It’s OK to be THEIR disappointment.
Hope summer has been a treat for you all. Mine has just concluded as of this past weekend with the kick off to another hockey season. It’s August 12. And, I’ve already hit the 4-straight-days-on-the-ice mark. Which, seems rather early. Though it seems earlier each year. However, I’m not really complaining. It’s my choice. I absolutely love doing it. Each season is an absolute blast, thus it’s a little easier to get back to the rink August 12th. I look forward to seeing some returning faces to the herd, and some new faces eager to make the squad and become apart of it.
The next 6 weeks are the toughest for us coaches as we spend hours upon hours at the arena, followed by hours upon hours at a table somewhere, sometimes at an arena, sometimes (If I am lucky) at a pub, and we try to get it right. Then, we hit the sheets, only to wake up do our 9-5 and do it all over again. For 6 weeks. But, we absolutely love it. Though It’s taxing & exhausting, it does not compare to the pressures that these young men face. 13 & 14 years old. 160+ kids try out for our association, with our team being the pinnacle group. For the first week, teams will scrimmage against one another, alternating opponents each night. Easy? Sure. Queue, about 15 of us in the stands whispering to each other, and writing on our clipboards, making note of each and every play, and player. Not so easy anymore for these kids. We take 19 of that 160+. 19. That’s just over 10% of kids trying out will actually make the top team. And, that only then becomes step one.
It’s tough. These kids are 14, and their entire year as a 14 year old basically goes into the arduous month long process of making “the team”. There’s parents, There’s coaches, there’s friends, teammates, there’s teachers. All pressuring the players to DO BETTER! That’s not all either, even at 14, there can be prospective agents (most of whom are complete rats), but oh there are scouts, junior coaches, bloggers, other parents especially whom love to have an opinion on a grade 9 student regarding his ability to save the day, and more importantly the city. “THIS kid WILL be the next 99. HE WILL.” “ARE YOU NUTS – YOU MUST BE HIS DAD CAUSE HE SUCKS!” …He’s umm 14 you guys…
He’s still learning the history of his very own country in social, then he’s just beginning algebra after he wakes up from that class. Not to be outdone by the English teacher down the hall, whom is chomping at the bit with piles of “The Hounds of The Baskervilles” homework. Then we go home and beg our parents to help us with all this surmounting work, and maybe do a book report or two because I have practice. And I HAVE to make the team. How can I have time for all this homework? I have hockey.
As part coaches who are fortunate enough to lead these fine young men at such a level, I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that family & school are always, absolutely always the first and foremost important thing when it comes to a young adults life. Hockey is third. Regardless of the team you play on, or you want to play on. And, if there is a coach out there who says otherwise, I want you to eat the grill of my F150, cause you deserve that and nothing less. But, anyway, best of luck trying to tell these young men this. You can tell them? But, realistically, how can you expect them to understand this right now? They have more weight on their shoulders from their peers and surroundings then anyone else I know. And, they’re just 14.
It’s not just bantam hockey players, I am sure this argument could be made for many different fields or sports just change the game and age if you please. But, this is the world I see every day.
The pressures that are on these young men and women is terrorizing, utterly damaging. It is no wonder the rate of depression & suicide continues to skyrocket in younger people, and continues to climb as one of the leading causes of death. How can any kid be happy, or satisfied when expectations of them are absolutely unrealistic before their life has really even begun? When they’re constantly failing the readers, the dads, and the moms. So ya didn’t make the AAA team? Or lead the league? So ya didn’t earn top student honors? So ya didn’t win the little league world series as clean up batter and pitch 7 straight like Dad told ya to do? So fucking what. What next? Your life is over? You’re a complete failure? You let dad down, you let mom down? Fuck off. You’re a kid. Do you know that just because you didn’t make the AAA team, or that you weren’t top student that you won’t earn a phD? Or be ridicously wealthy, or better yet happy because you created some kind of change that made this shitty place a better one? Do you know that these outcomes and more of the like are impossible, because at 14 you didn’t achieve a goal that someone wanted for you more then you wanted yourself?
No. Not likely kid.
Some of the best players I have ever had the opportunity to coach weren’t necessarily the most skilled, or talented ones. But, they were the best kids. They were the best people. They smiled every day. They had fun. Sure, they had ups and downs, hell, they went through life, life outside of the hours of practice in a week, but they had fun, they learned. It’s amazing how truly mature some of these young athletes can be, some 14 year olds seem like they’re 44 for fucksakes! These are the type of people you know that will succeed in life, whether it is at hockey, or whether it is at something entirely separate but you just know they’re on the right path heading for complete greatness. As for par with the handful of these kids I’ve come across, you see it in their parents. Their parents aren’t the ones attacking others in the blogs, they aren’t cohorting with the GM of the Saginaw Ice Queens every intermission lathering him with a Double Thai Chi fucking Latte in a double cup with a warm sleeve so Steve & Andy don’t burn a hole in their newly purchased designer leather mitts. No. They watch their kids do what they love to do. Play. And, the only reason the kid loves to do that…. Is cause the parents let him just play.
So, my words to all trying to achieve a goal of making a team this season whether it be ours, or whether it be elsewhere.
Control what you can control. You can control your work ethic. You can control your attitude. You can control your body language. You, unfortunately have absolutely no control about what us coaches talk about in the war room. You, unfortunately, unlikely have any control over your parents. But, above all, you can control if you’re having fun or not. If you’re not having fun, and you’re only doing it cause Dad wants you to. Tell him to fuck off & stop. You have way too much future ahead of you to waste time doing something you don’t want, something that doesn’t bring you happiness. Control what you can gentleman, and enjoy it. It’s a tough 6 weeks trying out for teams. But, I can guarantee if you do not have fun throughout the process. You won’t be apart of the outcome you’re hoping for. Do it for you & no one else. It’s your life. Smile.
It’s OK to be THEIR disappointment.