Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Hockey Life: More important than hockey

When Colin first started skating and playing hockey, we asked ourselves the question, like most hockey parents do, what if he is good enough to do it for a living. Would he be big enough? Talented enough? Strong enough? Smart enough?

In those early years, we heard from other parents, coaches and other "experts" that no kid out of Florida would ever make it. Don't get your hopes up, they'd all say. Yes, it was good advice and something that has stuck with us since first hearing it.

All along, and I told The Missus and Colin this a long time ago, I'd know by the time he turned 12, maybe 13, whether he had that proverbial snowball-in-hell's chance of doing anything else than be a beer-leaguer. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, as hockey is a great game to play. And, at this time, I'm not making  plans to attend the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, though it's still thousands of days away.

Another principle we've followed since Colin started to play dictated that good grades would ensure he'd have every opportunity to prove me and others wrong. That's why I work the hours I do, deal with a car that lacks air conditioning and get after him to play as hard as he can. Bottom line, education will always take people further in life than most everything else, unless, of course, your last name is Gretzky, Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos or Malkin.

Up until this year, though, good grades hadn't been much of an issue. By getting more A's than B's, making the honor roll was a given. Occasionally, he'd make high honors, even to the point where the financial rewards of good grades were costing me a bundle six times a year. But, like I said, up until this year.

On his most recent report card, which came out after the holidays, he brought home the grade that no parent wants to see. Granted, it was in advanced algebra, where, as a seventh-grader in a STEM magnet program, he finds himself working at least one grade level above traditional students. Still, it was a cause for concern.

So, we had our little chat, encouraging him to buckle down, take his time to do his homework correctly and remember to turn it in, and bring up his grades. A pep talk, so to speak, with a little grit, as I told him that anything but that would lead to a benching.

Want to know what happened? He missed three practices last week and, quite honestly, faced the prospect of not playing any games until his grades improved. The result? He improved his grades in three classes. Not to where they need to be, mind you, but headed in the right direction. For that alone, he was able to participate in a rec league game yesterday, when he logged two goals and an assist.

I can be strict, but I try not to be a prick, if you know what I mean.

To me, it is important to reinforce the message delivered a long time ago. To not hold up my end of the deal (get good grades and you'll play hockey) after he failed to hold up his end would, to me, be the worst message that any parent could send. That, my friends, is the difference between being a father and a daddy.

As much as I tell Colin that practice and repetition will serve him well in hockey, the same holds true -- even moreso -- in his education. If this "hockey thing doesn't work out" (his words, not mine), he wants to design ships, especially "green-technology" naval warships, or become an architect. To me, each is a worthy goal.

In each case, though, from playing hockey to building a battleship, getting good grades will open far more doors than anything else. That's why I tell him all of the time: His education is far more important than hockey -- if he makes it or not.

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