Monday, June 29, 2009

Hot Times in the Ice Rink

Having spent most of my lifetime in Southern California, it seemed only natural to me that when my kids were old enough to participate in youth sports programs, they'd select sports that were natural to their environment. To encourage adoption of what I assumed would be obvious choices, I enrolled all three in a local swim team. As my daughter would say, "Sports Fail."

You see, swim team meets early in the morning, a time when it's kinda cold (until you get into the water). And, with most of the meets in June (So. Cal. residents are familiar with 'June Gloom') there were meets at which I kept two sets of towels: one to keep them warm as they stood in the pea soup fog and one to dry them off in the pea soup fog). Not surprisingly, nobody warmed up, so to speak, to competitive swimming.

From there I tried Junior Lifeguard Camp. My version of bootcamp for pre-teens, to me this was the coolest thing ever. I would march the kids down to the beach at 7:00 a.m., armed with mini-coolers filled with Gatorade, water and snacks. I would pick them up at 3:00 p.m., so exhausted they fell asleep in the car on the ride home. In between, they enjoyed buoy swims, running on the beach, beach games and an assortment of beach activities. Again, to me, nirvana. Again, to my kids: Sand Fail.

Since then I've tried gymnastics, diving, basketball, ballet and flag football. All great sports. None stuck.

Katie found her sport on her own (I gave up on her after paying for 12 ballet lessons only to have her spend most of the time ignoring the teacher and posing for herself in the mirror, well, she was only five). Jumping. On a horse.

James, an excellent diver and fairly adept swimmer also found his own sport: ice hockey. Yeah. Ice hockey. In Southern California. Where rink time is so limited that there are leagues that compete in the middle of the night. Given that these are kids, they don't do that to the parents. They set us up for practices at 5:45 a.m. —on Saturday. Or, if it's an especially low-interest weekend (like Fourth of July weekend), Saturday AND Sunday. Oh, and Monday. 

Now, having been born in the midwest, I totally get ice hockey. We used to play it on our pond. The pond that didn't have a Zamboni. With skates that were not professionally sharpened. And with equipment that we created ourselves, not that our parents spent hundreds on at the Ice Hockey Warehouse O' Competitive Crap (my name, not theirs, for the Superstore of all things Ice Hockey found in Anaheim). My son loves this game and the fact that it requires amazing refrigeration, a 45-minute-drive and a LOT of expensive equipment (did I mention "expensive"?) does not deter him in the least. The 45-minute drive (for a 5:45 a.m. game) deters me, but that's not important. My July, and his, will be spent at Anaheim Ice, where he will eventually score his first goal, land more assists, and become (at least in his pretty humble head) the Teemu Selanne of his Squirt team. Not because he is a natural. Because in his heart, it is all he wants. And he has a coach that is supportive and encouraging. Not the best skater, not the best shooter, not the "best" of anything that could be labelled, he has received excellent coaching from someone who has encouraged him to go ahead and believe. And believing, as I have witnessed, does amazing things. Suddenly, the skater who isn't the fastest pushes harder. The kid who's a little clumsy with the puck gets determined. The kid who wants the assist gets it. 

No, he doesn't have his goal yet. And I still grumble at the 4:45 a.m. alarms. But after the game, when he talks about the "I almost..." and smiles, somehow that makes it worth it. Is he going to be Teemu Selanne? Probably not. Is he my family's Teemu Selanne? Absolutely. And I have to give a big hats off to the coaches at Anaheim Ice who have helped us along. Inspiring my child and every other child on these teams to do their best, push their hardest and see how believing in themselves can make a difference. 

Parents make a difference by trying to find a good youth sports program for their child. The coaches who give of themselves to make every kid on the team the best he or she can be complete the picture. Teaching our kids to create goals, learn from failure and find out what they are really made of is what every parent strives to accomplish. Youth sports programs and the coaches that encourage that process ensure that these life skills are experienced. 

Whether your kid is playing soccer (hats off to you, I see those all-day meets), baseball, football, basketball or Lacrosse, we're all in these programs. Be sure to thank the coaches at the end of the day. And, if anyone is interested in getting some great tips on how you can be a supportive parent, or how to be that inspiring coach, visit  ResponsibleSports.com.

As for me, I'm thinking about inventing a skate-lacer, because I swear my husband nor I will ever get those skates laced tight enough. As for William, our youngest, his goal is to be a Nascar driver. I have no idea how we're going to find a program for that...

2 comments:

  1. I often wonder what sport, if any, my son will take to someday. My husband wants him to play football, but that worries me for several reasons. I just want him to try lots of different things.

    Being from NorCal, I swam. From as long as I can remember. I also was in Jr. Guards. I loved the big competition in Santa Cruz every year because 1) we got to go to the ocean (normally we were at Folsom Lake) and 2) the Boardwalk!

    My sisters were all into horses -- dressage, jumping, cross country -- but they tried lots of things first.

    And, "sports fail" -- LOL!

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  2. LOL! First of all, I agree, on so many levels, football is frightening. We tried "flag" football, but it still resulted in hits. I like the sport, don't get me wrong, but for James, maybe not. I was really hoping he'd take a liking to sand volleyball. Cool sport. Cooler guys. That, or diving. But kids choose their own thing, as you are about to find out.

    Katie, it's all about horses. I don't get horses, they scare me. But her, in a barn full of them, is with "her people". They don't frighten her in the least, even when they act all strange and kick around their stalls.

    Dressage is the way to go, long-term sport. Jumping has its issues.

    And get ready for sports fail. It happens to the best of us. LOL. Isn't parenthood fun???

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