Cold Hard Parenting Truths from the Classic Hockey Movie ‘Miracle’

One mother sees parallels in Olympic coach's 'tough love,' explains why coddled kids can hurt future generations

by Deirdre Reilly | Updated 01 May 2018 at 1:28 PM

I am a hockey mom –– my third son played hockey all through his school-age years –– so I was thrilled to stumble on the movie “Miracle” this past weekend, which tells the true story of Herb Brooks (played to perfection by Kurt Russell), the coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly unbeatable Russian team.

There is a pivotal scene in which the hockey players disappointed Brooks in a game; they played selfishly, he feels, showboating their own skills and ending up with a loss. As the other team files off to their locker room, Brooks has his players stay on the ice, then makes them skate from goal line to goal line, shouting, “Again!”

The exhausted players — eventually gasping for air and one even vomiting — skate back and forth under their coach’s unrelenting directive and an assistant coach’s at times-uncertain whistle. No one, not even the coaches, is sure where this is going, except Brooks.

“You better think about something else, each and every one of you,” says an angry Brooks to his team as they skate. “When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourselves and your teammates –– and the name on the front [of the jersey, which says ‘USA’] is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back. Get that through your heads!”

Brooks somberly watches his players as they skate, exerting their last ounce of energy to comply with his angry shouts of “Again!” (See the video, below!)

Finally, one player speaks up. "Mike Eruzione, Winthrop, Massachusetts," he gasps from the goal line, in a row with his teammates.

Brooks looks at him, eyes piercing: "Who do you play for?"

"I play for the United States of America," the player gasps. He has finally gotten it, through this excruciating exercise. It's not about him: It's about the team, about country.

My first thought, as I watched this scene, was this: Today, Brooks would never be allowed to lead a team in this way. Someone, somewhere, would no doubt file a grievance that would lead to a lawsuit, perhaps, or someone would tweet about it, or shame Brooks in some way, calling him a monster, asserting he was going to kill one of the kids by making them skate like that.

And it was extreme; he pushed his players to the brink of physical exhaustion. But today, we have young people who have "cry closets" during exams, who pet puppies and llamas on campus for stress, and who worry about microaggressions instead of their college classwork.

Where does it end? And are the kids the only ones who suffer, when they don't develop coping skills and even a semblance of interior toughness they will need in the years ahead?

There are reasons parents should want tough, resilient young adults — and be encouraged to do the appropriate parenting that results in that brand of responsible, capable offspring.

One reason: It won't just benefit the kids, but generations of families yet to come.

Heaven forbid your child himself has a sick child some day. Will he be able to be the parent and solid rock of the family that the child, his other children, and his wife needs him to be, or will he leave the family alone, unable to cope with sudden crisis?

Or what if the nation experiences a national crisis: war, a sweeping sickness, a devastating terror attack? Will your adult offspring be a source of comfort, strength, perhaps even heroism — or be under the table in the fetal position, unable to cope?

We are in danger of raising a whole generation that behaves this way ...

Or what if your grown daughter experiences a long stretch of unemployment? Will she buck up and find a new job, explore other job avenues (maybe vastly different from what she studied or trained for) –– or will she spend hours online tweeting about her misfortunes and blaming others, a defeatist attitude her own children will watch and absorb?

We all have known adults who "never grew up" –– who blame others for their life's misfortunes. We are in danger of raising a whole generation that behaves this way, even though to us, in the moment, our actions feel like love.

After all, what parents don't want to see their child happy, living a life of relative ease, free to explore their own interests to their hearts' desire?

Related: Third Time's A Charm: Little Hockey Fan Gets Her Souvenir

But that is one side to the parenting coin; the other side is preparing our kids with the toughness and coping abilities that they, and our country, are going to need.

So think twice when your child is uncomfortable, or disappointed, or pushed to what he or she thinks is the limit. Don't be afraid to empower your kids in the most meaningful of ways, by saying, as Coach Brooks did, "Again."

Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor at LifeZette.

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