By Sarah Schrock
Hockey. That about sums up what 15 valley families, including ours, did this weekend. Over the course of 35 or so hours, the Winthrop Wolverines played four games in the Great Outdoor Classic U10 tournament. Our local Wolverines were up against teams from around the region that have a few advantages over our local program.
For one, the other teams play — or at least skate — year-round on indoor rinks. They also play in competition more often, gaining the necessary know-how of the game.
Despite a 0-4 record, our U10 kids gave 100 percent and so did our coaches!
Our budding hockey program learned some valuable lessons and gained the invaluable experience of tournament play. They learned things like how to be aggressive on the ice, stay focused, and maintain stamina.
There’s no checking in U10 play, but these rascals get away with what they can. The inexperience of our team left some of our players a bit stunned after the first game, where the play was way more physical than they have ever practiced. The innocuous small jabs and nudges elicited numerous whines and complaints from our kids like “those refs weren’t calling it” and “those kids are cheaters.”
Coupled with zero points on the board, morale could have been awful. But the Wolverines stayed positive.
Thanks to our coaches, who took it all in stride and kept their heads high, the kids did stay focused on small improvements throughout the weekend. What the kids don’t realize is that they are learning some of life’s important lessons on the ice.
Organized sports can be the backbone to life’s playbook in a safe, controlled environment. It truly is a metaphor for so many things kids can’t learn in a classroom or at home. They will learn them on the street of course, with time, but experiencing the ebb and flow of pressure and pause, the purpose of effort, reflecting on progress, accepting failure, and reveling in the small successes over the big wins — it’s good stuff that’s palpable on the pitch.
This weekend the Wolverines learned some big ones. First, with regard to the small aggressive maneuvers and minor physical antagonisms that were fairly new things for our team to face, they learned a couple of things.
One, your adversaries will do whatever they can to distract your attention — but don’t let them. I remember a high school volleyball coach of mine once telling us to scowl at the net — just the look of meanness can rattle them. So, while I only saw smiles and the sternness of determination on the opposing kids’ faces, our team is learning how to manage their aggression. Hockey is teaching our kids (who will soon be adults) that the place to funnel that aggression and anger when someone is pushing your button, is on the sport, not the person.
Second, they also learned that even when we have a justice system to keep things fair, things get missed. Refs miss things, They are human and make mistakes — and unfortunately, people will get away with whatever they can until they are caught. So true in life, right? We put up rules and boundaries, only to be tested and pushed. Any parent of a toddler or teenager knows this. Our referees, police and justice system keep it fair most of the time, but always there will be those who cheat and get away with what they can. So what do we do, we stay focused, we don’t let cheaters and naysayers bring us down and when it’s okay, a little dose of their own medicine can even the playing field.
To the many teams and families who came from afar — I don’t mean to insinuate there were cheaters among them — not at all. At times it felt like your teams were skating circles around us. It’s not fun getting clobbered every game, and our kids immediately blamed it on the refs and the “cheating kids,” until about the third game when they finally realized we were perhaps a little out of our league. Again, another lesson learned.
The visiting teams showed our kids the game in a manner that was positive and fun. The visiting families were great. They offered sportsmanship, support and encouragement to our team. I can’t help but think how many of them will be packing up again on Friday for another weekend of play in a different city, tailgating in another parking lot near a strip mall somewhere, while our kids will be on the trails, slopes, or skating outside on natural ice — we are pretty darn lucky here, even if we’re the underdogs. Besides, as I always say — someone has to come in last.