Sunday, March 4, 2012
The Hockey Life: In the books
Just like that, less than three minutes into overtime, it was over. A shot from in close, on our goalie's short side, rolled over his shoulder and dropped into the net. One team whooped and hollered. The other consoled the goalie. The 2011-12 season for the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirt A team had run its course.
The season, which spanned nearly six months, didn't seem that long. From the first game, the day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, to this morning's Silver final at the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida Championships, our lives had revolved around hockey. Maybe that's why it went by so fast.
Two practices a week. Games mostly every other weekend, save for the holidays. Four in-season tournaments, including this weekend. Countless cups of rink coffee. Same, too, for Fierce Grape Gatorades. Many a team meal that left my face hurting from laughing so much.
From the practical side, it has been a learning experience. For Colin. For The Missus. For me, too. Trust me, as this was our first full season of travel-team hockey, we all learned plenty. And, after spending nearly $3,000 during the season, mostly for the ice time, they were all expensive lessons.
For Colin, it was learning what it takes to play at the travel-team level. The kids are faster and better than most in any rec league around here. Moves that worked before had been seen hundreds of times. Thankfully, his hard work, tireless energy and never-say-die attitude developed with each game.
For The Missus, it was adding to her already busy days. Like any other Hockey Mom, her day, which often starts before 7 a.m., lasted 15 to 18 hours, once Colin was fed, showered and asleep after another practice, scrimmage or game or his gear was washed, dried and folded. Beyond that, she had to deal with me.
The biggest thing I learned, among the many of the season, was to remember what was best for Colin. There's a certain high, so to speak, from watching your kid participate in a sport. Of course, I want him to do well, but I had to remember that he's just a kid. Sure, he made mistakes. All kids do. Adults, too. As his first coach, though, my job is to turn them into teaching moments, so it's not repeated.
While we all have lofty goals for our kids (if someone tells you they don't, they're lying), it's far more important to look at the big picture. Early on, I wanted as much ice time as I could get for Colin. We signed him up for camps, clinics and rec league play. It didn't take long, though, to realize that it's the quality of that ice time, not the quantity, that's important. Going forward, all of Colin's hockey will have a purpose.
This is where I'm supposed to write that it's all about having fun. In a way, that's right. Kids should have fun. Sports, I believe, teaches life lessons. When two teams compete, one wins and one loses. Winning is fun. Losing, though, sucks. Guess what? The kids know that, too. The difference, as I told Colin many times, is that winners are willing to make that extra effort -- away from the rink, at practice and during a game -- to make sure they experience the joy that comes with winning.
Thankfully, over the course of the season, there were highs. Colin scoring a game-winner with less than a minute to play and watching the team win the Labor Day tournament rank right up there. Conversely, there were lows. Watching the kids get blown out and the occasional smack of favoritism come to mind. The in-betweens, though, filled the gaps, bringing a necessary equilibrium.
Bottom line, and there always is one, Colin's first season was enjoyable and educational. He surpassed the modest scoring goals I'd set for him last fall. He hustled his way onto the penalty-killing unit and was placed in the position of helping to preserve leads. Earning three medals in his first season of play, to me, was a very solid accomplishment.
And that, my friends, is what we'll remember most about this season.