No one likes to be painted by an unfavourable brush.
When I was 17, I didn’t want to be labelled as a ‘checker’. I wanted to score goals. I wanted to contribute offensively.
Turns out I was a damn good checking centreman, it just took me 10 years to realize it.
On the other side, up in the stands, no parent wants to be labelled either. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told “I’m not that parent,” well, I’d have several nickels.
Here’s the truth, and I apologize if I offend you: you are that parent.
And it’s perfectly normal.
I get frustrated when I see players I used to coach going through tough times in hockey. It happened last year. A player of mine graduated to the Western Hockey League and was promptly sat on the bench over and over again. It was difficult to see, or read about, as I would through text messages after yet another game spent on the bench or in the stands.
I wanted to call up the coach. I wanted to rip the general manager for taking this player on the team in the first place.
This is when I realized that while I may not be a parent, I’m just as guilty of being crazy.
We will never stop advocating for our children. So, how do we fight for what we think is right without being painted with the loony brush for the rest of our hockey-watchin’ days?
Here’s a cold hard fact: tomorrow will come whether you want it to or not. Like death, taxes and a playoff-free spring for the Edmonton Oilers, the sun is guaranteed to come up tomorrow.
So don’t try to catch it while it’s still dark.
Every hockey player develops at their own pace. Trying to keep up with one’s peers instead of focussing on oneself will limit that player. Each athlete is unique - trying to duplicate the success of someone else is a slippery slope that will have negative effects off the ice as well as on it.
I’ve watched players get rushed to the next level before they were ready and have their confidence destroyed as a result - their confidence to make plays, their confidence to work hard and their confidence to just get up in the morning and contribute.
The transition to a higher level of play isn’t always about skill, after all. Some players with less relative skill than their peers make the jump earlier because they are mentally mature enough to handle it. They take their strengths and continue performing, even if those strengths are relatively small, like winning faceoffs or killing penalties.
The good news is that there are coaches and organizations out there who learn as much as they can about a player away from the rink as they can before promoting them to a higher level of play.
If a player can contribute and improve at the same time, then that player deserves to play. In atom, peewee and bantam, players and their parents feel rushed because their peers make higher teams.
This line of thinking is dead wrong.
Be happy for your friends, because their success does not equate to your failure. As a hockey player, we can only worry about what we can control.
Because if you wait long enough, the path will always be lit up by the morning sun.