Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Hockey Life: Getting benched

Learning experiences are a part of playing hockey. From learning to skate with your head up, avoiding cross-ice passes deep in your zone and remembering to take off your skate guards before hitting the ice, the game serves as a teacher.

Colin got another lesson in his hockey education today. After daydreaming through a recreational game last week, from not hustling during his shifts to twice bobbling pucks while unchallenged at the point, he had to watch from the bench -- at my request, sort of -- for the first period of his recreational Metro League this morning.

Really, I have seen and heard enough. He wasn't sharp during practices or games. He was losing puck battles he would normally win, getting knocked too easily off of the puck. And rather than take full advantage of beneficial matchups, he'd play down to the competition.

So, rather than have another talk about going hard on every shift last week, I let him know, as well as his Metro League coaches, that he'd be watching his next two games, either from the bench or from the stands. He'd also have to tell his teammates why he would be sitting. If he wasn't going to be a leader on the ice, he could at least serve as an example in the locker room.

A few days later, after an e-mail conversation with one of his coaches, I agreed to the one-period benching. Even though I still believe sitting for two games would have better driven home my point, I also understand what he means to that team. Still, he has to learn this very valuable lesson.

By now, most of you are likely thinking that I'm a world-class jerk (or some other word) for holding my 10-year-old to these standards. I disagree. It's teaching him responsibility, the value of hard work, appreciation for other's sacrifices and striving for goals. Too many kids today, I believe, aren't learning the rewards of hard work.

I go hard for Colin, workng 60-plus hours a week, making sure we have enough money for him to pursue his hockey dreams. In return, he has to go hard for us. It's as simple as that. And, lately, he hasn't been keeping up his end of the bargain.

If this was the first time this happened, I'd be much more tolerant. Every kid, and person, has an off day. I do, just ask my bosses. But, it wasn't. I've had this conversation with him about every five or six weeks. And that, I'm afraid, has me concerned.

Part of it, I believe, is the amount of hockey he has been playing. Earlier this season, we would have 13-day stretches when he was doing something related to hockey, either playing, practicing, skating, dry-land training or working on his shot. That's way too much, likley causing burnout. That one, I'll admit, is on me.

Hopefully, we've dodged a bullet at school. He won't get his first report card until the second week of December. So far, we've heard positive reports about homework, test scores and grades. Part of playing hockey means getting good grades, with a nice, little bonus for making honor roll. Conversely, poor grades are a quick, one-way ticket to sitting on the sidelines.

For a variety of reasons, and giving him some time to get away from hockey is chief among them, he'll be playing for only one team in one league at one time going forward. If he makes the travel-team squad for the spring season, then, that's all the hockey he'll be playing. If he doesn't, well, so be it. There's no shame -- for us, at least --  in playing rec hockey.

It'll likely be more fun, and far less pressure, for all of us.

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