Tag Archives: Hockey

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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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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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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Get out of the way!

One of my students, who had been a no-show for her latest speech in our public speaking class, stopped me today to explain that she missed the speech because she had a “confidence crisis” and just couldn’t get herself to do the speech. That got me to thinking about what we do to ourselves in our own heads. In almost every case, what we think will happen is MUCH worse than what will actually happen. Our imaginations are good.

I empathize with this student, although I hope I would have at least let my instructor know beforehand, and not after failing the assignment. I have always been one of those people who is in my own head way too much. Age has reduced this significantly, but if I were able to give my younger self any advice it would be this – get out of your own way, you big dork! (Okay, so name-calling is not so nice, but my younger self really needs a kick in the butt).

A perfect example of how I took myself out of the game before it had even started was when I was a high-jumper on the high school track team. I somehow convinced myself that I could not clear 5 feet in competition and – guess what? – I never did. I even tried visualization, which didn’t work so well considering that I kept visualizing myself knocking the bar off as I jumped. I think that visualization tactic works better if you actually are successful in your mind. Oops.

I’ve noticed that my son is not like me in this way and, for that, I am grateful. In sports, at least, he doesn’t waste time over thinking things and, so far, doesn’t defeat himself before the puck even drops. He is like this in most aspects of his life and where it is not, he is working on getting out of his own way.

When I read articles about sports parents (just read this one about soccer parents), I try to take the advice to heart and stay positive and let the coach do the coaching and help my son have fun. What I find is that I have to get out of my head so that I don’t get into his. I can get pretty wrapped up in the game and I am learning to keep most of my thoughts to myself and to stop overanalyzing events over which I have no control. I’m not out there playing and I do not have the knowledge nor skill to teach my son how to play hockey or lacrosse. My job is to make sure he gets where he needs to be at the right time, with the right gear, and pay the fees so he can continue to play. Oh, and to be sure to have a stash of snacks in the car for before and after practice and games (pre-teen boys must be fed at regular intervals or they may starve – no joke).

Front of a box of Scooby Snacks from Suncoast.

I think most of us could benefit from getting out of our own way sometimes. My student would have done a fine speech. I could have easily cleared 5 feet and maybe higher. And my son will be a better person overall if I get out of his way when I should and let him find his own path.

I’ll just be sure to stash some snacks along the way.







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A goalie mom's perspective on hockey and what happens between games


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A goalie mom's perspective on hockey and what happens between games