Hockey Parents Get Sportsmanship Lesson From Youth Player

Filed under: In The News

Miller Donnelly, then 9, delivers his message about how parents can ruin sports for kids if they are too wrapped up in winning and losing. The Donnellys didn't expect the video to attract a large audience -- it was shot in their basement with Miller wearing his pajamas.

Most kids learn valuable life lessons playing youth sports. Miller Donnelly teaches them.

When he was just 9, Miller, who lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada, wrote a clever three-minute speech about overwrought sports parents and how their behavior squeezes the fun out of youth hockey.

First, he presented it to his school class. Then his uncle wanted to listen, so Miller's dad made a video and posted it on YouTube. One of Canada's top amateur hockey associations picked it up and posted the video to the club Web site. Then, last January, Miller really went big-time: One of Canada's most-watched TV news shows devoted an entire story to the speech.

Now, Miller is becoming the pint-sized oracle of responsible sports parenting. The speech – "The Magic Hockey Helmet" – has been shown at arenas before hockey games. More than 200 sports organizations have linked to it on their Web sites. And the video has been watched on YouTube more than 286,000 times.

Miller's message to parents is simple: Stop yelling. You're ruining sports for kids.

"I think a lot of kids feel the way I do," Miller, now 12 and a star defenseman on the Rayside Balfour Tigers, tells ParentDish in a phone interview. "They're kind of scared to admit it because they don't know how their parents might react."

Miller is hardly afraid. In the video, he points to an ordinary hockey helmet and explains that there's magic in it, but not the good kind.

"How is this hockey helmet magical? It does something simply amazing. When I put it on, it changes me from a 9-year-old boy to a 20-year-old man. There are no puffs of smoke. No lightening bolts and it needs no magic wands. It just makes me older. Much older."

Miller tells his audience that the adults he meets at hockey rinks are unfailingly friendly and helpful – until the games begin.

"The minute I put on my magic helmet and step on the ice, adults treat me much differently. They yell at me, they curse me and they call me names. They treat me like I have been playing hockey for 15 years and get mad when I make a mistake."

It's hard to gauge the impact Miller's video is having, but his message has already gotten more attention than he ever dreamed of.

"I feel kind of proud about that," he tells us.

His parents are understandably proud, too. "You know how every parent feels their child is remarkable? Miller actually is," his mom, Cori Niemi, tells ParentDish. "I look at him and can't believe he is my son. How in the world did all this happen?"

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids" (Beacon Press) Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.