Category Archives: Hockey musings

Shopping Around?

It is tryout time again in these parts. It seems as if the season just ended and here we are, getting ready for next season. This year, as I add the dates to my calendar and look at how different organizations run tryouts, I keep wondering why there is an assumption that all of the power resides with the coaches and the organization running the tryouts? Don’t the kids have some say in where they play and who they play for, as well?

I am seeing a trend around here where the organization charges a tryout fee (that is fine) and then, at some point during tryouts, such as before the kids come back for the second day, they want a deposit of hundreds of dollars to be paid. The policy is then that if your child does not make the team, they rip up the check or refund you the money. If your child makes the team, they keep the money and apply it towards your registration fee. Sounds great, right?

There is a catch, however. If your child is offered a spot but chooses not to accept it, the organization keeps your money. These organizations claim that your child is taking a spot  from someone else and that is not fair, thus they want a commitment ahead of time.

I call BS on that one!!

First of all, there is such a thing as a waiting list. When you post tryout results, also post an alternate list. Then those kids will know that they are being considered and will hear from the coach if a spot comes available. I know that, for some, this is akin to being cut, and they may chose to move on and try to play elsewhere. That is perfectly fine – but it also gives some kids a heads up that they are still in the running and that may be what they need to know.

Secondly, when a player chooses to go elsewhere, the team will most likely fill that spot and the player will pay the fees. So the money is simply a punishment (or, perhaps, a form of blackmail?), not something that is needed for “lost revenue” if a kid doesn’t take the spot and leaves the team high and dry.

And lastly, this type of policy flies in the face of the idea that the player (and his or her family) also has a say in where he or she is going to play. Sure, there are players who are going to “shop around” for the best team, but there are also times when a player just wants to find out more about the organization and tryouts are a reasonable time to do so. Players  and families can get a feel for the rink, the coaches, the other parents, and the other kids during tryouts (especially since they now seem to take place over 3-4 days) , see if and how they might be a fit for the team, and then decide if THEY want to play there.

Radical idea, I know.

We live in a consumer-driven society. Like it or not, that is how it is. Players may be interested in a team and want to learn more. Perhaps they will end up playing there. Perhaps they will end up playing somewhere else. But isn’t it better to let them “try it out” ahead of time before investing a significant amount of money for what is a very long season? Shouldn’t youth sports teams be more interested in fostering a love of the game and exploration to help kids reach their full potential as players and as people than in forcing a commitment (from kids as young as 7 or 8) or driving them away from the game?

Until we do away with the scorn some hold for those families or players that they feel are just “shopping around” for a good team and those organizations that require monetary commitment before team selections are even made, we are doing more to harm youth sports than help.

I know that those in charge of tryouts will likely see this issue much differently and argue that the time and energy it takes to run tryouts and make decisions and the feelings of those who are cut and then approached to take a vacant spot need to be considered. I agree that tryouts are hard for everyone. And I agree that tryouts result in tough conversations, but that is part of the process. You can’t force loyalty – it has to come naturally, from good coaching, good relationships within the organization, good communication, and a well organized season.

Organizations should spend their time on those things and less on coming up with ways to maintain all the power in their relationships with players and families.

That’s my two cents…

 

 

 

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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.

Put Me In Coach

That song has been in my head all day. Even though it is about baseball, it was very appropriate for my son’s hockey game today. A month and a half or so ago I posted about my son’s lowest-of-low points, a game where he not only got beat, but was completely beaten. Today was the second of two match ups with that same team – this time on their home rink. I told him the other day that he was playing them again this weekend.

His response?

“I want to beat them!”

I loved hearing that – no fear, no backing away from the challenge. Good stuff.

However, the decision about who is in net when is not mine to make. So, I told him that if he wanted to play in that game, he had to ask his coach. He was not sure what to say so his dad and I coached him on how to approach his coach and what he could say. At the first practice of the week, he chickened out and did not ask. He said he was scared that his coach might get mad at him. I explained that while his coach may not put him in net for that game, for whatever reason, there is no coach out there that would be mad to hear that a player wanted to face an opponent that had beaten them before.

So, at the next practice, my boy summoned his courage and asked his coach, who said exactly that – he would think about it, but he was very happy to hear that my son wanted this challenge.

Long story short, my son played today against that team and played very well. His team played well as a whole and I saw some great teamwork and loved how they had each other’s back. The  outcome, while not movie-perfect (they were ahead 3-2 with less than a minute left and with .004 on the clock, the other team scored to end in a tie), was so much better than last time and my son was all smiles afterwards.

Another life lesson learned – “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” He had to let his coach know how he felt or take whatever was assigned to him. So he ventured – asked the coach – and gained – redeemed himself in his own eyes for the prior performance.

I’ll save my observations about how I felt through all of this, particularly during the game today, for another post. Suffice to say, I am learning some lessons of my own on this hockey journey of ours.

Scaling That Wall!

A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post. Another great life lesson learned today – sounds pithy but so very true: Winning isn’t everything.

Today my son was back in net against one of the top teams in our division. The last time they played this team, they lost 12-1 (of course, that game was the first game ever for his team and many kids didn’t even know each other’s names). Today, the score was a bit closer, although my son’s team still ended up on the losing side 5-1.

However, my son had a fantastic game where he made a ton of key saves and was aggressive and as in their face as he possibly could be. He left that game with a huge smile on his face and that smile is still there, hours later. Yes, they lost. Yes, he got scored on a bunch of times. But he played his heart out and knows that he did his absolute best so instead of feeling badly about he loss, he feels on top of the world.

Winning really isn’t everything – knowing that you gave your all and did your best matters so much more.

Being the goalie sure can be fun!

Hitting the Wall

 

Bam! As I feared, my boy hit that wall head first a few weeks ago.

Hitting the wall: Abstract 5/365

Just a tip: You don’t bounce off of brick.

It was not pretty.

The long and the short of it – he was in net for two games in a row and while the first game was a better fought battle that ended in a loss, the second game was a big, fat, hot mess. A team that had scored only 8 goals in their past 3 games got 10 in our net in a mere 45 minutes. All I can say is “ouch!”

Watching my boy out on the ice was tough. He started to lose it out there. His head was down, he was sitting on his pads when the play was at the other end, and, at one point, after yet another back door goal, he bent forward and just let his stick slip out of his hand onto the ice. He was utterly defeated. If that wasn’t bad enough, my son, who has maybe gotten slightly teary for a second after a game once or twice in his career, curled up in the fetal position and sobbed on the way home from that game.

Heart. Wrenching.

Now that both he and I have recovered from that weekend, I can think more clearly about it. We asked for some advice from his coaches on what to say to him and the overwhelming response was “have a short memory.” There are no great words of wisdom to share when someone has just had their butt handed to them. The main thing his dad and I stressed was that, no matter how difficult it was, he had to be the bigger player out there. He couldn’t let his team, his coach, or the other team see how defeated he was. He had to keep his head up and be ready for the next shot, and try to stop the 30th shot just as he had the first.

Yes, I know. A very tall order for anyone, especially an 11 year-old boy.

But, as his goalie coach said, imagine you have a job where, whenever you make a mistake, a big red light goes off and a horn sounds and people start cheering. That’s what happens to goalies and if they let it get to them, they are not going to last too long in that crease.

On the bright side, he was back in the net the next week, without complaint or hesitation. I was really worried about what another loss would do to him, but he was back to his old self. Yes, they did lose again. They lose a lot. But this time he kept his head up and stayed on his feet and worked hard to stop that puck. I love his resilience.

And that is probably the biggest life lesson taught by this sports-related situation – no matter what life hands you, you can’t let it beat you down and you have to stand back up and be ready for what’s coming next.

Everyone probably needs to take that lesson to heart.

 

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