Category Archives: Hockey musings

The Value of Tournaments

If you have a child playing any sport these days, you likely have experienced the joy of tournaments (if you have not, just wait, once your child plays at a certain level, tournaments will come). I recently had a conversation with my son’s coach for next season and we talked about traveling to tournaments – if we will and, if so, how many and where. The coach’s take is that tournaments have a place but if the team is going to spend the time and money to travel to a tournament, there should be a purpose, like playing against higher competition or getting the opportunity for more ice time than might come from league play. This conversation, and the fact that a ton of kids I know were at tournaments this past weekend (Memorial Day – a biggie), got me thinking about what I thought of tournaments.

I should start by saying that I have only travelled to 4 tournaments, and all were for hockey, so my experience is limited. But here are some pros and cons about tournaments that I have observed.

The good:

  • Team-building – the kids (and parents) get to spend a ton of time together at the rinks, at the hotel, and, most importantly to the kids, by the pool (finding a hotel with a pool is a MUST).
  • Experiencing other rinks in different parts of the country. We went to some nice rinks with great amenities and some that left something to be desired (the one with brown ice was interesting). Gives the kids a chance to see how others live.
  • Playing against different competition – and, I’d add, unknown competition. Sometimes it is good to play other teams and see how play differs, how the players differ, and how parents behave from different areas.
  • Tourism – there are opportunities to sightsee and visit museums or see local sports teams, which is particularly nice when you are in a town you have never been to before.
  • Fans – if you have family or friends in the area of the tournament, they can come and see the team play when they otherwise would not have that chance.

The bad:

  • Time – you have to give up at least a weekend and maybe more, plus the prep of packing, etc.
  • Expense – gas (or airfare), hotels, food, sightseeing costs, and souvenirs all add up.
  • Time off from school and work  – goes with time, as we have had to take a Friday off from school and work to get to our destination for a game or two that day.
  • Team closeness – this is more of an issue if you don’t particularly enjoy spending time with teammates and families. I liked our folks so it was fun to hang out and see each other, but I could imagine that it would be challenging if you did not get along with some folks because you do see each other at breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, at the pool, at the rink, and even pass each other on the streets.

The ugly:

  • This mainly has to do with winning and losing. If the team does well or even wins the tournament, all of those negatives are wiped out and everyone is happy. However, if the team does poorly, then you find yourself wondering why you spent all that time and money and effort and social energy on this trip. And the trip home can be excruciating.

I’m sure I’ve missed some things for each list, so please let me know. Still not sure what our team will be doing (some local tournaments, yes, those requiring travel – not so sure), but I am sure that as long as my son continues to play travel hockey, we will experience more tournaments. Maybe even some requiring air travel, which scares me. I don’t even want to think about the bag fees for his goalie equipment!

 

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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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End of the Road

The season started back in September. Since then, we’ve spent two nights a week plus almost every weekend, usually twice a weekend, at an ice rink. We have travelled more miles than I can think to count, spent countless hours in the car, packed and unpacked the hockey bags a thousand times, and experienced the typical highs and lows that come with rooting for a favorite team.

And now it is coming to an end.

Mile 0

While I am thrilled at the idea that our weekends will be somewhat freed up (at least the games will be more local and thus require less of our day), I suspect that I am going to experience some withdrawal and the emotions that go along with that. I have really enjoyed getting to know the kids and the parents on the team and I think we have all become friends. I certainly have spent more time with them than I have with any other friends I have. There is a bond that comes with all the time and energy we expend on behalf of our boys and the team as a whole.

Since we don’t live near most of the team and none of the boys go to school with my son, he won’t have regular contact with them during the off-season. And he is one of only 4 boys on the team that is aging up next season, so he won’t be playing with this group again. I know that we’ll bond again with whichever team he plays on next year, but seeing as this was our first time on a travel team of this intensity, I think we will always remember our Squirt B teammates as a special group.

It is not over quite yet, we still have one more tournament to go. So I plan to go and enjoy every minute and revel in the camaraderie that results from a group focused on one goal – the success and well-being of our favorite team.

So for one last time this season – GOOOOOOOO DOGS!!!

Life Lesson #1

Having participated in organized (and not so organized) sports my whole life, I am a firm believer that you learn much about life from sports. There are so many life lessons that I think we can learn from both individual and team sports that I could ramble on forever. I’ll start with just one today.

You can’t be great every day, but you can always give it your best. We’ve all had those days when everything goes right and we feel great, we know we look great, the presentation or test or race or whatever we have on the schedule that day goes even better than we hoped – we have a great day. In sports, it happens when you are ON. You make the saves or score the goals or set a PR or hit the target. It may not even feel like you have to exert much effort on these days, you just move and things go your way.

Everything clicks.

The lesson to realize is that these days are few and far between. Most days, we are less than perfect. We make mistakes and we don’t score. Our hair looks funny and we forget to bring some important papers to a meeting. What is important, on those more typical days, is that even though we may not be having a great day, we still need to give it our all. Doing your best and not quite getting there is so much better than phoning it in. Even if both get you to the same place – knowing you tried is so much better than knowing you didn’t. I’ve been trying to explain this to my son, who had one of those “great” games yesterday followed by a loss today. He got caught up in the high of the “great” and found the fall back to normal a bit discouraging. Won’t be the last time, so best to learn this lesson early.

I have always liked this lyric  – “There’s no such thing as a failure who keeps trying. Coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace” (Blues Traveler, “Just Wait”). I think that sums it up well.

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