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Monday, February 2, 2009

I am not a Hockey Mom

Let's see, where do I begin? Our eldest son began playing hockey last year after we promised him he could when we moved out of the city to a small town. At first it was great. He met lots of kids and we met their parents. Everyone was very nice and seemingly quite sane. It was the local team, so not too much pressure and everyone, even myself, was happy. Then came the second season. First Number 1 son decided he wanted to play goal and the coach said he was very capable and that they would give him lots of support. Then he was asked to play on the rep team. We said no but the coach persisted. I was worried that it would be too much pressure for a kid who can be very hard on himself, my other half agreed. We said no again but the backroom politics of minor hockey conspired against us and the boy who would have otherwise been the goalie was not going to make the team so they asked us again. We talked as a family and agreed to try it for this year, as long as it didn't interfere with skiing and our other sons weren't hauled around from arena to arena too much.

Biggest mistake ever. All that I had ever read or heard about minor hockey and hockey parents is true. It is crazy. From the beginning, there was politics, there was yelling, parents were banned from the arena and the change room. My poor husband was asked to be the liason for the coaches as the parents were no longer allowed to talk directly to the coaches! Things went from bad to worse, Number 1 son took every loss with a quiet grace that amazed me. While he faced 30 or 40 shots on goal each game his teammates couldn't score more than once or twice. They were at the bottom of the league, parents blamed the coaches and when they got tired of yelling at them some turned on their own kids. I stopped going to the games, I couldn't stand the yelling, it was embarrassing to sit with them. The kids soldiered on and to add to their woes they had all their practise time cut to play more games. What kind of sport has nothing but games and no time to learn and practise skills?

In ski racing the kids practise 6 hours at least two days a week, 10 weeks a season and race 5 times. They work on their skills, have fun with their friends and cheer each other on. Parents are nowhere near them when they are careening down the hill and although I know there are bad ski parents out there, most of the time we don't see or hear them. The coaches are paid professionals even at the beginner level, not parent volunteers and for the most part, parents stay out of it. In hockey I know it is difficult to get ice time, there are only so many rinks but why aren't there fewer games? These kids are 10 years old, they need to learn skills, especially the ones whose parents think are going to the NHL. What they don't need is to be demoralized on and off the ice week after week.

The final injustice to our son's team is after they lost in three games straight to the number 1 team in the league they have now moved on to the next round against ... the same team! I know there are lots of people who believe in miracles, especially those related to sports. I am not one of them and I am not looking forward to seeing my son play his heart out only to watch his team flounder yet again becasue they have no practise time.

I know that there is so much to be gained by playing a sport - being active, being a part of a team, learning skills you can enjoy for a lifetime but if all they do is play games that sends a very different message about sports. One I don't need my sons to learn.

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