Small Victories

I volunteer as a hockey coach. Ice time alone is about 8 hours a week. If I was a parent, I’d double that at least to account for prep/travel time. As anyone in the admin space knows, it’s more like 4x the time investment, often more. Saturday I left the house near 9am and got back home near 10pm, then back at it at 6am the next day. It’s not a complaint… I get a lot of enjoyment from it. Seeing the kids progress, and do so with smiles, is worth every single second.

This year has been exceptionally challenging as it’s trying to restart an engine that was effectively stopped last year. The kids that did play last year, well a lot of them decided to quit the sport entirely because of the experience. Restarting any large and complex process on top of rebuilding trust that this will be a ‘return to normal’ is a herculean effort. Full empathy for anyone in a school trying to do the same. People know what ‘normal’ means, and their expectations are not being met. That’s trying a lot of patience for many people, and the outbursts are reaching people that have no authority in the situation. I read enough bad news stories of people confronting restaurant folks to asking them to wear a mask… how does making minimum wage mean you should get yelled at? I’m fortunate enough to have a good relationship with my parents, but I still get the batch of tough questions and hard choices. It’s a rough time for anyone trying to make a positive impact and we are growing short on volunteers.

I’m just focusing on what I can control right now, and taking small strides forward. Normally I’d have a season plan ready, but that’s just not possible. It’s a focus on the immediate rather than the strategic, something I have not done a good job with in the past.

We had an exhibition game out of town this weekend. In a normal season, I’d already be playing regular games, but things are still sorting themselves out. We do have a tournament in 2 weeks, and it’s a horrible experience to have your first game in that setting. So we set this one up to get as many wrinkles out as possible – and we had wrinkles.

  • The COVID protocols here were different than at home
  • A few skaters were missing pieces of equipment. We had to go buy it.
  • The pre-game coach chat had half the team still getting ready, so the mental readiness part wasn’t super clear
  • A few skaters were not ready for the start of game
  • The other team put in 2 goals in about 2 minutes, which really deflated the team
  • 3 of the skaters had never played anything close to a game before. It took 2 periods to sort that part out.
  • The skaters were absolutely gassed by the end of the game. It was good to see.
  • We had some great scoring chances, just no puck luck

Those things are all expected to some degree in the first game. The skaters all came away with a different appreciation for what it means to be skating again in a game and I know we will all be in a better spot next time. Knowing that ahead of time meant that I had rather low expectations for the outcome. The plan was rather simple:

  • Every skater needed to come off the ice tired, having pushed to their ability
  • By the end of the game, they all understood the basics of positioning
  • That we’d recognize each skater’s positive work through immediate feedback
  • That we’d recognize the hardest worker post-game (they get a hard hat)

By the end, that’s exactly what happened. We lost the game, but the amount of positive progress was amazing to see. Each shift was better than the prior one, and the team didn’t crumble after getting scored upon. The end of the game it looked like a real hockey team! And while they certainly were disappointed with the score, they still had smiles on their faces.

This is a different space for me. I am extremely self-driven, and to split that out for each skater, multiple times in a small time frame is crazy exhausting. Yet I have a great support team around me, and we’re all on the same page when it comes to this year’s approach. We’re just going to focus on the next shift, the next attempt. The rest is so hazy we can’t worry about it. Celebrate the small things, enjoy it all the more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s