by Duane Wiltshire
Over the past twenty years I have traveled through hockey arenas and met a number of different people and been a part of a number of different parent groups and coaching staffs.
I have noticed that faces change, but the behaviours seem to remain the same. The actual stories are all unique, but the characteristics behind the actors are eerily similar. The Pride/Protection spectrum seems to be the source of a lot of these characteristics.
Obviously, if your child is being mistreated then any normal and attentive parent will help protect their child and make sure that the mistreatment stops. However, as you slide along the spectrum to where true and noble protection stops, you will begin to enter the realm of parental pride. Many of us will even justify our actions as protection, but really it is our pride kicking in. The ego is a powerful motivator and it is one of the biggest driving forces behind the different archetypes that I have discovered. These are Angels, Snakes, Skunks, Agents and Grumblers. Many of us will remain constant in our archetypes, whereas others of us will change through different behaviours. As you read through these archetypes, you may recognize traits you or others share in common with one, two or all of the groups. It is possible that you or people you know are a purebred archetype or possibly a hybrid of two or more archetypes.
Angels – These parents are quiet, happy, and friendly to your face and behind your back. They are rare and lovely. This is the archetype to which we should all aspire to ascend. They want to see the team do well, but their mood is not affected by how much their child plays or how much the team wins. Their pride in their child is not dependant on how well they do in hockey. They show up for every ice time and are almost always on time because they believe in punctuality and commitment. They rarely, if ever, complain about the location or the time of the practice or game. They may, with a smile on their face, complain about the weather, but then quickly remind themselves and others what a good winter it has been. They find the good in the coaches on the team and all of the other parents. Once in a while they are bothered, quietly, by the smell of a Skunk when it is particularly distasteful. They are naively unaware of the behaviour and actions of a snake. Skunks and Angels keep their distance, but Angels are happy to talk to any of the other archetypes. Snakes are bothered by the Angel’s characteristics and try to convince themself that the Angel is just a very talented Snake. Angels praise the efforts and abilities of all the children and would feel awkward ever discussing their own child. Angels and Grumblers share the same values, albeit demonstrated differently, and enjoy each other’s company.
Snakes – They slither on their bellies in the grass spreading venom to all who will listen. This is usually done with whispers and frequent shoulder checks. A Snake’s venom usually includes witty insults and complaints. A Snake’s main target is usually the coach, but it is sometimes a parent or a player. It may be about the coach’s strategy or use of players, but the reason behind the whispering is always self-serving. All a coach can do is hope that the Snake doesn’t poison too many people. It is difficult to catch a Snake doing anything wrong as they are sneaky, deceptive and have the coy ability to stay camouflaged. If others catch onto the antics of a Snake, the Snake will dial back their plots for a while and point others to the actions of the Skunks.The Snake is the busiest when the team is losing. Snakes are intelligent people and know what to whisper in the ear of the person to whom they are trying to infect. Snakes rarely use the same chant twice and will contradict themselves, if necessary, depending on to whom they are speaking in order to maximize the strength of their poison. Angels brush off Snakes as the Angel determines that the Snake must be having a bad day and often says something encouraging to the Snake which only frustrates the Snake. Skunks are severely effected by the poison of the Snake. So much so that Snakes become stinkier and noisier than normal after having contact with a Snake. Snakes feel safer when they are in the company of Skunks, and Skunks feel smarter by keeping the company of Snakes. It is rare that too many Snakes enjoy each other’s company, but it is possible. Grumblers and Agents often pretend to like Snakes, but secretly don’t. However, when things are going particularly bad for a Grumbler or an Agent, the Snake’s venom tastes like the sweetest nectar. Snakes often only keep a ‘friend’ as long as that friend serves a purpose. If you address a Snake head on, they’ll run and hide, but they’ll be back later to bite you when your back is turned.
Skunks – These parents make a lot of noise and stink. They often find and like the company of other Skunks and will run in packs. They encourage each other’s behaviour and find humour in one Skunk causing a high degree of disruption. However, as quickly as these friendships began, they often quickly end. Skunks like to yell and bang the glass when they are watching a game. They will often laugh about their own behaviour or the behaviour of other Skunks. Logic is not part a Skunk’s repertoire, but aggression, bullying and volume are their favourite tools. They may expect that their child be given all of the ice time because…well just because. For unknown reasons, one Skunk, all of sudden notices the stink and noise of another Skunk that they had previously not noticed and as a result choose to not keep that Skunk’s company any further. The other archetypes find this amusing and have difficulty understanding how the one Skunk could have been so unaware. Skunks openly criticize everyone, especially the coach and often players. Skunks often have the solution to all the team’s troubles. They will boast that they are the best type of parent by process of elimination. They claim that Agents only care about their own kid whereas Skunks altruistically claim, for all to hear, that they care about the whole team, which is not true. Skunks also will say that the Grumblers and Angels are fake and that a Skunk says what the Snakes are thinking, but that Snakes are too afraid to say it. This being said, Skunks often do find a friend in a Snake, but it isn’t long before the snake spreads poison about the Skunk before slithering to the hills and finds a new temporary companion. Skunks prefer the company of other Skunks until the odor of the other Skunk is too much to take.
Agents – These parents aren’t too concerned about the team, and often have little in common with the Skunks and Snakes as the Agent is chiefly concerned about managing their budding superstar. However, if a Snake or Skunk were to ever join the coaching staff in any capacity, the Agent would suddenly become very interested in striking a deep and meaningful relationship with the Snake or Skunk. If the team is losing, but the Agent’s child is having personal success, then the coach is a hero and the Agent will defend the coach. However, if the Agent’s child struggles and especially if the Agent’s child loses ice time, it is then the coach’s fault and the coach has no idea what he is doing. An Agent jumps at the opportunity to tell you how good their child is and will try to impress you with their own knowledge and history of the game. Agents often target any player on a team who is deemed as a better hockey player than their own child. Their criticism is presented as concern as they wonder aloud why ‘that’ player would ever get more ice time than their own child. On a good day, you may hear an Agent telling others of his big plans for their child. Agents don’t limit their boastfulness to hockey. Rather you will hear about their child’s successes in track, soccer, school and more. Agents seem to have stats available at any moment for every player on the team. These stats are heavily inflated in the Agent’s child’s favour, but the Agent will swear that they are absolutely accurate. Agents can appear like Angels until they brag about their child or until the coach ‘makes their child look bad’…and then Agents could be confused for a Skunk. Agents love Angels as Angels will nod and smile as the Agent tells of all the wonders of their child. Agents and Skunks can not stand each other. Skunks figure it is because the Agent is afraid, and the Agent determines it is because the Skunk is jealous. Agents can recognize a Snake for what they are, but if the Snake whispers the right tune about the Agent’s child, then the two will form something of a relationship.
Grumblers – They really want to be like Angels as they highly respect Angels. Grumblers enjoy the company of other Grumblers and Angels. They will tolerate all the archetypes, but are then likely to grumble quietly about these other parents later. And though they tolerate others, they do realize that Skunks and Snakes are of a weak morality and avoid them as much as possible. They often justify the actions of Agents saying, “They just love their kids,” but then quickly point out that it is wrong to brag about one’s own child to other parents on the team. The difference between Grumblers and Angels is that if a Grumbler’s child gets benched or is taken off the power play, they become upset and quiet or perhaps will quietly grumble to a trusted Grumbler or Angel friend. Sometimes after they grumble to an Angel, they feel silly as the Angel says something sweet and supportive. Grumblers need to be careful that they don’t Grumble too loudly or others will confuse them for a Skunk and they may lose their Angel friends who are highly valued by the Grumbler. Grumblers wish to ascend to the behaviour of Angels and will convince themselves if the coach just valued and played their child a little more, they would be as good as an Angel. Even coaches have a hard time differentiating between an Angel and a Grumbler and will often confide in a Grumbler, confusing them for an Angel. The coach may later determine that the ‘confidee’ was, in fact, a Grumbler as what was said in confidence is now common knowledge and an Angel would never repeat what was said in confidence.
So, did some Snake-Agents come to mind? Or perhaps a Skunk or an Angel-Grumbler? For clarity’s sake, the more dominant archetype is placed first. It would be difficult for any of us to admit that we were an Agent, Snake or Skunk, but perhaps once or twice we have briefly fallen into those categories. It would be great if we all acted as a purebred Angel and that is what we should aspire towards. It is possible for people to change their archetype. Quite often how we act is, sadly enough, dependent on our child’s success and their perceived value from the coaches. If our child is being mistreated, then attentive parents act in a direct and responsible fashion. However, if our child is being undervalued, our pride kicks in and if we aren’t careful, the result could be our demonstrating a less than desirable archetype.