So it starts on Monday – the time of the year that I dread the most – Peewee A tryouts for my goalie. He seems fine, excited even, he’s been working hard all season to get back to where he ultimately wants to play. He’s committed to extra training, different opportunities and I think that he’s fairly confident in his skills.
Me – not so relaxed. If you aren’t a parent who has had to go through something like this let me lay it out for you. You walk into a place where you spend almost eight months out of the year and suddenly it’s drastically different. The air is electric with a tense cloud of stress. A good massage therapist would see a sea of dollar bills in the tight shoulders, grinding teeth and fiercely crossed arms. Those who you have known and played with for one season after another walk by head down and you become a faceless opponent to what they want for their child.
Then there is the “chatter”. I fully admit that I have certainly gotten myself caught up in this a few times, I’m trying to learn to ignore it but of course when what your child wants in their deepest heart is on the line, there are times when you can’t help but engage and pass along a thought or two.
‘So-and-so heard that the new coach has already decided on five kids’ – before tryouts even start. ‘I heard that xxxx is going to tryout for a team in xxxx.” “Did you see the way xxx skates, what is he even doing on the ice!”
It is not the only time as adults that we forgot these are all kids who want the same thing, or just that they are kids in general. The hardest part for me is that these are also kids who we have played with before, who are friends in the off-season, who are teammates on the ice, who have cheered my kid on before and I truly want to be able to cheer for them as well, but cheering for one over another sets you up for more disaster. The problem is hiding out in the bathroom is not acceptable.
Having only been in this setting – the competitive side – for four seasons I feel like still haven’t figured out how to put everything into perspective. I’m getting there I hope. The thing is that I’m raising a goalie which means by ratio more kids and less spots. The one thing that it does provide me with a layer of protection as others don’t see my kid as competition for their player’s spot on the team. If I can find something thankful in this whole thing that would be it.
I find myself already looking at the first three ice times, figuring out the rink they are in. Then comes planning my hopefully quiet hiding place where my goalie can see me so I can give him some smiles of encouragement, but is relatively obscured to everyone else. Rink 1 is easy, big and lots of seating, usually I can go to the far side in the corner. Rink 2 also easy, I can watch from the upstairs area and watch in relative peace. Rink 3 and 4 – no hopes. In my head there is already a list of people I will need to avoid at all costs if I’m going to be able to stay calm and keep this in perspective but those are usually people I would actually avoid in my day-to-day life anyways, and they might actually feel the same about me. But even as I type this all out I can feel the knot in my stomach growing at the thought of the entire thing.
What I hope is that this kid doesn’t feel half of the anxiety that I do about these things. That his head is clear and the only voices he hears are those of the coaches and trainers on the ice deciding who they see potential in. If I were to channel my inner Oprah I would say ‘the one thing I know for sure is that I can’t increase my child’s true potential to be great at hockey or anything else. I can only nurture it or ruin it’. So I will quiet myself around him, I will hold this turmoil inside, I make sure he knows that no matter what if he wants to play hockey he will, maybe just not at the level that he thought he would. I will keep offering him opportunities to feel great about his work ethic on and off the ice. I will keep swiping the credit card for camps, training and seasons beyond this. I will keep fostering his dream because he’s only young once and at 40 I know there is nothing better than the feeling that there is a future.
Will it stop me from memorizing his tryout number as soon as I know it? Refreshing my browser 40 times a minute from the moment we leave the rink until the set of cuts for that day have been posted? Or crying in front of him if he doesn’t make the team he wants because I know the heartbreak he’s feeling? Heck no I’m a hockey mom.
Have you been through this? Do you have tips for me? Reach in – we all need a positive perspective and I could use one right now.