Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Hockey Life: Show some respect

Having signed up for youth hockey clinics with the Tampa Bay Lightning over the past few years, we find ourselves receiving a biweekly newsletter aimed at youth hockey. Most times, it gets a cursory glance before it heads to the trash folder. Every so often, though, one profiles an issue that seems rather timely.

The latest newsletter, which profiled maintaining positive locker room behavior, hit close to home.

Like I mentioned last week, Colin has had some issues fitting in with his new organization, the Brandon Jr. Bulls. While most of his teammates have accepted him, there have been a few exceptions. In a way, that's understandable. Not everyone gets along, no matter the age. Doesn't matter if it's at school, work or play. It's a reality within life.

As his father, I know that he can be a handful. He can get pumped up -- sometimes too much -- before and after games. It comes with the territory, I suppose, of his high energy level and the fact he has been diagnosed with ADHD.

It wasn't all that long ago when he would find himself upside-down in a locker room garbage can after a game or practice. Back then, he was an 8 year old on a team that had players up to 12 years old. So he felt the way to fit in, so to speak, was to be the class clown.

Maintaining an even keel, though, is something that we've talked about and worked on over the past few years. Show up, get dressed, think about the game (or practice) and do your best. If he does that, everything should take care of itself. And, for the most part, that's what he tries to do.

From what I hear, anecdotally and in-person, Colin can still draw attention to himself. It's part of his personality. In a way, that's a good thing. He is who he is. To reinforce the teaching moment, though, I've told him it might be better to take a better-seen-and-not-heard approach. Sit back, survey the situation, assess his teammates and have fun. In other words, find a way to fit in.

To hear him tell it, that's what he has done. But, I know better. I've heard his voice through locker room doors. Still, though, I don't believe he has crossed any line like, in my estimation, one particular teammate has on more than one occasion.

Since early in the season, a variety of actions, ranging from ridicule in front of teammates to threats of physical violence to having ice shavings "sneezed" in his face, have left Colin feeling uncomfortable in this teammate's presence. Of course, we've brought every instance to the coaching staff's attention. Thankfully, they've listened and have taken this situation seriously.

Understand, too, that Colin knows the consequences of false accusations -- his days of playing hockey would end, not just for this season or team, but for as long as he lives under our roof. I also know, as an observer of the human condition, he doesn't have the stones to lie about any of this.

Look, kids will be kids. Part of their jobs is to push boundaries. Some boundaries, though, should go untouched. Respecting your teammates, especially at this young age, is one of them.

Let's hope that lesson has been learned. We'll find out, I suppose, in the days and weeks ahead. If so, this will become another valuable life lesson for Colin. If not, it'll be time to get others involved.

Like I said before, zero tolerance means just that -- zero tolerance.

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