especially true for rep sports. The more talent your kid has, the bigger your gut might become. Even the parents who coach are not getting the exercise they think they are. Our bodies need exercise. That means at least three times a week, nonstop for at least thirty minutes. Exercise is not a bonus; it is a basic need.
2 No time to eat right. How many proper meals do parents (or kids for that matter) get on hockey/soccer nights and weekends? The food is fast and it's filling and it's usually bad for you. I can't remember ever seeing a salad rink-side. We need to plan ahead, brown bag it more, and sit (no, not behind the steering wheel) when we eat.
3 No time after work. This is a particular issue for the leagues that play during the week. If you're like me, hockey days have the added pressure of getting out of work on time. Driving home is a stress and possibly faster than it should be. Traffic is always worst on these nights. Remember to drive safely, and be more afraid of hydroplaning than of the coach yelling at you for arriving late.
Lastly, a few words about the hockey/soccer playing parents. Hockey & Soccer are great sports to play and can be fantastic exercise. It fails my health test, however, when the following occur.
1. The intense game occurs only once a week and it's the only exercise you get. Studies show that the "weekend warrior" is at a particularly high risk of heart attack during exercise.
2. The game is followed by several beers. Many hockey/soccer-playing adults drink in excess after a game. This defeats most, if not all, of the gains. If you then drive home, your putting your health and that of the community at greater risk than all the other dangers mentioned above.
3. Playing at midnight, on a work night, and living the next day on four hour's sleep.
Sports are great, and so is time with our kids. Just don't forget that years after the team pictures have faded, our kids still want us around, and they want us healthy. They want us to be there to watch our grandchildren taking their first shots at the puck or kicks at the ball.
As a coach, it might not be a bad idea to inform your parents in a team meeting to include time for themselves to exercise three times a week.