I’m Not Playing Tonight

When the first place team is playing the last place team it usually isn’t a pretty site.  Although my son’s team recently won their first game and then promptly won the following game reality set in when they were up against the first place team in our loop.  I am glad my son does not follow the standings because it is a sure fire way to add another component of demoralization to young athletes who may struggle with the ability to separate outcome from effort.  A matter of fact I rarely follow standings as well – however this day was different.  I went onto the OMHA web page so I could get a complete list of games to plug into my Blackberry.  There it stood the link to my son’s minor Peewee AAA standings.  With only two wins to their season it doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to see where the team will fall in the standings.  But, similar to being told not to stare straight into a solar eclipse – I just had to look.  I wasn’t too sure what I was expecting to find out that I didn’t already know.  But, for one thing I didn’t think I would learn that much about myself.


          After recognizing that tonight our boys were up against the top team in our loop – the Brampton Battalion, I felt a mild sinking in my stomach.  With only one loss to Oakville, another team that had already handily beat us twice, I found myself thinking of the movie ‘A Fish Called Wanda’.   In the movie when Archie – played by John Cleese was Mocking Otto played by Kevin Kline he said ‘they whooped your hide real good’.  For a brief moment I thought how that sentence might be appropriate for tonight’s contest.  If the team that beat up on us twice, beat the first place team and handed them their only loss what will that mean for us?  I was already getting anxious for my son because it was his turn to play this evening.  He is a goalie and there will be no easy way around this one.  As a father and goalie coach to my son I had to help him.  You know get prepared and psyched for the game.  Pump him up so to speak.  I needed to impart some father/coaching advice.  The problem was I wouldn’t be getting to the game until the end of the first.  My wife was going to bring my daughter to her championship volleyball game.  My son will be all alone to prepare for the big game.


          I have an idea I will write down the key coaching trigger words I teach to the goalies.  These are the words to help prepare them mentally before each game.  I will place the words on his equipment bag and he can read them before he gets picked up for the game.  What a great idea I thought.  He can read them, heighten himself flick his switch and he will be good to go.  You know be ready to play ‘better’.  I took a silver Sharpie out and wrote it on a 4 x 6 index card. 


         play to win the mini – games

         the first mini game is the most important

         stay alert and fight to see the puck

         have a strong warm up

         I will see you there at the second period

         Have fun I love you


I placed it on his already packed hockey bag – that he placed by the front door before he left for school.  That way he won’t miss it.  I got ready for work.  Something wasn’t right. I started to back the car out and thought to myself.  Did his goalie coach just write that or his father?  Did I just write that for him or did I write it for me?  What was I thinking? 


I stopped the car and went back inside to tear up my note.  My son plays hockey not me.  Sure it’s only naturally to try and do whatever it takes to help our children be more successful.  As an added bonus it’s my responsibility as a coach to prepare players for the game.  As a coach it is equally important to prepare players for life.  But, I knew this note was generated with different intentions.  It was to make me feel better.  The note was about me not my son.  I saw the standings and tried to come to the rescue of my son.  I wanted to help him – only because I love him and don’t want to see him fail personally.  I broke many cardinal rules of team sport when I wrote that note.  I placed my anxiousness ahead of my son’s.   My ego interfered when I personally wanted him to succeed, as if his performance would reflect on me somehow.  I felt if I could protect him with my great words of wisdom that somehow he would be better off and I would be protected. 


Lastly, I almost squandered an opportunity for my son to learn valuable life lessons on his own.  No matter what occurs he is in control of his efforts.  He will eventually require his own inner strength to overcome big hurdles in his life and ultimately make a choice how he will learn, grow and move forward.


We have an agreement as his goalie coach not to speak of the game until we reach the arena when we are both in the culture of team and coach.  I almost blew it today. 


Stories need endings. We lost 5-1.  I initially wrote how well he played, but then thought what difference it would make to the story.  What I will tell you is on the ride home Fraser said “its weird Dad but I had the most fun ever playing a game of hockey tonight”


I told him “I could tell.”


That night before bed I shared my story of the almost note I left him.  He said he understood and reminded me “that I only wanted to do things like that because I love hockey,” and then he quickly added “and me of course.”

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