Two weeks ago, I signed up Colin for another league this fall and winter. Sure, his travel team hockey keeps us busy. Costs a pretty dime, too. But, as I watched him play and practice with this Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirt A squad so far this season, I knew he needed more.
It's not just more ice time, either. Nor is it to pad his stats, should he be so lucky to even be in that position. No, the real reason he's playing his first game this morning in the Tampa Bay Metro League is to develop his leadership abilities.
As something of a developmental league, there's no shame in getting ice time to improve your skills, in any aspect of the game. Every practice, every shift and every shot will only make him a better player. The ability to serve as a leader to kids younger than him, though, is what this will be all about.
Going into this game, I can't say with absolute certainty how well or poorly the team will play. Given that some of the kids are still getting their ice legs under them suggests we might be in for a long season. I'll be honest with you. That's exactly what I'm looking for. There are more lessons to be learned in a loss than through a win.
In the Sunday mornings ahead, Colin will have the opportunity to show a handful of kids that you don't give up, no matter the score. You skate hard and play even harder. Hopefully, he'll show them the "Go Hard" that's taped to his sticks. For us, there's no other way to play the game.
The opportunities. I believe, extend far beyond the rewards of hard work. He'll help show that it takes a team, and not just one selfish player, to score a goal or win a game. It's one of my hockey math proverbs: It's easier for five to score a single goal than it is for one to score five. Of course, having fun will be part of the drill. After all, hockey's a game.
Part of it, too, is to pay back, with interest, some of the older kids who provided lessons in leadership for Colin. When he first started playing hockey three years ago, he was lucky enough to have some older boys (That's you Steven, Joey, Daniel and, yes, sadly, Tyler) take him under their wings and instill some lessons that have shaped his growing game. It's only right, then, that he returns the favor.
Like any game, all I ask is that he play hard and to the best of his abilities to put his team and teammates in the best possible position for a victory or success. Thankfully, he's been doing that more consistently. Now, he faces the added responsibility of being a leader.
I'm thinking, more than hoping, it'll be a wise investment.