There are moments in life, no matter your age, when opportunities present themselves. These guideposts, if you will, often determine, for good or for bad, the path we follow. It's up to us to make the best of them.
At the tender age of 11, Colin was supposed to face one of his first this afternoon.
A few weeks ago, he was invited to take part in a tryout for a AAA-level hockey team. Last week, though, we received word it was canceled. It represented a big step, for sure, as he has only two seasons of travel hockey, playing at the A level, under his belt. Still, he would've taken to the ice. It's better to try and fail than not to try at all.
Before we heard the bad news, we had spoken quite often about the opportunity. The positives were plenty -- skating with and against more talented players and getting on the "radars" of people who may open doors down the road. Conversely, there were some downsides, namely that the cost would have likely been far too prohibitive for us. Bottom line, though, is the benefits would have outweighed the drawbacks, even if it meant working more than the 60 hours I already put in every week.
The main point I kept repeating is that I wouldn't have sent him out there if I thought he'd embarrass himself. We know there's plenty of room of improvement within his stickhandling and, to an extent, his shooting. His skating abilities wouldn't have been a problem, nor should have his hockey sense though, at times, I do wonder..
His greatest strength, I kept telling him, is his intensity. Though I've said this before, we're raising a hockey player, not a goal scorer. When he's on, Colin's game is all about being a pest through forechecking, backchecking and trying to be the first on the puck. From what I've been told, and this includes NHL coaches, all teams love to have this type of player.
Opportunities arise when he plays that way. Stealing a puck often leads to a breakaway and, hopefully, a solid scoring chance for himself or a teammate. Intercepting a pass does, too. A hassled opponent, in a fit of frustration, will take a penalty. And, lately, I've been seeing the light bulbs of rewards for his hard work go off over his head.
We know there are people, as well as other players, who question Colin's abilities. I compare these people to nothing more than bullies at school. They do and say things for one of two reasons: to make themselves feel better about their lives or to try to bring him down to their levels. Rather than shrink away, though, I've encouraged him to use his detractors, as he has before, as a source of motivation.
The biggest question, though, is this: Would he have made the team?
To be honest, I doubt it. Too much work remains, as does showing an improvement in his game each and every time he steps on the ice. Then again, who's to know? It would have been up to him to do his best to make as difficult a decision as he could for the coaching staff. All I ever ask of him is to try his hardest and play to the best of his abilities. If he does that, be it in hockey or life, he'll do fine.
Really, there's no reason to be disappointed by the cancellation. To be invited, after playing for a relatively short time, is a positive step. In a way, the tryout would have served as a litmus test. If he had made the cut, then he would've known he was among the area's best. If he hadn't, then he would've seen what it takes to reach that level. To me, there's something positive in each outcome.
The way we look at it, there will always be more tryouts. After all, he's only 11.