“We have to be careful not to micromanage our kids’ athletic careers. So, it’s important to just have fun watching games on TV."
Ben Clymer likes his gig. The former high school state title winner and Stanley Cup championship defenseman has been working as an analyst with Fox Sports North and the Big Ten Network, where he covers both the Minnesota Wild and the Gophers.
He doesn’t just enjoy the fast-paced action. He genuinely likes analyzing the game for the audience at home. Clymer believes there is a lot to be gained by kids who watch hockey intently, and they can apply certain skills and hockey sense in their own games.
“The play is happening in real time. So, it’s nice to use the TV (and technology) to take a closer look,” the Bloomington Jefferson product said. “I love using it to circle a player, draw the lines, and a squiggly arrow to showcase something that people can learn from.”
The following are Clymer’s keys for parents and kids watching hockey on TV, other digital platforms, or in person:
Watch One Player
Especially at the highest levels, hockey is an incredibly fast game. Clymer has an easy suggestion for young viewers.
“Don’t watch the game,” Clymer quips. “Just watch one player. Maybe pick your favorite player and just watch them.”
By focusing on a single player and their every shift the larger chaos of the game play is stripped away. This will give the viewer a chance to see the game at a smaller scale.
Clymer also suggest that a young player that plays defense should pick a single defenseman and simply watch that player. The same goes for the young players that play center, wing, and goalie. But later on in the game, switch the focus because a young defenseman can learn a lot by watching forwards, etc.
“A defenseman can learn a lot from watching the centers and what they do, too,” Clymer said. “They can watch what the centers do in the offensive and defensive zone or what a winger does when they get the puck along the boards.”
Part of an analyst’s job is to dissect a player’s performance and, at times, be judgmental.
“When you watch a single player during a hockey game it is okay to be critical of the player. View it as if you were them and you were trying to get better,” Clymer said. “You’ll see that they’re going to make some great plays but they’re also going to make mistakes. You will notice that the player that you’re watching will make little mistakes that aren’t as consequential to the outcome of the game if they’re playing well overall.”
When Clymer is in studio working as an analyst for the Minnesota Wild and the Golden Gophers he has the ability to rewind game action and dissect the play. But this technology can also be used in the home or when streaming on tablets or phones. Clymer encourages kids to watch games and use their own devices to create their own studio.
“For example, it’s a challenge to watch movement away from the puck on TV because your window into the game is limited,” Clymer said. “So, the guy that made a great play a long ways away from the puck may not be in the viewer’s vision. So, kids should pause the game when they want to and roll it back and forth just like we do in the studio. Get granular, simplify the action, and they’ll learn a lot.”
When kids watch a hockey game their focus isn’t strictly on game action. How the player’s act and behave leaves a lasting impression, too. When a player behaves badly their actions should be pointed out. If a player sulks, whines, lacks good sportsmanship, or treats the referees poorly the behavior should be discussed.
“Body language of the players can be worse than the verbal,” Clymer said. “The kids are highly impressionable. It is amazing and scary how much attention the athletes get – even when they act badly. In hockey, the fact is that no call is ever going to get overturned. If I’m watching a game, I’ll watch how a player receives a penalty and how they go to the penalty box. Do they go quickly? Is there a lot of discussion with the referee? Do they respect the male or female official? Coaches and parents should teach this. Show the kids, point out the players that behave poorly.”
Clymer believes that good behavior on the ice should also be reinforced and given a spotlight. When an NHL player showcases the attributes of a good teammate it can have a lasting impression on a young player, too.
“The NHL player that comes to mind is PK Subban,” Clymer offers. “He’s always optimistic. Which is such a great trait. He always seems happy. I’m envious of how much fun it looks like he’s having. What a great way to go through life and hockey.”
The Thin Line
When parents and kids watch games on TV or in person together or view highlights on a device there can be a thin line between being a parent and a coach. Clymer believes it is in this relationship between parents and their young athletes where the lines can blur.
“You don’t want watching the game on TV to become homework,” Clymer said. “We have to be careful not to micromanage our kids’ athletic careers. So, it’s important to just have fun watching games on TV. Maybe stop for some doughnuts after watching or playing a game. That will have a huge impact on creating a positive experience for a young player.”