Alright…..so it’s still August and the Devil’s been on the ice a couple of times over the last two weeks. Some would and have argued a couple of times too many. An opportunity arose for some ice time with another team, which was offered to all of the members of her and my team. A few, including the aforementioned Devil, who weren’t occupied with other Summer activities, signed on to get some early practice in. Having not had her blades touch a frozen surface since mid-May,the Devil out-loud wondered if she may have forgotten how to navigate a sheet of ice. While her conditioning was questionable and some rust was obvious, she took to it as she has every other season following the mid-year break with renewed enthusiasm for a game she’d come to miss even after only a couple of months. Though I know catching an edge in a drill and landing firmly on her ass did not sit well with her (pun wholly intended). I likewise marked myself appreciating the sights, sounds and even the smells of the abruptly sprayed snow, the well-struck goalpost and the ripe dressing room – familiar indeed.
In a week’s time, my new team will take to the ice for our first official practice. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some nervous energy guiding my new role. Everything to this point has been administration. Next week the proverbial rubber hits the rink. I’ve already mapped out two full sessions, replaying instructions in my mind both before I hit the pillow and upon waking at least a full hour before I need to the last couple of mornings. I’ve always said of delivering presentations that if you’re not nervous, it doesn’t matter enough to you. This does matter to me. I have expectations around building a team, imparting a few hockey skills to propel these young athletes forward and hopefully instilling some positive life lessons along the way. I assume my players have expectations of me; varied as they will surely be. And I know many parents have already fashioned a set of desired outcomes, as they’ve every right to do. While I will have a staff to support me, I will still be the focal point in good times and bad. I’ve accepted this role. I expect to look back six months from now to see my fretting was worth it. I’ll measure success on the hopefully enlightened faces of players after a solid practice or hard fought game – win, lose or draw. I want my players to realize it is just a kid’s game, the rink is an unbeatable place to be on a frigid Winter morning and they are fortunate to have the opportunity to just play.
As for the Boy, he and some buddies are entered in a pre-season “fun” tune-up tourney this weekend. “Fun” in midget boys games generally means lots of inappropriate, testosterone-induced trash talking followed by the occasional dust-up in the corner along with a few goals tossed in. I understand it’s been tough rounding up enough players, but the Boy for his part is raring to go. I’m pleased to note he still loves playing the game — he comes by his competitive spirit naturally. I get the sense he’s also looking forward to tryouts in a few weeks as he’s been chomping at the bit to get some frozen pond under his restless feet. As a coach, I’ll likely see fewer of his games this year, but will make a point to cherish each of them more with the clock undoubtedly ticking down.
So, ok…enough with the romantic talk already…gimme a stick, puck and bring on Hockey Season!