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What Hockey and Father ’s Day Have i n Common Coaching My Kids to Success
hen I was just 5 years old, I followed in my brother’s
I want them to feel like I’m present in their lives — to know that, along with my 2-year-old, they’re pretty much the most important people in my life.
footsteps and joined a “learn to skate” program at the local ice rink. Before too long, I was picking up my first hockey stick and zooming around the ice, learning the basics of
the sport I would play for the rest of my life — well, most of the rest of my
life. I always did whatever my big brother did, so when he dropped the sport when I was about 9, I copycatted him and put it on the back burner for a while as well. As a result of that long break, I missed some of those golden years of skill development, as well as all kinds of opportunities I might have had in hockey. But when I returned to the sport years later, I found it was like I had never left. Now, every Friday morning at the crack of dawn — and sometimes on Sundays as well — I jump out of bed and drive a half hour to meet up with my men’s league hockey team. For almost five years, I’ve been playing with more or less the same guys, building up my skills and establishing a powerful camaraderie that keeps me coming back. It feels good to get a workout doing something I really love, taking time for myself to play a sport I missed for so many years. I’ve made a point to pass on the sport to my kids. I’ve coached both of my 9-year-old twins’ teams for more than three years now, having a blast helping them develop their skills while enjoying their time out on the ice. It’s a lot of work — the season lasts from the end of August all the way through April, and I spend four or five nights a week coaching, with four or five games each weekend — but to see my kids build lasting friendships with their peers and steadily improve their abilities really makes it all worthwhile.
There are highs and lows to the process. Every season, I challenge myself to learn how to be a better coach to these kids who are depending on me. At every turn, I try to make it fun, disguising complicated skill-development drills as fun games and activities. And whenever I can, I encourage them to be more creative with their skating and stick-handling, pushing them outside their comfort zone into that sweet spot where we learn the most. But honestly, one of my favorite things about hockey season is just driving my kids to games or practices. My twins are each on a different team, so I get a ton of one-on-one time with them in the backseat as we make the long commutes. I always make sure to ask them a lot of open-ended questions to get them to share and let me know what’s going on in their world: not “How was your day at school?” but “Who did you eat with at lunch today?” or “What’d you do today that showed you were a good friend?” With Father’s Day right around the corner, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the things I do to connect with my kids. I just hope that when they’re all grown up, they’ll be able to look back fondly on these games and practices. Most of all, I want them to feel like I’m present in their lives — to know that, along with my 2-year- old, they’re pretty much the most important people in my life. I’m excited to watch them continue to develop as hockey players, but I’m even more excited to see what they accomplish as people in the coming years.
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