It’s a dark and rainy morning as you grab a coffee and head outside to the car.
You throw your child’s hockey bag in the back, and then, more gently, you throw your child in the back seat. The windows are fogged up as your little guy falls asleep. It takes ten minutes to drive to the rink and another 15 to get him suited up as he stares blankly into space, oblivious to your questions.
“Are they too tight?”
“Are they too loose?”
You’re greeted with a ‘huh’, so you gather him up, confident he’s not sleeping with his eyes open, walk up the ramp and toss him once again, this time onto a blank sheet of ice, a new canvas with which he might paint a picture.
As he takes to the ice, you expect him to start gliding around with ease like all the other kids. Instead, he tips backward, arms flailing and rolling up the imaginary windows like a skier in the middle of a jump gone horribly wrong. His stick flies into the air, accompanied by one glove, and he falls roughly on his backside.
And you get the look.
You know the one. The look that silently asks “what just happened? Where have you brought me?”
It’s at this point you have a choice to make.
Your son has no idea what’s going on around him. He doesn’t care that the other kids can already skate, even if you might (you shouldn’t).
So, you could let the disappointment creep into your face.
Or, you can smile and tell him it’s alright.
“Get up, dude!”
Falling down doesn’t hurt at the young ages, the cookie monsters stage. They might be frightened by the sudden drop in atmospheric pressure, but they’ll always take their cues from their parents. If you act like it’s no big deal (it isn’t), and encourage them to get up and try again, chances are they’ll do exactly that.
Cookie Monsters is about getting used to the ice, but it’s also about setting a precedent that will stick with a player throughout their journey through minor hockey.
The small act of encouraging your child to get up when they’re knocked down is an attitude that will quickly cement itself in the early days, so make sure you get it right the first time.
Knowing they’re supported on and off the ice is an aspect of hockey that’s more powerful than you might think. Before you know it, your son or daughter will be zipping around the rink with all the other kids, it might just take a bit of extra time. Your child might even be a bit older. Or younger - there is no pre-determined age, no scientific answer that’s proven to know when the hockey basics should be learned.
Hockey is a conduit to healthy life skills. Hockey is the vessel by which we learn to work with others, understand discipline and respect those around us. Encouraging our cookie monsters constantly teaches them that we’ll always have their backs, we’ll always help them back to their feet when they fall.
On and off the ice.
Cookie monsters also teaches parents how to deal with a sport that can be cruel. Hockey is also the vessel by which we’re dealt our greatest disappointments, and it can be nearly impossible to watch our children go through these situations. Hearts are broken, dreams are shattered. Hockey players will always take their cues from their parents, their reactions are defined by how their parents reactions.
Sometimes there’s nothing we can do, but we always have a voice when it comes to our children. Particularly in the early stages of the game, the kids are always listening.
So make sure the coffee is warm and the raincoats are ready the next time you wake up at the crack of dawn to get your cookie monster on the ice.
They’ll need your voice when they fall, even if it’s only to holler an encouraging “get up, dude!”