Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Youth Hockey FUNdraising

The Peaks and Pitfalls of Fundraising

Big on dreams. Short on cash. Isn’t that the case every hockey season? The challenge is to find fundraisers that are big on cash and short on stress. The season is stressful enough, you certainly don’t want to be the source of duck and cover syndrome with family and friends. They see you coming and yell, “Duck everyone and cover your wallet!” I was grateful the year our team abandoned product hawking in favor of team fundraising projects. We packed restaurants that would give us a slice of their profits on our designated night. It’s was one less meal to cook and another chance to get to know everyone outside of the rink. We also made hundreds by teaming up to sell pucks for fans to chuck at a Syracuse Crunch Hockey game. Our neighborhood bottle and can drive was a huge success with a $700.00 profit! Our roundup of returnables was hard work, but it also rewarded teamwork. Finding the right team fundraisers can set the right tone for your kids, and allow parents to find common ground. Early bonding can go a long way during a long, cold season. So, the next time your team asks you to help out with fund raising, keep in mind, you can gain a lot more than money when you work together for a common goal.

                                                      BOTTLE AND CAN DRIVES
*Promote the drive- Send out flyers with information about your drive and also a phone number. People may call and offer to drop their cans and bottles off at your Redemption Center. *Pick a good time Timing is everything. Our team leader picked the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Neighbors were eager to rid their garages of emptied containers after their Thanksgiving feasts; they were in a generous spirit as well. *Divide kids up with different age groups or different positions so they get to know other players *Wear team jerseys or T-shirts with logo- It legitimizes the operation and reinforces the team concept for the kids. *Coach should speak- Hit all the important rules about safety and good manners. *Find a kind and willing Redemption Center-that will let you set up an account for your team so folks can donate year-round.

Have a Gala for the parents of your hockey players. You can raise money by selling tickets, solicit door prizes or prizes for silent auctions from parents or local businesses. How is your team raising money?
  Share your ideas on our The Puck Hog Facebook fan page and be eligible to win an autographed copy of The Puck Hog!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

When Hockey Costs Don't Make Sense

by Hockey Mom Blogger Dana Vee I think there is nothing more icing than the sting of hockey payments for travel hockey. When you sign up for your team, you should be supplied a ledger of your budget and how the money is being spent, and you should also be made aware that even if you are not planning on going to the NON-MANDATORY Tourneys, you are still required to pay the mandatory fee for entrance. Before taking places on any teams, ask a lot of questions about payments, requirements, extra fees, traveling and tournaments so that when a new circumstance is presented like a ‘requests for payment’ you won’t feel like your budget just got hit with unexpected frost bite! Read on!

Alphabet Soup

    If you don’t have a kid who plays hockey, AAA is the call you make when your car breaks down. AA puts you on a twelve step program to sobriety. A is what you want your children to strive for in school. But for hockey parents, those letters have a whole different meaning.

   USA Hockey designates certain leagues throughout the country as Tier I and Tier II to create separate levels of play. Tier I or AAA leagues offer the highest level of competition with a lot of hockey, between 60 and 90 games! Value can be argued but that higher level usually means sacrifice at every level for your family.

  For Wasilla hockey mom Diane Firmani, the road to Triple A play would have meant one road, literally to Anchorage, one of only two cities in the great state of Alaska to offer AAA play. A gas guzzling hour and a half drive, costly coaching and registration fees as high as $7,000 upfront, just didn’t add up as a good choice for her family. Firmani’s older son, Chancie was recruited as a Bantam, but his parents made him to wait until he was a Midget and could drive. Honestly, it doesn't make a particle of difference until Midgets, “says Firmani, “At the younger levels, it's merely bragging rights for the parents and instant martyrdom. I heard stories of parents refinancing their house so their kids could play at the AAA level!  To quote Dolly Parton  "Get down off the cross, honey, somebody needs the wood."

    Minnesota Hockey dad Peter Williams, President of the Champlin Park Hockey Association advises parents to be smart consumers, “Pick a program that has quality coaching, convenient location, and predetermined costs.  If they are asking for an open ended commitment, don’t do it. “  William’s Bantam son and 12 U daughter now concentrate on training and play multiple sports. 
    Aaron Haider says AAA play was worth every penny.  His son is a goalie for the 2011 Minnesota Blades and  was asked to try out for his first AAA team when he just 8 years old.  “It has helped him tremendously become the goalie he is today.” reporter Mike Morrreale shares this assessment, “if you are good enough you will be found whether it's A, AA, or AAA - players aren't defined by a letter, they define themselves!”


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Preseason Checklist

                                  Preseason Meeting Puts Everyone on Same Page

Despite what those “Coaching for Dummies” books would have you believe, there really is no manual for coaching. Everybody knows there is no crying in baseball. Legendary football coach John Heisman used to preach, “Gentleman, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.” And of course, Herb Brooks famously proclaimed that great moments are born from great opportunity. Coaching philosophy. Every coach has one and a preseason meeting can be a great opportunity to find out if the goals set by the coach fit what families hope to see happen .

  This is the time to also explore playing time, discipline and expectations for the months ahead. Minnesota hockey mom Lisa Mackeben, with the Champlin Park Youth Hockey Association, says practice attendance, communication, financial issues and safety top her list of objectives for the preseason meeting. “I remember this meeting being very important the first season my son, Jack, played hockey,” Lisa said. “I like and expect coaches to speak to their expectations for the season, so we’re all on the same page.”

Concord, Massachusetts hockey parents Jessica and Steve Kennedy say a coach’s attitude can be everything when it comes to developing skills and a love for the game. “A youth hockey coach should foster a fun and encouraging atmosphere, especially for impressionable younger players,” said Steve. “It could be hard to determine the coach’s attitude during the first meeting, so a bit of “research” talking to other families can go a long way toward finding out what you are getting yourself into.”
It helps when coaches set clear boundaries as to when they're willing to talk to parents.    
      Our coach let us know up front about the "24 hour rule." Parents had to wait 24 hours after a game before talking to him. It's a good rule to follow. That cooling off period can help you put things in perspective. This is also the time to get your hockey budget figured out. What will the season cost and how many fundraisers can you realistically pull off ? Decide, as a team, the tournaments you want to host, how far and how often everyone is willing to travel. Find out about parent involvement, too. What does the coach need to lighten the load?

     While your Jim Craig-in-training likely isn’t being groomed by Scotty Bowman, it’s still important to understand how his or her coach approaches the game. After all, like any good agent, you are entrusting your star to another’s authority. You want to know that he or she will look out for your child’s safety and well being, but also help maximize his or her on-ice talents.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Older Wiser Hockey Parents, Part 2

At the rink with my daughter Sophia
  As hockey parents go, Laurie Golden and her husband are the kind of folks that an underdog sport like hockey needs, to keep it sane on the youth level. Laurie hails from Plymouth, Michigan and is the author of a terrific blog called The Trophy Mom, I had a great conversation with Laurie about harmony in hockey and she agrees, it's really easy for parents to lose their perspective. She even dedicated an entire post on how to stay calm.  As Laurie so wisely points out, you really have to make a conscious decision to not get caught up in all the drama and stay focused on what's best for your children and family. Admittedly there are times, and many of them pop in my mind right now, that's not always easy. Deep breath. Stay focused. Or borrow a trick from Laurie and repeat to yourself, “I am not emotionally invested in this game. I am not emotionally invested in this game.” as often and as many times as necessary. It helped her survive 30 years as a Detroit Lions fan!
   Laurie knows what she's talking about. She and her husband have three sports loving kids. Their eldest is a senior baseball player for Eastern Michigan University. Their second son plays ACHA hockey for Oakland University and their daughter who plays hockey for the 19U Michigan Icebreakers, is also a softball player.

How did you and your husband set realistic expectations for your children who play sports?
     The only expectation we really have is that our kids will have fun and develop some skills
and that's the way we encourage them to look at it. Sometimes those skills are skating, shooting and team play. Sometimes those skills are learning to play with new line mates, or dealing with a difficult teammate, or balancing school and sports demands. And some seasons, you have to adjust as things progress and look for positives, focus on efforts and improvements and not on the score or stats tally.

 What happens if your passion for a sport doesn't equal your child's?
     I have yet to have that happen! We let the kids dictate which sport they want to play and the level of involvement. We try to support their passion, not ours, although sometimes my husband or I might wish one of our kids would try a different sport or a different team. It's their chance to try things and explore what they like or don't like, not about my passion.

3. Have you ever heard parents refer to hockey as "an investment?"
      My husband and I joke often that if people took all the money they spent on camps, special training tools and extra coaching and invested it, they'd have no problem paying for college. It's like trying to buying yourself a scholarship but with no guarantee that you'll actually get one.
   We do know people who think that if their player concentrates all their efforts on one sport, plays year round and gets extra coaching, that it will pay off with a scholarship or high level career. It's completely unrealistic as only 2% of high school athletes receive college scholarships. And we know kids that have played juniors hoping for a college opportunity and then enter college at age 20 or 22 with no scholarship, while all their friends have finished college and are starting their careers.

4. And how do you avoid the "comparison trap?" (comparing how your child is doing against a friend or star athlete)
     It is hard to avoid the comparison trap, especially when you worry that other kids have advantages, like playing with a kid who passes them the puck, or getting more ice time. But you just can't go there because you'll make yourself nuts. There are going to be situations like this at work and at school so stay focused on what you can control like your effort, your improvement, your enjoyment. Teams need all kinds of players--some kids score goals, some kids dig the puck out of the corner, some kids motivate everyone else with a good attitude and hard work. So instead of comparing, celebrate everyone's successes, because that's what good friends and teammates do.

   And remember, the kids are watching. Sometimes that is easier sad than done but now that my kids are older, each of them has thanked us for being sane, level-headed sports parents. The kids really are watching.

Sophia hoists a trophy after a team victory
   A final note from The Trophy Mom,  "With any luck, our kids will have fun, learn some life lessons and maybe we’ll hoist the trophy for best sports parent ever."


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Older Wiser Hockey Parents

On the sidelines with my daughter Sophia
    If I only knew then, what I know now! There are a few things I would have done differently and I certainly would have stressed a lot less. There's a lot we can learn from hockey parents who have been there and done that, so why not share their wealth of experience and knowledge before we drop the puck on a new season?  Over the next couple of weeks check for my posts where you will read about some really neat hockey parents who get it right!  I was fortunate to connect with them during my research for my monlthy USA Hockey Magazine hockey mom column. We'll start with  Kellie Merrill. Kellie lives in Wasilla, Alaska, a small town, probably just like yours, where parents are often complaining about coaching or not winning, Her daughter is a 2nd year PeeWee, Tier II level. She plays for Mat-Su Amateur Hockey Association. Her son also played all his years at MAHA from mini-mite to 2nd year PeeWee. She stays very involved with both her kids’ activities. and has served on the MAHA board for many years. She is now dipping her toes into the sport of swimming.

1. You and your husband love hockey, but what if your kids didn't share the same passion for the sport? How would you handle that?

My son starting playing hockey as a mini-mite; when he was a 2nd year peewee my husband and I noticed that he just did not LOVE hockey as much as we loved hockey. Every year when hockey season was starting we would ask him if he wanted to play and he would say that he would that he did so we just kept registering him and cheering him on.

When my daughter started playing hockey, as a mite, we could just see the natural hockey passion in her. She loves hockey 24/7 as much as my husband and I do. She is currently a 2nd year peewee playing on a co-ed Tier II team. When my son was going to be a 1st year bantam we sat down with him and explained that he needs to play hockey for him and not for us. We enjoy watching him play but not if he doesn’t want to. It’s far more important for him to want to play for him and not for us. He said that he would like to try a different sport. He wanted to try swimming. He loves it!

As a parent I am passionate about supporting and watching my children enjoy what they are doing instead of seeing a lack luster performance because they think that is what I expect them to be doing.

2. Have you heard or seen parents refer to hockey as "an investment?" What are your thoughts on that? (I've heard parents say it's going to pay off with a scholarship or NHL selection)

This doesn’t factor into any of our thought process. We are happy to afford for our kids to be part of a team and live healthy active lifestyles. If it turns into something more then that’s great but we do not have that expectation. My daughter has her own goal to play in the Olympics; this is something she came up with by herself. We will support her in doing all we can to make her dreams and goals become a reality.

3.  And how do you avoid the "comparison trap?" (comparing how he or she is doing against a friend or star athlete)

This is an easy question for me to answer. I have never been one to compare my children to others in sports, school or life in general. As long as my children are improving or making adequate gains I am happy. I compare them to themselves and no one else – this makes them 2nd to none!!

I mostly remind parents that the sport of hockey isn’t always about winning or the scoreboard. Hockey is about developing players. Like I said earlier as long as my daughter’s skills are developing year after year I am happy. Yes winning is great fun but it really isn’t everything (my daughter would disagree with me on this). I found that if we don’t make a big deal about losing a game the less dwelling my daughter does. If we focus on specific plays she did really well she gets excited about talking about that instead of dwelling on the loss. Then of course having her favorite meal, watching a favorite movie or some ice cream after a really hard loss will soothe the soul. I get so excited this time of year because she is excited! I feed off of her enthusiasm because of that I can tune out a lot of negative talk/behaviors of parents. I’m there for her and not them. I can’t get this time back. I want to think back and remember how much I loved going and watching her play youth hockey and not how much a loathed it because of being surrounded by unhappy parents. They will regret that time – I will not!