Sunday, May 5, 2013
The Hockey Life: Different approach
For the past few Wednesdays, I've been taking Colin over to a rink in Tampa to participate in a clinic run by Stan Neckar, a former NHL defenseman. Like a handful of the other hockey dads there on those nights, I'll sit and watch the clinic, following Colin as he runs through drills and making mental notes of things to reinforce.
Hardly, if ever, do I say anything to anyone other than Colin. I do, however, make a point of listening to the chatter as the dads discuss their sons, teams, leagues and fees. Is it eavesdropping? Most likely. What do you expect, though, from a journalist?
This past Wednesday, while keeping my eyes and ears open, I heard that tryouts would be starting soon for fall travel teams. Of course, that piqued my curiosity. So, when I got home later that night, I started poking about Tampa Bay-area travel team websites. Sure enough, one organization is holding tryouts two weeks from today.
The following day, as I was taking Colin across town to school, I asked him the inevitable question -- did he want to try out for that team. I wasn't surprised, either, when he said he did. If I was in his place, I would've said the same thing.
For some time, we thought it would be best if Colin took a season or two away from travel hockey. Given last season's unfortunate events with the Brandon Jr. Bulls, we were left with a pretty sour taste and a deepened commitment to follow our intuition. To all of us, it was time to refocus on having fun in hockey, something that was in fairly short supply last season.
Thankfully, Colin has been enjoying himself with his Pinellas P.A.L. Stars. After a pretty long winter, and a broken collarbone to boot, Colin has had a blast wearing the Black and Gold, especially after winning today's Tampa Bay Metro League championship.
Despite hearing from knowledgeable hockey dads whom I trust and respect that the next few years are among the most important of any young hockey player's development, we'll be taking a far different approach as the new travel hockey cycle begins. Going forward, we're placing a far greater emphasis of the quality of the organization and the coaches.
That will be foremost in our minds as we make our way through the upcoming tryout season, with Colin casting a wider net with three teams. Even if he makes a particular travel team, we won't commit if we don't have faith in the coaches' abilities, don't feel it would be a good fit (regarding his teammates and, just as important, other parents) or have unanswered questions about the program.
We have no problems walking away if it doesn't feel right. If hockey isn't fun, why bother playing? Trust me, we won't make that mistake again.
And, if he doesn't make a travel squad, so be it. We've come to learn that we can live with that.