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. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Giving Back is the Greatest Assist Back is 

The Greatest Assist

as seen in USA Hockey Magazine

It was a simple enough request. Could our Bantam boys swing by a nursing home during a tournament in Northern New York, to visit an avid hockey fan?
The hockey aficionado with a long love affair with the fastest game on earth could no longer travel to a rink. She missed the frenetic pace, the end-to-end action, the crunching body checks and the passionate cheering from the stands. Was there any chance our boys could bring the game to her?
Without hesitation, the boys were all in and when our jersey-clad teens proudly walked into her sterile, quiet room. It turned out that it wasn't quiet for long.
Hockey quickly took over the room and the conversation. The N.Y. Rangers, Gordie Howe, Stanley Cup predictions were all part of the non-stop banter. Before their goodbyes, she learned all of the boys' names, their positions and favorite teams.  Read on by clicking on the link above!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sticks and Stones...

     You don’t need me to tell you hockey is unlike most other sports – especially at the highest level. Only in hockey is there a designated roster spot for a vigilante –the enforcer.
   For all of Wayne Gretzky’s magical 2,857 career points, The Great One would be the first to admit, many of them would have never come to pass without big, bad Marty McSorley there to stave off opposing bullies.
    Teams facing Gretzky knew better than to try to get too physical with the diminutive dynamo, for that meant a not-so-pleasant meeting of the minds with McSorley (more appropriately, McSorley’s fists-meeting-one’s-mind).
   While we can certainly debate the merits of “the enforcer” in pro hockey, for our own Aspirational Great Ones, when faced with bullying in the locker room, it falls on them to be their own “McSorley,” without ever dropping the gloves – something far easier said than done.
  “No drama.”  That was always the number one locker room rule for Skaneateles, N.Y.  High School Athletic Director Mike Major, who also always counted on his hockey team captains to help reinforce the strict no-bullying stance on and off the ice. While captains serve an important mentoring role, experts will tell you it’s the coaches who need to monitor the pulse of the team, keeping an ear to the ground, in lines, on the bench, and in the locker room.
    “A coach needs to set up consequences for bullying and enforce them – even if it means benching or terminating the best player on his team,” says sports psychologist Dan Saferstein.
    “Bullying doesn’t just hurt the victims of bullying. It weakens the entire team and creates a culture of fear and cowardice.”
    Westchester County, NY Youth Hockey coach Stacey Wierle believes coaches, players and parents sometimes have a hard time differentiating between a prank, a joke and bullying. Wierle recalls a bullying incident with a Pee Wee skater, who was small and somewhat reserved, an easy target. His teammates threw his sneakers in the toilet. Swift action followed with the coaches suspending the players who were part of the “prank.” Once the suspensions were over, the coach hosted team dinners and fun off-ice sessions to create a strong team bond which prevented any additional situations.
   Social media is also a huge concern. “ If bullying is happening in the locker room, you can almost guarantee it is happening via text, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook,” says Wierle,” Coaches must acknowledge this possibility and encourage parents to check phones and be aware of these dangers.”  We have a parent collect all the phones before they go into the locker room, to cut down on the chances of a theft and inappropriate snapchats.
    Bullying in athletics is real, and occurs across all general lines, at all levels. And when addressed, it can quickly cause its victims to loathe not just the harassment, but the sport itself. “The scars of bullying can run deep,” says Saferstein. ”I would do whatever it takes to empower your child and not let any bully poison his love for hockey.”
    In other words, do for your child what McSorley did for Gretzky – drop the gloves on bullying, and empower them to be great.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A " Senior Night" Parents Guide

by Caroline Stanistreet

If you're the parent of a high school student-athlete who has made it all the way "to the end" - meaning your child is a SENIOR - who was not cut from the team, maintained good grades and kept cool throughout the perils and challenges of the high school atmosphere, then a BIG congratulations goes out to you! 

Eventually, and perhaps pretty soon, it will be time to think about the end of their sports season - and the end of their high school athletic career. You're probably aware of "Senior Night" (or in some instances, Senior Day) in which there are often beautiful, almost choreographed ceremonies honoring senior athletes and most often their parents, grandparents, siblings and the small villages who've all contributed to the success of their senior's athletic accomplishments. Due to certain sports with smaller numbers of athletes, it can be a scaled-down event, but it can be just as special and even a bit unique.

A few years ago when I was the parent of a sophomore golfer, I witnessed a lone mother who waited for her sole senior son to get off the bus from his final high school golf match. At the bus circle, she held two balloons and some flowers, so I got out of my car and joined her and rallied some other parents who were waiting to pick up their underclassmen golfers to join us in the tribute.  He was touched by his 15 seconds of fame, and I told myself I would try to honor my son with some sort of recognition when the time came for him. That was in October of 2015, which seemed like yesterday, but happily for him, he was in a group of 6 seniors (which was half the golf team), but we spent a sunny fall afternoon for about a half hour with cupcakes, gifts of embroidered Wildcat golf towels - and even a gracious opposing team (who lost to my son's team, which always makes the event more enjoyable!).

If you have a high school athlete who is approaching this phase in his or her life, and even if you're the parent of a freshman, here are some organization tips and suggestions to start - or continue - this fun tradition for your high school senior athlete.  If your child plays a sport that does not require the philosophy of "many-hands-make-light-work," perhaps you can still take away some ideas that will help your senior athlete enjoy his final moments of high school sports.

CORNER THAT COACH - Always, always, reach out to the coach first if this not an annual tradition with your school and sport! They are usually quite receptive to this event and will likely work with you on some potential dates that will fit everyone involved. If there is already a "Team Mom" or "Team Manager," then request that he or she act as the liaison with the coach. If for some reason you cannot contact the coach (they may not work in the school district), then contact your school's athletic office and they can locate him or her (Note: The athletic director always appreciates an invitation and a cupcake too).

IT'S A DATE! - Review the dates and times to insure there are no conflicts with other significant school events. Most often, Senior Night will coincide with the last home game, meet, or match of the season. Once booked, write down a tentative itinerary of what will be happening during that special block of time with the seniors. 

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION - On the 50-yard line of the football field? Standing on the 3-meter board? Near the tennis courts? Or in the school gymnasium? Coordinate the spot with the coach, groundskeepers, rink manager, and custodial staff ahead of time. Every sport is different, so even if it's something small like a few picnic tables near the 9th green of the golf course, get the O.K. for the right venue to make it a memorable setting for the seniors. 

FORM YOUR POSSE - Put together an email list of senior parents as well as junior parents, who will be interested in carrying on this rite of passage for their child the following year. If your senior athlete is on a large team (football, basketball, track, hockey, lacrosse), then add on underclassmen parents to this list as well.  They may want to either observe - or participate! Your child's coach will likely have a contact list which will reduce the time to form a large group email.  Parents at some high schools already have an understanding that junior families must spearhead and organize the event so the senior parents don't have to think about it.  With some teams, parents are also expected to contribute a small amount of money for the senior gifts, or do some fundraising to offset the costs. Always "cc" the coach on everything too, he or she may have some suggestions as well.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER - If you are dealing with several seniors, then be certain you know who those seniors are, and don't leave anyone out!  Ask the senior parents to email you their own first names as well as the senior athlete's siblings and grandparents (there is the possibility of an announcer who may read this information, so spell names out phonetically if needed). Find out where their son/daughter will be attending college (if they have decided), and if they'll continue on with their athletic career. You can also provide the senior athletes with a profile or survey - for example, who is their favorite athlete, what is their go-to meal, song, and what was their funniest or most memorable moment on the team? Have them turn it in so the information can be announced, or write some of the answers on a poster with their picture.  

MAKE YOUR "HONEY-DO" LISTS - Remember, parents DO want to help, so creating a list or a few lists and delegating authority will ease the burden on everyone. Simply shoot out a group email with the lists attached and request they "reply to all" so everyone's in the loop and no effort is duplicated. One list can be for the food and drinks, plates and cups, and other reception-related items. Then, create another list for buying/making decorations and the set up/take down. You can also make a list for making the gifts for the athletes and collecting money.  One veteran senior parent from New Jersey recruited another parent to put together a slide show.  It had pictures sent in from kids playing their sport since they were quite young, for example, Pop Warner and modified football. If you need to set up a meeting, do it after a practice to make it convenient for everyone and give them ample notice, and after the meeting ends, write a detailed, follow up email in case anyone missed it. 

CRAFTY GIFTS AND DECOR - Depending on the budget, you can create a simple gift if you cannot purchase something more elaborate. There always seems to be an abundance of untapped talent in parent groups (Confession: on my son's golf team, I was lucky enough to have a fellow senior parent who was a professional baker). How about those amazing "artsy" parents - you know, the ones who never got over doing endless crafty science or reading projects with their young children - and are overjoyed and eager to decorate posters or bedazzle picture frames?  And say it with flowers - If this is going to be a larger event with family members, order extra flowers to give to mom, grandma and the sisters. 

IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR - If there are parents who didn't sign up for anything due to work constraints, travel, or just forgetting and feeling guilty about it, then use them for senior night decorations, or even set-up. You can always designate a family as "Senior Master Balloon Inflators."  Ask the family to fill up a large trash bag size of blown-up balloons, a task they can do while watching TV some night prior to Senior Night - and they would probably love it!  (By he way, an arc of balloons is always a crowd pleaser) Siblings (younger sisters in particular) also turn out to be THE BEST when it comes to helping, so if you can find some of them to assist with pre-festivity decorating, get them on board.

THE TIME IS DRAWING NEAR - Review your itinerary, and be sure to stay in constant communication with the parents on your list as well as the coach. Send reminder emails with the date and time in the subject line, and attach the updated lists. 

SAVOR THE MOMENT - Have your phone and camera fully charged that day, arm yourself with extra tissues in your pocket, and ENJOY!  The  moment will go quickly, but with the right preparation, it will create a wonderful and lasting memory for the senior athlete and family. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Perfect Season!

A Perfect Season: The Skaneateles Girl's Ice Hockey team has had an incredible season, ending it with a title win and becoming state champions. Most of the team and their coach joins Bridge Street to discuss what made their season so successful.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Throwing in The Towel Doesn't Mean Waiving the White Flag

Throwing In the Towel Doesn't mean Waiving the White Flag

As Seen in USA Hockey Magazine  December 2016
Dear hockey mom:

I’m having trouble with my 9-year-old son. He’s decided he doesn’t want to lay hockey anymore. I’m crushed. I don’t want to force him or push him too hard, but on the other hand, I don’t want him to quit. I am lost and have tried everything I can think of.Please help!

Heartbroken hockey dad

Dear Hearbroken hockey dad:

Ah, the dilemma we face as parents. We want to encourage our kids to try new things and have different experiences, but not at the expense of their own happiness or that feeling of “Mom made me do it.”

I remember when my son begged us to sign him up for karate, only to try to bow out three weeks later. We made him finish the six-week trial. Our philosophy has always been: if you sign up, you see it to the end; and your kicking and screaming will not faze us. He may not have attained that black belt, but he learned a valuable lesson about following through you’re your commitments.
 That’s why it’s important to find out why kids may want to quit. If it’s a negative social experience – say not getting along with a teammate – then it’s not so much the sport that’s the problem, but the environment. Talking with your children, coaches and other parents can often help to alleviate some of these issues.

It’s also good not to let your kids pigeonhole themselves as just hockey players. Most professional athletes and coaches say cross-training in multiple sports pays big dividends down the road. And at the very least, learning what you don’t like can be just as helpful as learning what you do.

One hockey mom – crushed when her son traded a hockey stick for a golf club – bounced back pretty quickly when she saw how his love for the greens got him pumped up in a way hockey never did. It also got him a free ride to a great college. He now has the potential to turn pro.

I also was happy to hear from a dad/coach, initially stung by his son’s sudden desire to swim instead of skate, do a 180. His boy is now swimming for his college team, and dad really enjoys watching from his poolside perch in a t-shirt and shorts.

As hard as it was for them at first, because they were the “ultimate hockey parents,” they found more joy in seeing their kids discover their passion and potential to succeed at something new and challenging.

Think earnestly about it – what makes you happy as a parent? It’s not the tape-to-tape pass, but seeing your kids follow their passion, putting in the time and energy, and ultimately achieving something they previously could not.

And seeing that happen makes any parent know, their little one is honestly a Great One. Sincerely,Hockey mom

Christie Casciano Burns is a hockey mom in Syracuse, N.Y. She is also the author of two books, “The Puck Hog” and “Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid.”