Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Taking the Plunge....Again

By Caroline Stanistreet

When I was a kid, there was nothing more exciting than heading to our club pool, swimming at team practice, and then waiting until the pool opened at 11 am for the entire day. The Almighty diving board beckoned, and my friends and I would spend hours performing all varieties of dives, flips, and of course, cannon balls (except when we were rudely interrupted for 15 minutes by “Adult Swim,” sigh…).

After my country club’s swim experience ended, I began attending, then working at, an overnight YMCA camp in the mid 1970s. Naturally, there were plenty of swimming opportunities for me, but this time it was on vast and beautiful Millsite Lake. There, I learned waterskiing, sailing, and even snorkeling, but the biggest thrill of all was taking a boat to the opposite side of the lake, crawling and climbing my way up a 30-foot cliff, then jumping off some jagged rocks into the dark water below. I thought I was invincible - especially since I was donned in my swimsuit, cutoffs, and navy-faded, trail-worn Converse sneakers, so my feet wouldn’t smack against the water nor get cut open in the nearby rocks. We would jump like it was an effortless feat, and back then, well, at least to me and my cliff-loving colleagues - it was just another fun experience at Camp.

Then came lifeguarding jobs and water safety instruction, and there was usually a diving board nearby.  More fun for me!  Combine that with 8 years of high school and collegiate swimming, and thankfully I never experienced pool burnout. The cool thing about our college pool was that it had a separate diving well with two 1-meter boards, and one 3-meter board. My talented housemate was on the diving team and performed the most amazing flips and twists with barely a splash. Sometimes after our swim practice, I’d head over to “the well” and stand on the end of the 3-meter board and simply jump in, knowing that an attempt at something stupid off that board would likely end in some nasty bruising and endless teasing and laughter from my diver housemate and swim teammates.

Fast forward to now, where I can be found swimming at our local Y about 3 times a week. I’m almost always there on “My Sunday,” which is my hour and a half away from work/family/dogs/life to enjoy that precious alone time, usually in Lane 3.

On the Y’s monthly competitive pool calendar, I’ve noticed the 1-meter diving board was open from Noon-1 p.m. on My Sunday. Well now, wouldn’t that be fun to re-live my childhood diving prowess after a swim workout? Why, of course! So, I strategically planned a 30-minute swim at Noon (sharp!) then I’d spend the remaining half-hour doing what I thought I did best, demonstrating to the world my awesome, signature inward dive. Ah, such a daredevil am I! 


I stepped up the 3 rungs and stared down at the long, gritty, sea foam green behemoth.
I timidly shuffled a few feet down to the adjustment wheel and spun it forward with my foot to avoid any extra bounciness. Then I ever so gingerly walked to the end, which started sagging, just like my confidence. I looked down at the shimmering water below, and I might as well have been back on that 30-foot cliff or at the end of the 3-meter board looking down at “the well.” I continued to shake and was about to “about-face,” but then, an angel appeared.

Along came Alice, a senior citizen who knows no fear. She and her friend Bill show up to use that board faithfully every Sunday, chamois in hand, to dive, and dive some more (Alice even flips, I kid you not). She took one look at the terror in my face and said, “I’ve seen this all before honey, just take a practice jump!”

Practice jump? Who in their right mind “practices” on this thing?
(Sorry, Alice, but this is NOT practice, this is SURVIVAL)

My ego, quite deflated by now, told me to humbly obey her orders and just get it the heck over with. So I turned around and just stood there, shivering, with my toes curled over the end of the monster. I took just a moment to recite a quick Hail Mary, and performed what we called at our club pool “The Dead Man’s Walk” - just step off the end with arms at one’s sides - so that one step I took - and with little fanfare.

Plunk! Bubble bubble bubble.....

I popped right back up to the surface (all thanks to The Good Lord giving me the wonderful gift of extreme buoyancy). Alice applauded and exclaimed, “you did it!” - just like a schoolteacher would say to a child after reciting her ABCs. That inner child in me beamed with pride. I looked up at her, smiled, and thanked her, then thanked God again, knowing that surviving that first leap was truly was a miracle in my mind.

So now, part of My Sundays are spent “at the board” with new friends Alice and Bill. I watch with admiration Bill’s careful practice jumps and Alice’s skill to easily balance with heels hanging at the end of the board, all before doing a back flip. Their unique ability to thwart any fear of height or potential pain - and as senior citizens - is amazing to me.

I continue to overcome that strange anxiety I developed from simply NOT diving off a diving board in almost 35 years. Currently, my repertoire consists of a solid forward jump and a front swan dive from a few steps back and little - or very little - bounce.  That signature inward of mine is being slowly “revisited.”  While my diving list is fairly short, each week I get a bit surer of myself, as there is still a lot of fight left in me. But, I can promise you this...those navy Converse sneakers will never, ever, EVER see the heights - or depths - of Millsite Lake again.

Friday, February 16, 2018

When To Cut The Hockey Cord

As seen in USA Hockey Magazine
I can't help but feel we hockey parents tend to have it worse than others. How are we supposed to keep our kids safe as they try to learn such a difficult sport like hockey? We never want to see them fall on the ice, take a hit from an opponent or feel the letdown of a tough loss.
And perhaps because we don't have control over things like that we try to combat it, in small ways by yelling at coaching decisions that WE don't agree with, making sure WE put on their gear and lace up their skates, and that WE lug around that giant hockey bag.
But while we are looking out for our kids, it's easy to overlook when we've gone too far. After all, the point of playing sports is for kids to have fun and learn-whether it's about being part of a team, overcoming adversity or accomplishing something that once seemed impossible.
I remember when my daughter Sophia's Squirt coach informed her that it was time to cut the cord with dad, and lace up those skates on her own.
Panic immediately set in. She was convinced only her dad could get her skates tight enough, and if they weren't tight enough, she wasn't going to be good enough. 
As a parent, it's only sensible to feel, "I can quell those fears, so why not just keep tying those skates myself?"
But as Charice Wilczynski, a coach in suburban Chicago, points out, there are big lessons for your kiddos to learn by accomplishing the smallest of tasks.
"In order to teach our young skaters about the power of resilience, we must embrace the lessons and struggles we see around the rink as a road map to the path of success, both in the sport of ice hockey and in life itself," Wilczynski says. 
You might think you are "saving the day" by rushing home after a piece of equipment your player should have packed, but in reality, you may not be doing them any favors.
"A hockey player will learn to pack his/her own hockey bag much more carefully after sitting in the stands as a consequence for forgetting equipment the first time, rather than relying on parents to take care of everything all the time," Wilczynski says.
So what is the age of independence for our young hockey players to carry their own bags and tie their own skates? When I tossed it out to veteran hockey followers on Facebook, the general consensus seemed to be at the 10 & Under level.
"Most parents make the little kids skates so tight, the ankle can't move and it becomes a comfort feel for the kid," says Malta, N.Y., hockey dad Greg Bunt.
Fortunately for us, switching to waxed laces seemed to-at least in Sophia's mind and feet-get "the right" tight feel. It was a small step, but it ultimately helped her blossom as a player, and then so much more. 

Christie Casciano reads to kids at Minoa Elementary School

Christie Casciano reads to kids at Minoa Elementary School: Today was all about reading and the kids beat their challenge of reading 150,000 minutes by reading more than 170,000!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

One of our Girls makes ESPN's Top Ten Plays!

  This awesome goal from one of our players on the Skaneateles Girls High School hockey team, Megan Teachout, will be shown during the ESPN-W Top 10 Plays Segment! Way to go Meg!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Stink Monster

(As seen in USA Hockey Magazine January 2018)
Just like players, hockey parents must earn their stripes -- lugging around equipment, early ice times, holidays sacrificed for the sake of driving to and from tournaments. And just like players getting that first check of the season out of the way, parents must also dispense with some unpleasantries to earn their true badge of honor:

The Stink Monster.

The olfactory equivalent to a Shea Weber slapshot, The Stink Monster resides in hockey bags and used equipment. Its stench lingers up and down the spine like a Dustin Byfuglien hit at center ice. 

But just as some plucky kids in Lake Placid once took down the mighty USSR, so too can The Stink Monster be vanquished.

Suzanne Wolff-kozikoski has a nose that knows offensive odors, having spent more than 20 years as a nurse. But this hockey mom says she’s never encountered any stench funkier than a hockey bag. She cautions the need to tackle “hockey stink” beyond its unpleasantness to the nostrils -- odor-causing bacteria thrives in a warm, most environment, creating a risk for infection.

You’ve likely heard this piece of advice before, but it is truly the most effective defense: never let wet equipment sit in the bag.


It does nothing just to unzip the bag either. After every practice and game, gear needs to be taken out and sweaty clothes need to go in the wash.  At least once a month -- more if needed -- I’ll run pads through the washing machine, using white vinegar as fabric softener to neutralize the odor without adding a chemical coat to the gear.  
I also designate a space in the house where the equipment can properly dry. A dehumidifier can help too. Some parents worry washers might affect the effectiveness of the protective gear and prefer a gentle soak in the tub with hot water with a dose of antibacterial soap. Some parents like the added boost of sprays and air dry the gear. On warm, sunny days, take advantage of Mother Nature and let the pads bake in the sun.
There are plenty of sprays, lotions and potions on the market, but the real key to slaying The Stink Monster, is staying ahead of the game and airing equipment after every use. Be diligent!

While I've got issues with this odorous opponent, there are plenty of players and parents, like Jennifer Hannon Powderly, who don’t view the stinky bag as a game misconduct. What’s it smell like to her? “Determination and dreams.

Maybe a little blood, sweat, and tears in there, while making all that determination turn from dreams into reality of playing the game her son loves so much.”

It's an interesting way of looking at it. But after all, what's in a name? A hockey bag by any other name would smell as sweet. name would smell as sweet.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Skaneateles hockey celebrates 12th win

Skaneateles hockey celebrates 12th win: The Skaneateles girls hockey team skated to victory over Clinton on Saturday.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Brave Face

By Caroline Coley Stanistreet 

There’s a song by Paul McCartney from the late eighties called "My Brave Face" that I like to listen to on occasion, which just visited me over my headphones. My brave face, HA! That was some kind of Un-Brave face I put on just now, as the toothpaste-tube sized jet took off from the GSP airport. But I was sniveling away at the thought that I was, once again, flying home after driving down to South Carolina with my college sophomore son (so, yes, this is my second anniversary of sniveling). 

This trip came with a twist this time. His dog, MY dog, well, really HIS dog - simply named Bear, is a lovable, toddler-like Golden Retriever and is living with him and his golf teammates for a little while - or perhaps longer - in his off-campus apartment.

And what does this have to do with being a hockey mom? And wait - didn't I write something like this exactly one year ago? Not quite, as this year’s topic is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but wait for it anyway….it is simply titled, “the benefits of having a dog (or a pet) while you’re a student-athlete.” 

Before you start the eye-rolling, just “Bear” with me here... As much as I tried NOT liking my college housemate’s “mixed breed”....some sort of labterriershepardhounddogpoodle-kind of dog, he made her very happy and for some reason, he always appeared glad to see me. He was a constant source of comfort after a hard practice, the loss of a very close swim meet, or the pile of books I had to pour through and write papers from. He kept all of us on schedule and simply asked for love (and of course food and water). Our cozy, yet oddly-slanted apartment was kept clean thanks to Nutmeg, as we took any and all of his accidents in stride and my housemate kept him well-groomed. Nutmeg forced me to really get to learn how to interact with a pet other than a cat, which is a different subject entirely. I loved the family cat we grew up with, but seriously, when it was time for Muffin to be left alone, IT WAS TIME. 

Dogs are so, so different, in other words, if they want to be left alone, it’s a scaled-down version of solitude which involves staying in partial view or earshot from their human. My son’s Golden Bear keeps him smiling and content, and when his classes and golf season start in a few weeks, I know the smiles will remain. His teammates have embraced Bear (literally too! Free hugs!) and are all OK with that “fifth roommate.” Frustrated from not chipping or putting well? Exhausted from carrying your clubs 18 holes in 90-degree heat after taking 3 classes? Bear still loves you and is glad to see you, no matter the time, the hour, or the situation. 

Now, people will question whether this big change and living situation is “fair” to Bear. We made it clear to our son that it would take a village to keep Bear happy while maintaining the healthy, active and fun lifestyle he had at home. Bear has spent 11 months and 3 weeks of his life with his sister, Pumpkin, 

 who is owned by our daughter, and who will eventually take her from our home to college as well. Buddies, playmates or sparring partners, Pumpkin and Bear wag their tails in unison at dinnertime, look like matching bookends when napping together and sit politely in the car when going to weekly training class. 

They have been a great team, but Bear has several new jobs with our son: Manager of His Human - Official Best Friend - Unofficial Team Mascot - Guardian of The Universe (which we all know as our son’s apartment) - and many more. 

If it also seems like it's unkind to separate Bear and Pumpkin, that was always the plan. They are individuals, just like our daughter and son. And so far, so good! 

Bear left his sister, mastered riding a total of 13-plus hours in a somewhat rugged-riding Jeep (except for the first 30 minutes into it...I won't share the details except it involved a plastic bag, an old golf towel and Wet Ones). He slept for the first time in a large travel crate in a hotel room between our beds. He quizically patrolled the new apartment while adorably interacting with the boys. And he spread out on the wood floor and slept like he’s always lived there (never mind the fancy dog cot we purchased, but doesn't that always happen?) 

Meanwhile, Pumpkin is also just fine since she has her tennis ball, her little tire, and best of all, her loving human. 

Bear has not been introduced to the golf coach yet, but in the past, other golfers have been able to juggle (or should it be “swing?”) between owning a dog and living up to the responsibilities of college and college sports. 

Student-athletes have been doing it for a long time, and it should be no different today. In this age of social media resulting in poor communication and interaction skills among young adults, doesn't it just make sense for them to have a pet to play fetch with outdoors or have a cuddly partner while studying on the couch? Or receive unconditional love and emotional support when times are challenging or don't make sense? 

Look it up anywhere, but you'll see that studies show year after year that pets improve our physical health (lower our blood pressure for one) and mental well-being. So, for the time being, we will hope that Bear's exciting and semi-permanent trip to the South will keep our son on schedule, focused, happy, and secure. Can Bear contribute to some great golf scores and better grades? 

We are certainly optimistic, but in just a short time there we have observed signs of our son's maturity, responsibility and happiness resulting from his effort shown at keeping him fed, watered and groomed (not to mention the tidy apartment from his daily vacuuming). 

Sure, I already miss that fluffy, feathery tail making clockwise spirals down the stairs when coming back inside for dinner. I will also look forward to the return trip home for the holidays when Bear reunites with Pumpkin and they play in the snow together. Best of all, our son returns with him - and that's when the sniveling will pick back up again...but this time for joy.