IF I KNEW THEN. WHAT I KNOW NOW.....
I knew in the very first moments of our very first parent meeting, I was entering a brave, new world. The coaches were talking about teaching the kids about offsides (huh?) and gear...wait a minute, shouldn't they be wearing sweaters out there? But it's so cold, and they're so little! It felt like I had been dropped into a foreign country, with a new language to learn and a whole new culture to embrace. A life transition was about to happen.
And yes, not ashamed to admit this, I was as clueless as they come. From suiting up my kid, to the surprise there is no half time in this sport, to not knowing how to handle unexpected equipment snafus, like a skate blade snapping in the middle of a heated tournament! Preparing meals ahead of time, knowing how to budget and even how to dress in layers for a very long, very cold season. Whew! I think I had a hair dryer on my feet for about 20 minutes after one of our first games in an unheated rink with metal bleachers, when I thought it would be fine just to slip on a pair of sneakers, minus the socks. I paid dearly that day, and several days to follow. So the knee pads, go underneath the socks? How exactly do they stay up?
While it was pretty overwhelming that first year, I was fortunate to have a lot of help along the way. I always had a tough time getting my son’s laces tight enough, until a mom taught me the trick of lacing up with a skate key. I also very quickly learned why it is so important to get the wet gear out of the bag as soon as you're home and air it out, if you stand any chance of keeping the stench to at least a tolerable level. Oh, and if you're going to invest in a wheeled hockey bag? Make sure you pick them up when you're going across the parking lots. The salt and chemically treated lots and sidewalks can eat a hole in the bottom of those bags. I found that out the hard way and lost a neck guard somewhere in a Buffalo hockey rink parking lot.
I think I've almost got it nailed now, 10 years later, and now in the blink of an eye, Joe is sadly hanging up his hockey skates, yet another injury preventing him from playing his senior year. Heart breaker. Wish he could have had that final year of High School hockey. My 11-year old daughter, who has been playing hockey since the age of three, is now reaping the benefits of all the knowledge we picked up along the way. But I think back to that first year. If I only knew then, what I knew now about this sport. Grateful I had a lot of seasoned parents our first year, who gave great guidance, especially about the emotional side of hockey; how to not get discouraged when the season is filled with losses, chippy kids, and obnoxious parents. Sit in the stands and enjoy the moments. They go by so fast! I can honestly say the bright moments far outnumber the dark ones. How about you? Got some advice you would like to share about this challenging, surprising and incredibly rewarding sport?