My daughter is like most athletes: a fiercely loyal kid who likes familiarity. So you can just imagine how the conversation went when we told her it was time to switch to a girls team? From the mouth of my tough little hockey player came a resounding, “No way!” I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy sell. The boys on her team were like brothers. She’d been suiting up in black and purple since the age of 3. These are the teammates who fist-bumped her goals and shared the glorious moment of being handed a first-place trophy.
“What if the kids on the new team don’t want me on their line? What if the coach is mean? What if …?” I felt that knot in the pit of my stomach, too.
It started with just a quick glance at my closet. The mountain of purple and black scarves, mittens, and blankets – symbols of friendships built over many years, in familiar arenas – would be rendered useless. Like my daughter, I, too, couldn’t help but wonder. “What if the parents are obnoxious? What if the coach is all about winning? What if…?” It’s here that I had to remember The Great One’s famous expression that has echoed throughout hockey rinks from Manhattan to Manitoba: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Change may be difficult, but if you’re always wondering “what if” then you’re not willing to take the shot.
Syracuse (N.Y.) Nationals mom Jaime Henry was fortunate that her son landed on a team whose parents share her goals, which led to a smooth transition. “Jonathan’s coach held a getting-to-know-you dinner at his house and the kids participated in team-building activities,” she says, adding that getting her son to practice early helped give him more time to get to know his new teammates. “Even though it’s only for a few minutes, it really seems to make a difference in forming bonds with the other kids.”
Because of his size and position, Duke Holland’s 6-foot-3 Bantam son draws a lot of attention on the ice, and used his good nature to help out newcomers by skating with them during drills and sitting with them in the locker room. “The big thing is to build confidence, so the quote is, ‘nothing negative on the ice,’” says the Kansas City hockey dad. “It’s important to offer up praise and leave the constructive criticism to coaches.”
Champlin, Minn., hockey mom Stacey Christensen also encourages her Peewee son to take the lead in breaking the ice with new teammates. “I tell my son to sit next to them, instead of one of his friends, in the locker room and welcome them to the team,” Christensen says. As for my daughter, she bonded quickly with her new sisters who went on to win tournaments with Sophia wearing a “C” on her jersey. She ended up having what she called “the best hockey season ever.” And it turns out I look pretty good in blue and yellow.
Syracuse, N.Y., hockey mom Christie Casciano Burns is the author of The Puck Hog & Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid, now available on TotalHockey.com.
Article from the October 2015 edition of USA Hockey Magazine.