I had a unique opportunity to watch the tryout process at the North Shore Winter Club unfold this year. I’m not in charge of a minor hockey team for the coming season (other than an initiation team or two), but I still know most of the kids at the club after having worked in camps and programs for the last 3 and half years.
So this year I get to contribute my opinion and then step back. I’ve been on the ice, I’ve evaluated, I’ve been a sounding board for parents and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with coaches formerly of other hockey clubs in the greater Vancouver area.
And you know what?
The world is changing.
Well, maybe only our small section of it. Sure, there are bound to be issues and disagreements, but if there weren’t, then that would mean hockey means a lot less to us than we lead ourselves to believe.
Here are four things I’ve noticed so far in 2015.
More than once I’ve been told by newcomers how strange it is for parents to be cheering on players who don’t belong to them. Case in point, one of our peewee hopeful goaltenders made a brilliant save the other night and was greeted with enormous applause throughout the building.
This player is relatively new to the club. Do you have any idea what that reaction must have meant to mom and dad, let alone the player himself?
Our athletes are nervous, but the positive energy in the crowd is apparent on the ice. Back to that save, the player who was robbed recognized that there probably wasn’t anything he could have done to force the puck into the net. He didn’t get frustrated. No, he caught on to the vibe in the building and smiled, looked skyward and then kept right on playing. I actually think he forgot he was trying out for a team.
The encouragement in the crowd and in the building makes everyone better. It keeps our players loose and lets them focus on playing. It lessens the burden on our evaluators and encourages them to make decisions based solely on what happens on the ice.
And most of all, it makes the club a happier, more enriching place to be.
On the ice, in the crowd, behind the bench - our hockey community is attracting attention. More young coaches want to work with us and more players want to play with us.
And it’s not because we’re hell-bent on winning.
No, we’re hell-bent on happiness and improvement. Not all of us all the time, of course, but it’s tough to be grumpy when you’re the only grump.
Another example, a dad who I’ve seen for the past few years at another club who’s never given me the time of day made a point of tossing a cheerful hello my way last week.
During tryouts, the most stressful time of year. Well, that hello made me forget about the stress of running an effective skills practice later on, so I in turn passed on the cheer elsewhere.
There are still blunders and issues to work through, but I’ve come to a realization:
Unlike the negativity-dominated, secretive back-room political hockey organizations in Edmonton from which I originally hail, the public/private model we’re building has the power and potential to proactively shape its own culture.
Mistakes will happen, players will develop at different rates (just like coaches and hockey faculties), but as long as the community is bringing their best effort every day on and off the ice, that positive energy will grow, slowly but surely.
After all, it takes a village to raise a child.