Category Archives: Hockey parents

Just Keep Breathing

So this season has been less than spectacular for my son’s hockey team. A record of a couple wins-more losses-a few ties has made for a long season. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, many folks have told me that, for a goalie, being in net for a season like this can be the best thing. Lots of shots, lots of activity, lots of opportunities to learn and develop.

The same can be said for the goalie mom.

I used to be a more nervous spectator when my boy was in goal. I had a hard time sitting still and usually needed to find some space to stand and pace. I guess I just felt the pressure, just like I feel the pain when he is hurt or my heart breaks when his does.

This season allowed me to relax a bit. I just couldn’t keep up that stress level every week since he was under fire for a majority of the game, every time he was in net. It was exhausting. So, I learned to sit and watch the game, chatting with other parents, tensing only slightly when an opposing player got a breakaway and hurtled towards my son, who stood (crouched, really) at the ready.

Progress, I thought. Until…

This last game nearly did me in. This was the game that my son asked to play in so that he could face the team that beat him down earlier in the season. I was good leading up to the game – my son was hesitant to ask his coach and I did not step in. If he wanted this game, he had to step up and ask for it. I was not going to email the coach or talk to him on my son’s behalf. And I was happy when we got the email that he was in for that game. I was proud of my boy and excited about his opportunity.

Game time, however, was excruciating. I didn’t realize how nervous I was until we were driving there and it just escalated throughout the game. This game was not a big deal and the opponent was not all that great, but I knew this game was important to him and all of my mom instincts took over. I wanted him to have a great game. I wanted him to be successful since he wanted it so badly. I would have jumped out there and stood in the net myself, if that would have helped him out (and it certainly would NOT have helped so I stuck with willing all my energy to him from outside the rink).

I was a nut job. I was pacing, I was bending over whenever he had a shot on him. I backed away from the glass whenever the other team headed into his zone. I felt nauseous. At one point, I walked over to another parent, who complimented my son’s game, and croaked out “I can’t breathe.” I was that bad!

So, perhaps I have some more work to do on my game, just as my son has work to do on his. Or maybe I’ll just always be a basket case when he is in a big game (be it a really meaningful game or just one that means something to him). Braden Holtby’s mom certainly still seems to feel the way I do, and her son plays in the NHL.

Advice for all us moms, with apologies to “Finding Nemo” – just keep breathing.

Working Hard…

“…is fun.”

So said my son after a conversation we had recently about his goaltending lessons.

He is doing some private lessons this summer to keep from getting too rusty and really likes his coach. He thinks this coach is fun and he responds well to him. The result? He works his butt off for this guy.

We’ve been talking about working hard and how that is more fun than “phoning it in.” How when you work hard, you start to notice how you are getting better and you have some success, which is much more fun than half-heartedly doing what you are told and not really seeing any benefit. He seems to be getting it.

The other day he was practicing cello (so far removed from hockey but hopefully contributing to a well-rounded child) and we were breaking down a song that he was having some trouble with. We singled out the section that was most troublesome and he practiced the first line, then the second line, then the two combined, finishing with the whole song from the beginning. As he worked on it and heard how he was improving, he exclaimed “This is fun!”

I agree and I am so glad the he is starting to understand that hard work moves you forward and is how you succeed in life.

Now our challenge is to teach him to balance hard work with reasonable expectations and healthy habits. As he approaches puberty and, in the case of our genetics, the “chunkiness” that accompanies it, we are trying to talk more about healthy eating without addressing weight in any way. He is 11 so there is no need, in my mind, to start down that path. But when he suddenly and randomly jumps on the treadmill to run a little, as he did tonight, I have to admit I freak out a bit.

Deep breaths – this whole raising-an-athlete thing is a learning process. There is so much more information out there now then there was when I was growing up and navigating this myself, but that is not a reason to panic! My husband and I both work out regularly so we are already modeling a fairly healthy lifestyle. Some gentle conversations here and there, with some nudging towards less TV/video game time on the couch is reasonable. But our pizza addiction and fairly regular trips to the frozen yogurt place down the street hopefully also teach him that moderation is key.

Balance… isn’t that what we all seek? I’ve just never tried to teach it to anyone before. Perhaps if I had more of if myself, I’d be better at it.

A work in progress, that is what we all are. And always will be.

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The “T” Word

Ally McBeal (1997-2002)

Because who better to understand over-analysis than Ally McBeal?

That would be “tryouts.” If you are a parent of a child going through this now, it is okay to scream. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Feel better?

What is it with tryouts? The pressure, the stress, the questions, the analysis. And that is just the parents. I don’t know about other kids, but mine is focused more on an upcoming sleepover than which hockey team he might play on next season. Not that he doesn’t care – he does and he really, really, REALLY wants to make a team. But he seems to be able to let it go once the actual session is over, just like he does once the game is over.

I need to learn that skill.

Because I am spending my free time obsessing over all aspects of this phenomenon called tryouts. During the sessions a transcript of what is going on in my mind might look something like this:

“Wow, there are a lot of goalies here. More than I thought. I wonder where they all came from? That kid has a cool helmet. Why do they have the kids broken up that way? Does that mean that this is the top group? Wait, they are moving my boy from this group to another – did he do something wrong? Man, that kid has some funky-looking hair. Hmmm, they are sending some kids off the ice early. Does that mean they are in? Or are they the ones that are definitely out? Or maybe both – they know they don’t need to see them any more either way. How many teams are they going to have anyway? Oh geez, he coulda stopped that one. Maybe the coach wasn’t watching oh never mind he is looking right at him. Is this over yet?”

At least I look calm on the outside. I think.

To make this worse, after the “official” tryouts were over, we got the email for an “invite only” supplemental tryout. When I first read it, I thought “OK, he’s in, they just want to see which team he’ll go on.” Then I started reading between the lines. Then I started dissecting the lines. Breaking down each word and creating new words with them. Maybe they already have goalies for the first team and this is to see who will make the second team. Or maybe they need both but they have more goalies than they need so there will still be cuts. Or maybe they are really intense and they want to see if the kids can handle the pressure of a “do or die” tryout so they can see if they can handle a big game (that last one is more far-fetched, but it did cross my mind).

I think I just may be losing it.

Why do I do this? I suppose it will come as no surprise to anyone that I am type A and one of those people who lives in my own head. I overanalyze everything. Except when I don’t. Then I just make decisions and jump in without giving it much thought. I decided on my colleges that way. Seems that for big life decisions I just roll the die, but little things I try to control as much as I can. I’ll bet a psychologist would have a field day with that.

I do know that this is important to my son. And I want him to have success in the things that he works hard for. And I am sure there is an element of my own pride and self-esteem at play here, too. For now, though, I have to wait and see and try not to let my son pick up on my anxiety. When he looks up and sees me outside the rink, he’ll see me smile and give him a thumbs up. And when he is done, I’ll ask if he had fun and tell him he looked like he was working hard. Then we’ll go home and wait.

And I tell my son that HE has a problem with patience! He comes by it naturally.

Good luck to all going through tryouts. I hope that your players get what they want and that you don’t go crazy in the process.

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Face Your Fears

Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

No tears! No fears!

My son just started the spring hockey season with a new program (his fall/winter program does not have spring hockey) and I have taken on the role of team manager. My boss always used to tell me that I raised my hand too fast – that trigger hand got me again.

Having spent the past 6 months watching the queen of all team managers at work, I figure if I do my job half as well, I’ll be the shining star of spring hockey managers. And that is my goal – to be crowned Mrs. Team Manager, complete with sash and bouquet of flowers. It better happen.

My first job was to gather jerseys and get names put on the back. I took the advice of those more wizened and did this during the first practice. That worked out as the jerseys were done the next day and we’ll definitely have them for the first game. I am also putting together the roster and printing roster stickers for the game scoresheets. So far, so good.

I do think, however, that I have already uncovered my challenge – getting other parents to volunteer. First, we need someone to stand in the penalty box during games. You are essentially the butler – you open the door when a kid gets a penalty and you open it again to let them out when their time is served. Not a difficult task, but so far, no takers.

Second, for this game, is someone to handle the scoresheet. A bit more complicated – you have to write down the goals and goal scorers and penalties and shots on goal. The latter is probably the hardest because what counts as a shot on goal is pretty specific and not everything the goalie touches is a shot (a lesson I’ve learned along the way). Sometimes getting the goal scorers and assists right can also be difficult, but only because the referees sometimes aren’t sure and they give you numbers of players that don’t exist or give you the wrong players. Sorting that out can take a few minutes. I did get a volunteer for this, someone who has ample experience doing it, but otherwise – crickets.

So, I will likely have to devise some way to motivate volunteers so that this one experienced parent doesn’t become our scoresheet guy and I don’t end up in the penalty box every game. I’m thinking a forced sign up sheet might work. Or piling on the guilt in repeated emails. Or maybe I’ll develop a video with some sort of pep talk about facing your fears and taking on those tasks that scare you. Something out of a sports movie, like Miracle – “This is your time!”

I don’t even want to think about getting someone to run the clock. Now, THAT is scary stuff!

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You Know the Type

I have participated in organized sports since I was 8 years old. I have spent time watching my brothers play and have even dabbled in coaching myself. And now I spend a lot of time watching my son compete. So of course I have had experience with sports parents, both good and bad. I have also read a lot of blogs and articles about “those” parents. You know the type – call them passionate, call them invested, or, in extreme cases, call them just plain mean. I just read this article that nicely sums up how parents can be “good” or “bad” and it is worth a read.

We are very fortunate that the parents on our team are cool. There is no one who screams negative things at the boys during games or openly berates his or her child before, during, or after games. I mostly hear supportive, positive things and everyone seems to get along pretty well. I like that. As the goalie mom, I like that a lot. I have read (and heard) some stories about how goalie parents can’t sit with the others during games out of fear of overhearing how badly their child is playing or how it is all the goalie’s fault. Now, I don’t always sit with the other parents, but that is not because I don’t want to hear it. It’s because I am too jumpy to sit still and need space to pace. It’s my issue, not anyone else’s.

This past weekend at the tournament we were playing in I ran across some REALLy nice parents from an opposing team. I don’t want to get into any stereotyping, but I will say that these parents were from a southern team and, in my experience, you do run into nice people in the south. Not that there aren’t nice folks everywhere, but these folks were full of southern charm. They had only nice things to say about other teams and even criticism was pretty tame, like telling us that a team we had yet to face was “pretty small.” Now, I should note that some of the parents became my best friends when they came up to me and starting talking about how fantastic our goalie was during the finals. Since it was my kid in the net for that game, my feelings about these parents may be more favorable than they deserve. Ok, so they totally had me at “great goalie.” I’m a proud mama, what can I say?

To contrast, I did stand near one parent who was pretty awful, screaming at the ref and basically talking trash. And his kid, the goalie, was out on the ice pushing and hitting other players who came too close in his crease, collecting all kinds of penalties. Coincidence?

There is a great resource that I found a couple of years ago that gives great tips on how to be good sports parents for our kids. It is called Responsible Sports and you can sign up for emails that include short reminders and links to videos and articles for parents. I recommend giving it a try.

It is not easy to decide what to say and when to my son after practices and games. Sometimes I want to talk about something but he clearly does not. I am learning to let things go as he does and I am finding that he will bring things up when he wants to talk about them. So I am working on waiting and following his lead.

And I can always go and pace.

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