We Can All Learn From Children

When he finished speaking I stood there in front of the very group that I was facilitating – emotionless. I did not know what to say next. Matter of fact I felt if I were to speak next then I would not be able to hold back my tears. His comments were simple, but the fact that it came from an 11-year-old, gave the very words he spoke a sense of ageless maturity that I will never forget.

Sport, similar to life can teach us wonderful lessons. The Burlington Eagles hockey association has embarked on a mission to help develop the mental attributes of athletes and more importantly skills that young developing athletes can use for the rest of their lives.

The Burlington Eagles have implemented a program called PX 2 from the Pacific Institute. It is a program that teaches youth the fundamentals of how their brain works and the skills required to achieve excellence in their lives. I believe it is a first for organized youth sport. The program methodologically moves youth through twelve steps to teach them how and why their brain works the way it does, why they think and perform the way they do and most importantly what they can do to move beyond these perceived barriers, in order to achieve excellence in any aspect of their lives.

As a new facilitator to the program, there is not a moment that passes that I am amazed at the insight young kids display. I have always believed that if you want thinking athletes you have to let and teach them how too think. PX 2 provides a wonderful program in a setting that peers may share what and how they are thinking. It also gives kid’s an understand of why they act and perform the way they do.

In this one particular session, in one of our youngest group of players, an 11-year-old made a profound observation that everyone can learn from. During this module our exercise was to help kids understand that they are conditioned to perceive the world around them. How they were taught and conditioned throughout their lives mould their personal beliefs and the decisions they make. The exercise puts kids in groups of 2-3. The hypothetical exercise involves the difficult task of deciding who they must try to save from a variety of different people left in the water after a sinking ship at sea. There is only room for four more survivors, yet they must choose from over 16 different people, from all different backgrounds, that remain stranded in the water. After some minor squabbling, each group must validate and share their choice with the larger group. The discussion often gets energized and animated. The simple fact that groups realize that others have such radically different opinions of who they choose, is a learning moment for all. All of us formulate our perceptions upon past conditioning. Learning to be aware of or ‘auto programming’ helps us understand that our brain could be ‘hard wired’ to make us act in accordance to the truth of what was taught to us. This creates our belief systems and ultimately influences our decisions that shape our lives.

During the exercise a short scenario is read followed by the list of people, from which they will have to save. Each group begins to discuss their views and comes to a conclusion of whom to choose for survivals. Over many of the sessions there has been many interesting answers. Some of the more notable include; “it’s not for me to decide so the first 4 people I pass in the water will decide who I try to save”, ” we will try to save everyone by taking turns clinging to the boat”, “it’s not my place to play God” and ” if they couldn’t make it into a life raft maybe they are not worthy of saving.”

But, this morning the answer that continues to resonate with me belongs to an 11-year-old. Of all the people he chose to save he was the first to include the – drug dependent teenager and the prostitute. Well you can imagine the response he got from his peers. There was a rumbling and nervous banter filling the room. I asked him ” if he feels comfortable to share his choice with the group. He paused for a moment and said in the most innocent and truthfulness of a young boy;
“if those people have lived their life up to this point in the manner they have, then by me giving them a second chance they would do everything in their power to survive and make a better life for themselves.” I stood motionless, unable to speak. How could a kid have so much insight into human existence and not be that aware of it? Did he understand how his words echoed in the PX2 program itself? Did the other adults, kids and coaches hear the powerful words he just spoke? While I struggled with what to say next, there was a silence in the room. I think everyone took a moment to process what was just said. I looked toward the Pacific Institute representatives, they were there that day to evaluate me, and asked them ” in all the times you have run this program have you ever heard that answer before. Jay, the PX2 facilitator, asked the boy if he was ever given a second chance. the boy replied, “yes” when he was younger – that innocence of his joke went unnoticed – he had a teacher give him a second chance and now that he thinks of it “probably a third and fourth as well” – we all laughed at his candour. But, it was what he said next that has stayed with me from that day. ” Ever since I have been given a second chance I have become a great student and kid”.

We all need second chances, for coaches remember no one wants to make a mistake, correct the error save the integrity and self-esteem of your player, believe in them and give them a second chance. I am uncertain how you will be rewarded but I am certain how your player will evolve.

As for us, we all need second chances in life. Sometimes the hardest place to start is yourself.

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.”

The First Game by Rod kirk

 

 

Well my son was called into action to play his first exhibition game.  That was the exciting news. But, the reality sank in and I felt a little uneasy.  I wasn’t certain where my feelings were coming from.

 

 A little side bar – I was initially going to title this section of my blog A year in the Life of a goalie parent, but that would just perpetuate the lack of disconnect between parent’s of players and goalies.  Somehow we know the intrinsic role of the goalies position on a team, but fail to see the similar responsibilities of the other players. Therefore, a Year in the Life of a Hockey Parent became the title.  

 

Then I felt a knot in my guts I wouldn’t be able to bring him. I was uncertain if I was nervous for him as a goalie or a son.  You see, there is a fine line distinguishes the two.  I was also uncertain of the role I play in his successes.  For the past four years I have been on the bench and have been the goalie coach for my son.  In his big debut I will not be there for his comfort – or maybe it’s mine – or will I be there to witness his new beginning with his new team.

After all someone has to pay for all that goalie equipment. 

 

My dad took my son to his first game.  How fitting that my dad plays another supportive role in the life of another ‘hockey want to be’.  My wife was busy taking my daughter to her last soccer game, so without hesitation my dad stepped up to help.

 

It was a fairly early game on the first day back to school.  My son gets home at four o’clock and the game was at 5:15 in Georgetown approximately 45 minutes away.

 

I generally have little concern of the time when I work in the clinic treating people.  I rotate from person to person and am program by their appointments.  Towards the end of the day the practice is busy and the last two hours of my work day just evaporates.  But, this day it was different.  Between patients I found myself checking my watch.  ‘Ten minutes before game time, I hope he is controlling his nerves’. I thought to myself.  I checked again it must be warm up – I pictured him taking one off the noodle in warm up and wondered if it would sharpen his senses or lend itself to the uncertainties of being a goalie just prior to a game.

 More patients came and went.  With a little break between patients I went to sit in my office.  I calculated that the game must be half done.  I hope all is well.  I realized then that I don’t play the game anymore, he does.  With no way of being close to him to show my support I realized it would be indifferent if I were in the stands. 

 

“Rod your next patient,” my staff snapped me to attention.

 

I finished the day with all my focus and attention on my patients – thought I should write that in somewhere.  In my commute home I started again with the same thoughts.  The funny thing is not the obvious.  It’s not the constant flow of nerves and stress that goes through your head as a parent that just wants their child to succeed and do well.  But, rather the fact that I used the phrase on my commute home – for those of you that do not know me personally I live 1 km from home, it is true that even in that short time my mind went over to the ‘dark side’ again.  I tried to use the force not to worry, but soon realized it was too late as I walked into the house.

My dad was there to greet me, so I immediately asked “how did he do dad?”  My dad said “you better ask him.”

That can’t be good I thought to myself.  I went into the kitchen and he was eating – again. 

 

“How did you do, Fraser”, I said.

 

“You mean the team dad?” he reminded me, “we did great we won.” 

 

Once again I learned a valuable lesson from my kid.  More significantly what was I thinking – isolating his performance before the teams – I am my son’s goalie coach, of all people I should know the difference.  I am the one that is responsible for reminding young goalies their importance of being an integral player on the team.

“So what was the score?” I said.

 

“3 – 0, I got a shutout” he said, as he shovelled in another fork full of pasta.

 

That was it.  All the build up of my uncertainties, the constant head chatter and the illusion that somehow he can’t perform with me around was unwarranted.  I have to remind myself that the feelings inside of me are not necessarily the same feelings my son has.  Similarly, the game he plays is different then the game I play as a parent.

First Practice With The New Team

A Year in the Life of a Hockey Parent

 

Well to help me stay committed to my blog entries I have decided to write my rendition of being a hockey parent.  Wow, I am sure I just made everyone around me uncomfortable; after all we all know how hockey parents can be.  Well it is my intention – of course – to take a different spin on my experience and hope that anyone who reads this may find some humour, emotional connection or a simple lesson in life.

 

I know we all have pre – conceived notions of what a hockey parent may be but I wonder if we really know where their intentions come from.  Believe me, after watching my son play rep soccer for a summer, we hockey parents have nothing on the soccer parents.  It’s only natural that we want the best for our children.  As parents we want them to succeed – we stress and get nervous with the thought of failure.  We defend our children at all costs and look for others to support our views.    What’s most interesting is that maybe our children should be watching over us.  It is our children who can probably teach us about the small things in life – those simple things that surround the sport of hockey that may be cherished for life.

 

I feel the only way to start off the season is a reflection of my son’s comments prior to his first practice with his new team.  My son was fortunate to receive a position on his new team.  But, there was still a decision to be made on the other goalie.  All the parents know each other as do the children.  The boys know each other and have built friendships with each other along the way.  My son was packing his bag to get ready for his first practice with his new team.  Sensitive to the situation of the other goalies, he asked me if we could arrive earlier then normal at the rink.

 

He actual said “ Dad I know sometimes we arrive just on time or a little late, but do you think we can get there a little earlier?”

 

“Sure” I said, “any particular reason why?”

 

He replied in a way that only a ten year old can.  His candour is what reminds me of the great deal of reflection and the innocence of a young boy.

  He said “I don’t want to get to the dressing room after the other goalies.  If I get there first then I won’t have to decide who to sit beside.  It’s hard when you have so many friends.”

 

Sometimes making a team has different importances to different people.

Somtimes Champions Go Unnoticed by: Dr.Rod Kirk

  [ From last Spring Track and Field Compitition]

 

Now that should be rewarded!  Sure there are a lot of competitions and accomplishments that get rewarded.  The Stanley Cup is rewarded to the best National Hockey Team – a prized trophy revered by many.  There is the Olympic medal given to those athletes that have committed the past four years of their lives to compete in a sport that may only last 10 seconds to three minutes long.  Those events and rewards mark an athlete’s true sacrifice to their sport.  It’s also symbolic of their families’ commitment to ensure a network of support to help their prized young athletes succeed.   This award I’m speaking of has no monetary value.  It was a simple third place ribbon at an elementary track and field meet.  My son Fraser was competing in his track meet in the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints. He is a wonderful boy who loves to compete – I wonder where he gets that from my wife often reminds me.  I feel he likes the adrenaline of the competition and the excitement it provides.  He is intense and always tries his hardest – what else is there to be successful in sport? This is a big question with lots of possible answers.  Grit determination and some would even say the killer instinct. The day was perfect for an outdoor competition.  The sky was blue with white puffy clouds.  The breeze was cool but the sun rays hot.  I left work at lunch hoping to see any of my son’s competitions that day.  I arrived at Nelson Stadium to a mass of kids, teachers, volunteers and parents.  Every school colour was plastered in the grand stands.  Kids were screaming and cheering for their school mates.  The competition that day was electric.  One parent who I don’t even know leaned forward to tell me that Fraser was doing great.  A fourth place in the 400m and first place in the 100m qualifiers.   “That’s great I said he loves to compete”, I said. “You’re just in time for the finals”, she said. I weaved my way through the vast array of colours, screams and lunch bags.  I found some children from Fraser’s school and asked of his whereabouts. “Down there hanging on the bar, he said he was going to take it easy before the big race”, the little guy said. “Thanks”, I said and continued to press through the crowd.   There he was my beautiful son standing by himself waiting patiently for his opportunity for glory.  An opportunity to shine, excel and possibly be crowned number one – a champion of sorts.  It would be a chance to lean his mighty little chest forward to break the finish line tape ahead of his competition.  It could be a chance for Fraser to throw his hands up high – as if he were having his picture taken for a cereal box.  It’s a chance to collect an award stating you were number one that day.  Similar to life, we all just want chance. “Hi Fraser” “Hi Dad, you made it” he said. “I understand you are doing O.K.”, I said. “Ya, I got 4th in the 400 and 1st in my heat for

the 100”he beamed. “That’s great”, I said proudly. “Are you staying for the finals Dad”? “I wouldn’t miss them, I will be up in the stands watching have fun and don’t forget Fraser, I love you”. As I turned to take my place up in the bleachers, Fraser said “wait Dad”.  I am also filling in for a boy on the relay team he is not feeling well.  The race is after the 100 meters”. The finals were about to begin.  My heart was thumping and I wasn’t even in the race.  I felt the rush and energy of the upcoming race.  ‘Do well’ I thought to myself.  As if my thoughts have some magical powers to remind him from the bleachers to do something he already knows. ‘Bang’ the starter gun goes off.  Within seconds 3 boys emerged from the pack.  One boy just in front and the other stride for stride right beside him.  In a flash its over, a respectable third place.  ‘Close but no cigar’ goes the saying.  The separation between 1st and 3rd place was approximately one and half seconds. 

 It just happens to be the same difference between being a champion or not. There was enough time to hang around for the relay race before I had to be back at the clinic.  Another ten more minutes and Fraser was up – to run the second leg of the relay race.  I found it a little different watching my son participate in a group race where the outcome depends on the performance of the whole.  It was exciting but not the same way it was when he ran the 100meter.  They started off strong and looked as if they were moving to the front of the pack.  It’s hard in a staggered start to judge where everyone is placing.  However on the last leg it’s more obvious to realize the difference between the competitors.  As they rounded the final turn, Fraser’s team was in second place.  Wow, could this be his champion moment?  Again with the same enthusiasm and excitement I watched their team come in second. The team met at the finish line and proceeded to the track infield where they un-ceremoniously collect their 2nd place ribbon. 

 The boys gave each other a high five and the day was over. Or so I thought. It was then that I witnessed my proudest moment as a father.  A moment so precious that no Stanley Cup or Olympic Medal could ever replaced. My Son, with no prompting by any parent or teacher gave his ribbon to the boy he ran for.  I watched from the bleachers.  He did it in a kind of ‘matter a fact’ manor.  His actions went un-noticed by everyone except me.  I was overwhelmed with emotion the tears streamed down my face. I had to see him before I left. “I saw what you did Fraser and it was a wonderful thing what you did”, I said. “He deserves it Dad.  He went to all the practices and I said I would run for him – so he should keep the ribbon, I already have two”, he said. I know my son never got the number one placement at the track meet that day, but I’m certain he got the number one place in my heart and everyone who knows him.

Is There Really Nothing To Write About? By: Dr. Rod Kirk

Well I didn’t think it would be that soon but I am having my first experience of writers block.  You heard me I have nothing to say.  Ever since I participated in a life coaching program I began writing.  I have learned to use my journal to capture many of my deepest thoughts, philosophies and reflections.  For the majority of time I rarely struggled with things to reflect upon.  I generally experience my day with the intrigue to identify the little things in my world that move or inspire me.  I often see the world and it’s subtle meaning in my personal quirky way.   The difference this time is I have a deadline to produce material for my blog.  To keep my blog fresh and alive I have been instructed and have researched that I ‘should’ produce a new post a least once a week.  The problem with that type of request is that it is directed at me.  You see as an instinctively driven individual most of my thoughts and insight just pop into my head.  What I have learned to do is simply capture them and write them down.  Now when I am required to write something down I struggle because I am trying to write from my ‘head’ rather then my ‘heart’. I recently figured this out after having a brief conversation with one of the parents on our hockey team.  (I will leave all names out because I don’t want people to stop talking to me in fear that I will write something about them).   Jokingly, I was told to stop writing those stories because they made her tearful.  I guess they pulled at her ‘heart strings’.  Well to let you in on a little secret every time I read my own personal stories my eyes swell up.  So that’s it – I need to focus from the heart not the head when I write.   So when I look at the world using my heart as a lens I generally see things differently.  Today I saw the universe deliver piles of snow.  I watched it come down from the heaven above and smother us in a warm blanket of white.  My children came down the stairs for breakfast and I was blessed by their presence.  I was privileged to share a coffee and a car ride with my glorious wife as I dropped her off at school.  My daughter negotiated an extra cookie in her, and her brother’s lunch today.  The neighbour’s cat came up to our back window to say ‘hi’ to Atlas our cat.  I used my snow-blower to shovel myself out and the older gentleman at the end of street. I then spent an hour at the passport office where I was able to look around at all the people in the waiting area.  Different walks of life all with their own life stories.  Their stories may be sad or they could be happy, nevertheless they are stories.  As I waited I saw how life and the connection to others could pass unnoticably by the workers.  I wondered if the passport employees ever paused in their routine of the day, to reflect.  I wonder if any of you pause to reflect.  And, if you do pause to reflect do you share them with others.  I truly believe that when we stop and reflect we see the brilliance of all that surrounds us.  Life some times comes ‘at’ us and we simply learn to navigate it.  We pass through life as if we are on a Subway watching the stops go by, failing to get off at a different stop in fear of what it may bring.  We often don’t speak from our hearts to others in fear of what the reaction may be.  But, this time I want to thank the parent who truly spoke from her heart to help inspire this story.  

Life is Like That Sometimes by: Dr. Rod Kirk

 

 As a boy growing up I had many wonderful coaches and mentors along the way.  Ironically I played many years at various levels of hockey, but it was one particular football coach that shared some insight with me that has stayed with me to this day.    We had a lousy high school football team that year.  Actually, we were better then the previous year because they only scored on touchdown all year.  Our team, the second year of high school football at Lester B Pearson, faired a little better that year.  Sure we never won a game but we scored lots of points that year.  Sometimes teams actually had to  play their first stringers against us. I remember the day I learned a great lesson about life.  I feel like it was just yesterday, the image of the days events are permanently etched in my memory.  It was a cool fall day and we were visiting Central High School – the second worst team in high school football that year.  If we were going to make history to be the first team at our high school to win a game, there was probably no better day then that day.  We were leading late into the fourth quarter when I dropped back to pass.  One more first down and we would be able to run the time out.  We were on our own 25 yard line.  Hit, dive right, fake screen, on two, was the call.  We ran this play successfully all year, there was no reason to doubt it that day.  As I dropped back to pass my primary receiver gets held up and I check my backup receiver – he was wide open 15 yards up the field.  For a moment I felt as if the ‘Football Gods’ were watching over us.  It was the break we had finally deserved for all our official beatings we endured that year.  I pulled back and fired.  The next thing I know they have the ball on our 20 yard line and I have a bloody lip.  As I threw the ball their linebacker hit my throwing arm during my follow through and the ball went 5 yards forward and hit the ground.  It was ruled a fumble and was recovered by the other team.  They subsenquently scored and won the game.  An incomplete pass would have been the right call, but it looks like the ref made the wrong call (imagine that a referee making a wrong call).  To add insult to injury, the linebacker who broke up the pass wasn’t finished.  He decided it wouldn’t be that great a play unless he finished me off.  His hand came up under my face guard and as he drove my head into the field he decided to try and knock out my teeth.  Well I guess I could say I was fortunate that day I kept my teeth but my lip wasn’t that lucky, I was cut rather well.  I pleaded with the refs. But, under some remarkable turn of events that day, the referee did not reverse his call despite; me, the rest of the team and our fans yelling at him.  In great frustration I came to the bench threw my helmet (if I only through the ball that far there wouldn’t have been a problem that day) said every swear word I knew and combined them in every computation possible.  As I sat on the bench attending to my wounds I continued to voice my opinion of the injustices of the world, but no one seemed to be listening. My coach was an ex CFL player.  He was a strappingly prominent looking man.  The girls called him Clark Kent because they thought he looked like Superman, if Superman were a school teacher in his spare time.  He ran every day at lunch and was a specimen of great health.  He turned to me and walked to where I was standing, arms crossed, biceps bulging, and not a hair out of place.  Where he stood the sun was setting behind him and it almost looked like he stood in the middle of a ring of light that separated him from all the turmoil that was going on.   He said “Rod your actions will not be accepted on this team and if you continue you will remain on the bench for the rest of the game” “Are you serious did you not just see what happened,” I said. I went on about how that’s so unfair and that we never get a break.  He let me ramble on, I was spewing about the Refs the other team and of course the jerk who tried to excavate my teeth from my mouth.  Then in a somewhat surreal kind of manner my coach said.  “You’re right sometimes life is unfair.  But, there are two types of people in this world,   there are those that will react like you and feel as if the world is out to get you and there are those who brush themselves off refuse to make excuses and rise above it.” He turned away, walked back to his place on the side line and encouraged the defence.  If I could have found my helmet I would have thrown it at him.  I was so frustrated and felt like no one was listening.  What in the name of sport was this guy talking about. Five years ago, I was my son Fraser’s House League Hockey Coach.  It was his second year of hockey.  It was one of my most memorable times as a coach, from the interests of the boy’s right down to the bright yellow jerseys.  My five year old son was skating as hard as he could to get to a loose puck.  He was in hot pursuit by another boy on the Green Team, for a moment I found it amusing that the lime was chasing the lemon, however the race was on.  Fraser reached the puck first and as he changed direction to elude his citrus pursuer, the boy turned his stick over, placed it on the laces of my son’s skate and delinquently but deliberately tripped my son.  Fraser fell to his belly as the puck continued forward.  As the other boy went to collect his reward for his shifty hand eye coordination – that was most likely taught by his father, who in turn was probably celebrating his son’s accomplishments – my son, resembling more like a star fish then a hockey player, swings his arms side to side and trips the other boy.  As the puck moves to the other end of the ice, the referee approaches my son and leans over to tell him something.  You see that year there were no penalties handed out, just instructions.  When the ‘fair play buzzer sounded’ to change the lines my son and his line mates took refuge on the bench.  I leaned down to ask what the ref said and I notice a tear in the corner of his eye. “Are you hurt Buddy,” I said. “No” he replied.  “It’s not fair Dad he tripped me first and the ref doesn’t speak to him.” I paused for a moment and asked all the players on the bench to turn around and listen for a moment.  I told them that I was so proud that we get to learn our first life lesson from hockey at such an early age.  I told them the same thing my football coach told me many years before, that sometimes life may seem to be unfair.  I told them the choices you have when times like that occur.   I am uncertain how many of the boys looked at me the same way I looked at my coach that day.  I am also uncertain whether any of them got the point then or will ever eventually get it.  But, one thing I am sure is my son got it.  On our car ride home my wife asked Fraser what the Ref said to him.Fraser replied “don’t worry Mom I just learned my first life lesson.”

Living The Dream by: Dr.Rod Kirk

I was a ten year old boy once and when I went to bed dreamed of the same things my 10 year old son does today. When I was growing up I would think of playing for the Montreal Canadiens. I grew up in Montreal so it was never even a remote thought to play for any other team. Like millions of children before us and all those who will follow, that one day they too will hopefully don their favorite team jersey.I went into my son’s room to kiss him goodnight and just as I was leaving he said “dad can ask you a question?” “Sure son” I said.  He said it was an important one so I should get comfortable. Sure I thought to myself, I haven’t seen this one before.  It was a perfect parent ‘sceptical moment’.  That’s what I like to call those moments, when you think your children are trying to pull the ‘wool over your eyes.’  If stalling your bed time was an art my son would be Picasso.  My son is the champ. If there was an Olympic gold medal handed out to the best bed time staler my son would be in training for the upcoming Olympics. With my keen spider senses tingling I settled in at the edge of his bed.  I was alert and aware of the upcoming dual between staler and referee.  Tonight I was poised to foil his attempt for an additional 10 minutes.  Tonight he would be unable to engage me in a conversation of insight and philosophical jargon.  Tonight, I will be victorious not just for me but all parents and their bed time routines.   I started to sense my son’s level of importance to the question.  But, I knew I needed to stay on task if I were to foil his attempt of gaining precious awake time.   I was strong that day nothing he could ask me would penetrate my purpose tonight.  “Dad, what’s the probability of me making the NHL?” he askedThe master of stalling snookered me again by.  He hit me with two of the things I love most.  Two items I generally have no defence for.  My son’s wonderful boy innocence’s and hockey.Who was I to shatter the dreams of my son. As a player who wriggled his way up the ranks I knew perfectly well what my sons probability of making the NHL.  But, who am I to shatter his dreams. If he were 17 years old and he told me he wanted to be a Lawyer, Teacher or a Restaurant Owner I would probably do whatever I could do to support him.So how do you support a mere sparkle in young boy?  It was the very same glimmer that I once possessed.  I thought for a moment while I rubbed his back.  “Son,” I said “the great things about dreams are they belong to you, they are real to you and I am glad you have them.”  But, I knew from similar conversations that this answer would not be adequate enough.  The only way I could leave this conversation and keep his dream a probability to him was this.  “Fraser” I said,  “when I was ten, if someone asked me what I thought the probability of having the life I have today, with my extraordinary and beautiful wife, two amazing children, a marvellous career,  live in the home I do and be surrounded by wonderful family and great friends, I wouldn’t have believed them. So Fraser dreams do come true you just have to pick them.”  “Thanks Dad.” He said. “Your welcome, now stop stalling and get some sleep.”  (I couldn’t resist the stalling part) I leaned over and gave him another kiss on the forehead, pulled up his Montreal Canadiens blanket and tucked him in, “Sweet Dreams buddy.”

The 6 a.m.’er by: Dr. Rod Kirk

Recently my son’s hockey coach shared with me a simple sentence about an observation he made. As Canadians we get sentimental about 6:00 am hockey practices.  It’s woven into the fabric of being Canadian.  Symbolically we see images of the 6:00 a.m.’er.  It’s commercialized in corporate images of coffee and cars.  Artists paint the feeling on canvas in attempts to capture the sacrifices we make for children and sport.  Champions thank their parents on the podiums of greatness. It all started when my son’s coach shared his insight with me.  He asked if that was my dad sitting up in the stands by himself watching our 6:00 a.m skate.  He mentioned how great it was that my son’s grandfather was at his practice.  At that specific moment in time I realized it was much larger than hockey. Our coach mentioned it to my son, how lucky he was and my son agreed.  Whether he did or not was still uncertain to me at the time. I took the opportunity to talk with my son on the ride home.  “It’s pretty amazing how Oats (my father’s pet grandparent name-see future blog) comes to see you at your 6:00 am practice” I said.   “It sure is dad, he must love hockey a lot” he said in his half interested ten year old voice. “No, I don’t think it’s that” I said.  This sparked a little interest in my son’s curiosity. “What do you mean” he said. “I think it’s more than that and if you think about it you will figure it out” I said. “I don’t understand Dad” he said. “Stop for a moment Fraser and think what your grandfather loves the most” I said. The light went on and he got it right away “us” he said in a manner of absent mindedness. I then told my son that I hope I will be as good a father as my dad is one day and show up for his children’s 6:00 am practices. In the most matter of fact way my son told me “you are already better than that.” My son’s hockey coach shared his simple observation.  Some of our most life altering shifts in consciousness stem from simple observations.  Share your insightful observations with others and for most of the time you will be unaware of how it may transform them.

Winning in Life – Home From The Tourney by: Dr. Rod Kirk

Well we always think it’s about winning and losing. But, sometimes it’s about something you just can’t put your finger on. I learned this again from my son. You see we just got back from our hockey tourney in Michigan. We played well as a team and kind of let two separate games get away from us in literally the final seconds. Frustrating as it may be there is always something to learn. As parents and coaches we have the answer. We should skate, pass and fight harder for the puck. It’s normal for us to pass comment. Try and teach our kids how to finish, win or bury the other team. A little more discipline or commitment and we can be more successful. A little more attention to detail and we can become champions in sport and in life. Where does that little ingredient come from that separates the elite from the average, the superstars from the elite? For most of us, we felt a void leaving the tournament. The kids were better then their outcome. For most of the timed the kids played better then their competition. So, where does the sense of loss come from? It felt like a simple let down – similar to the answer ‘no’ to a straightforward request. You know what I mean. “Dad can I stay up a little later” they often ask. And, as good parents we reply ‘NO’. It was a lost opportunity without a second chance. We stopped on the way home to do some shopping and my son Fraser raced up to hold my hand. “You know what dad?” he said. “I already miss the hotel and my team-mates.” Not one word about the same void I had about the same weekend. Sure I had a great time. We have great parents and coaches on the team, and we had a blast. But, still felt the empty space. My son, on the other hand, filled his void with the things most important in life, his friends and experiences. I’m uncertain who taught me this life lesson – hockey or my son? Thanks to my son, daughter, wife and the rest of the parents and coaches for loving the same things I do.