Any great coach knows, you don't necessarily coach each and every player the same way. Perhaps one kid responds to being challenged. Make getting higher grades a competition, just like scoring goals or earning a spot in the starting lineup.
Another kid needs hard parameters set - no grades, no games.
For our daughter, high school hockey requires practice every day after school in a rink that is 40 minutes away, followed by weight training or yoga. There are days when she's so whipped after practice that she wants to call it a night. But if she wants to keep lacing up the skates, she's got to keep those grades up, too.
Fond du Lac, Wis., hockey dad Peter Bellendir's son plays for a team that puts them on the road for more than an hour each way. But before committing they made a deal that their son had to maintain no less than a B- average, putting grades before hockey.
Minneapolis hockey dad Michael Farnham's son has heard a similar lecture.
"He understands this and knows if his grades slip there's no hockey," he says. "He has learned to schedule time to get his work done and he's doing a great job at it."
Sometimes "it" takes a little extra prodding on the part of parents.
"We travel with our 16-year-old daughter a lot," says Danbury, Conn., mom Anne Michelle Tonic. "We find we have to stay on her. She can be lazy, unless it's hockey."
Tonic's daughter could barely skate five years ago and is now one of the fiercest defensemen on her team.
Hockey has shown how determination can be channeled and applied to other areas of life, like school work.
Bill Colclough suggests that teammates offer themselves up as tutors for those who may need a little extra help.
"My son would arrive early at practice to help out a teammate having trouble in Physics," says the Baldwinsville, N.Y., hockey dad. "You may even be able to help them in a subject that they're having trouble with."
Skaneateles, N.Y., high school parents Jeff and Julie Torrey found an important key to success; structure and clear expectations. Their kids have learned to prioritize schoolwork so it doesn't become overwhelming with their hectic schedules.
"They know that homework needs to get done before that evening's practice," Julie says. "The most challenging aspect of the balancing act would be helping our kids realize that proper rest and not getting run down is essential to school and hockey success."
Parenting really is serving as your child's coach in life. And just like any great phenom can attest, you don't scale life's mountains without guidance. Or a little tough love.
Christie Casciano Burns is a hockey mom in Syracuse, N.Y. She is also the author of two books, "The Puck Hog" and "Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid."
COACH OF THE MONTH
Nick Parillo // Age: 39 // Toledo, Ohio
During his time playing pro hockey, Nick Parillo needed something to do in the offseason. He quickly found that helping out at youth clinics was the perfect use of his free time.
Once his playing career ended, Parillo parlayed that part-time role into a became a full-time coach. During the past decade, he has helped grow the Sylvania Youth Hockey Association and helped players develop skills and a passion for hockey.
Parillo coached players at several different levels, but his focus has been Sylvania's AAA program, which he has been running since 2012.
His years of playing experience and his passion or development have helped a number of players advance to the United States Hockey League and on to Div. I college hockey.
For Parillo it's more than wins and losses. He enjoys seeing players develop their individual skills while establishing a passion for the sport.
"Everyone's potential is different," he says. "It's just as rewarding to see a guy win two high school national championships as it is to see one go onto college."