It’s that time of year again when we take a break to unwind and be
with friends, family and loved ones. It is a time to reflect on the past year
to remember all the little milestones achieved whether it be skating backwards
for the first time or taking that first slap shot.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers, coaches, bench staff and all the support staff behind the scenes who put so much of their own time into making it all worthwhile for our kids. I would also like to thank the parents for bringing the kids to the rink on those frosty mornings, coffee in hand.
Why do we do it? It’s all about our kids. Whether it’s having developed a new skill or just having fun, these are the things they remember the rest of their lives. These are the impressionable years where it sets the tone going forward and then they intern set the tone for their kids down the road.
So next time you meet a volunteer, take a moment to thank them for all those hours spent planning and preparing just to get a smile on the bench. Next time you meet a parent, make sure you thank them for their support in the stands, cheering and being a part of their child’s experience.
On a final note, I would like to leave you with a poem from a good friend which reflects the hockey experience from a coach’s perspective. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
From myself and the rest of the association, wishing you and your family a very warm and happy holiday and a Happy New Year!
All the best,
I am here.
My mortgage is due the same as yours; my oldest child is having trouble acclimatizing at school; my middle son begged me not to leave and hang out with him tonight, and my wife and I haven't had dinner together for days. I spent much of the day in meetings wondering if I would get out in time to make practice and what was on the practice plan tonight.
But none of this matters now. I am here. I compose myself and prepare for the next 60 minutes on the ice with your child. And mine; he has already unloaded the car and disappeared into the arena to meet with his hockey friends.
Sometimes you wave at me in the lobby, and sometimes you don't. It usually depends if we won or loss or if you felt your child had been given an appropriate amount of playing time.
Your son is funny, kind and thoughtful. And tonight your son had a great practice. He struggled with a new skill and shook off a solid shot from the point that hurt. And, we laughed. He also told me something that has been bothering him, asking shyly that I not tell anyone.
I explained why he was taken off the ice or missed a shift or two at the last game. He nodded in agreement and asked how to get better. We shook hands, he thanked me, and we moved on.
He loves pizza for dinner, he hates fruits and veggies. He is really good at Fortnite dances in the change room where we all laugh; but his friends think he is ‘trash’ at Fortnite which makes him feel sad. His parents keep telling him to do better, they are always on him about sports/homework/eating dinner etc. And yet he's here with me in the freezing temperature on the ice, our skates frozen and our noses dripping. He is here because his team provides a safe shield from the outside world.
We sweat together, we celebrate together and we all feel the same sting of defeat when the puck bounces not in our favour. We step on the ice with the best intentions. We try.
I always leave the arena a better person than when I arrived.
In the time it takes me to drive home, unload my equipment/bags and microwave my dinner, you have hastily typed an e-mail. My middle child has fallen asleep on the couch and my wife is cleaning the kitchen while I sit at the table alone, reading how you feel I've let your child down.
You believe last game’s loss was due to my poor decisions. Your son would have scored the winning goal if I only had played him more or let him play a different position. You believe they aren't playing like a team should. You watched an NHL game and they seem so much more in tune with each other.
It's a shame, I think, that you missed the boys hugging, hi-fiving and cheering each other on tonight while you were at the coffee shop or running your errands.
If we win, I'll read that it's because the more talented boys got too much ice time; that I'm too competitive; that I'm pushing them too hard; that I've managed to crush the souls of the players on the bench. If we lose, it's because I played the developing players too much; I am ruining the stronger players' chance at future glory; I'm not pushing them hard enough or holding them accountable. What do we even do during practice anyway?
I know what you've told your son about me and I know what you've said about his teammates. And yet, your son and I both keep showing up. We keep trying.
I may not do it the way you would. I may not speak to your son the way you would but he needs more than one voice in his head.
I am not a professional. I am a parent who loves the game and has the desire to pass that on. I accepted the role I was offered; not for a pay cheque, not for status, certainly not for praise. I accepted this role because I have been where your son is now. I see myself in his missteps and in his triumphs. I have felt them all and I feel them all over again through him. I, too, have been bruised by a puck, pulled muscles and played with a broken heart. I also had coaches who believed in me, just as I believe in your son.
Knowing I had someone in my corner who challenged me and called out my excuses was the greatest reward of my years in sport. I vaguely remember the final scores of even the most important games, but I sure remember how I felt. Winning doesn't promise pride, just as losing doesn't guarantee disappointment.
One of my parents' great gifts to me was their unwavering support of my coaches. They never wrote a letter, made a complaint phone call or disrespected a coach – even when my eyes stung and I desperately needed it to be someone else's fault. It was my team, my game, my experience to have.
I learned early on that my coach was neither my parent nor my friend. I admired them and sought their praise. I hated them sometimes, too. If I thought I deserved a higher standing on that team, it was up to me to earn it. My parents sure weren't going to earn it for me.
Criticizing your child's coach might simply be a reflection of your insecurities or long-held regrets as a former player. That's okay. We all have them. As adults we can understand this, but as a child, your son does not. He is being pulled in opposing directions between his team and his parent's opinion of his team.
On his team, he is finding his identity and his place among his friends. It is here he will decide if that place makes himself feel whole and satisfied, or if it makes him edgy and hungry for more.
Let him discover this, on his own.
Let him play.
Your son’s Coach