- Too long -
- Political -
- Pressure and Anxiety -
- Too much chatter and gossip -
These seem to be the most common words that come up time and time again when hockey parents converge at the local hockey arena during the early part of the month of April when tryouts period begins. It is like a one big social meeting watching the individual groups of parents discussing and analyzing their child's progress as they branch off into different groups throughout the rink. If we wanted to continue, we could go on and create one hell of a Top 100 list describing your typical AAA Rep Hockey Tryouts.
This year was our first time experiencing minor hockey AAA Tryouts. We did not know what to expect. We had heard different things both positive and negative from family and friends whose kids over the years had played and tried out at this level. It has now been over a month, and a half since tryouts have concluded. Looking back, with more of a clear mind. I can honestly say those weeks leading up to tryouts and including the two-weeks for tryouts were in not so many words as the most "Stressful and Chaotic" since we began minor hockey with our first child, for both us as parents and for our child.
There was a great sigh of relief when the last tryout practice concluded. After seven scheduled times on the ice which included (2 Exhibition Games, 4 – 1.5-hour ice sessions and Final Practice – 1-hour session). For us, the process seemed to drag on and on and the consensus amongst the parents that this was a lot for this age group to handle. We felt our child had just been put through the ringer with the amount of hockey in such a short period. He was exhausted, and you could see it in his play, and overall demeanor, at home and other sports he was participating. Now all that was left was to go back to the house and wait patiently for the next few hours until the announcement of the final cuts was on our hockey organization's website.
Our child was fortunate to be selected as one of the goalies for his 2017 / 2018 AAA hockey team. We were jubilant for him in achieving his goal of making the top team and finally having the chance to play with his friends and former teammates this upcoming season. The smile on his face brimming from ear to ear when he saw his name on the final list was priceless! After being oh so close to making the top Novice team the previous year, he used that experience to be a better goaltender and better teammate, and as a result, he put himself in the position to be to be chosen this upcoming year.
While on the outside we were jumping for joy for our child’s achievement on the inside it was a completely different story. Rep hockey is very competitive, and we knew that going in when we signed him up last year but the game is supposed to fun and enjoyable for both the child and family? At last year’s tryouts, we were just happy that he was trying out. Whatever team he was chosen to be on we would be satisfied. There didn’t seem to be a lot of fuss and activity surrounding tryouts last year. This year it turned out to be a different story for our family. That two-week period for us not fun or enjoyable at all.
How Did It Get This Way?
Change in People’s Behavior
Thinking back at it now, we noticed things began to change slightly around the same time the new AAA coach and tryout schedule announcements. Though we were still several weeks away from the start of the practice sessions, you could just "sense" an overall change amongst parents in our age bracket. Was it because next season is the first year our organization offers AAA hockey? Alternatively, where the parents just exhausted from all the hockey games and practices played this year and were suffering from “cabin fever” fatigue? Alternatively, was it a combination of both?
Personally, we believe it is a combination of both. We calculated that our child was on the ice just over 130 times this past season (Including Regular Season Games, Exhibition Games, Tournaments, and Practices), that is quite a lot for an eight-year-old child. You are with the same group of people 3-4 times a week for close to 6 months. “Cabin Fever” at some point has to set in, and we believe it did for some members of the Rep hockey family, and once it did, you cannot wait for the season to end and for everyone to go their separate ways.
The other part being AAA is not offered by our organization until Minor Atom. We noticed more people were getting caught up in the whole “status of playing AAA” and were letting their emotions get the best of them. It was tough to watch friends and people you know get caught up in that whole “status” thing. It does not make going to the rink enjoyable. When that happens, it is best just to walk away from it and not be part of the group.
As parents of a goalie, we tend to stick to ourselves. Our rule is to sit at the end of the rink of where our child is playing and watch the game from there, and when he is not playing we find a spot to sit and look at the game from the stands, we can watch together separate from the rest of the families. It is not that we are snobs it is just a goalie parent thing! We try to stay out of the hockey chatter, but as each week passed and the deeper we were going into the playoffs it became more and more prevalent. When the focus should have been on the team success, it took a back seat to what was going to happen at AAA Tryouts, which was still weeks away. Unfortunately, our team lost in the semifinals and our successful season came to an end. We had an excellent four-week break to wind down and rest before tryouts began and it would give us the much need break from the hockey life.
Your child's name is brought up in the conversation!
There wasn't a day that had gone by where you would run into someone at the grocery store, coffee shop or at the bar with a bunch a friend watching the NHL Playoffs where the topic of conversation would be the upcoming tryouts and what the new coach would be doing.
Then it spilled over into lacrosse season. All the hockey parents would somehow find each other before a practice or game, and immediately the conversation would be struck up again about Tryouts and the new coach. There were a few times I swear we were physically there watching our child play lacrosse but mentally we were not as our attention was drawn away to discuss hockey matters. We were finding that it was slowly consuming us.
You could not get away from it, and then it all changed when you hear your child's name being brought up for the first time and that word going around is that he will not be given a fair shot if he makes the team. The new coach will be giving the other goalie more time as he is a student of his at the coach's hockey school. Right there and then, it sucks you right in, and your back goes up against the wall. Yes, you can choose to ignore it, which we did at first. We did not give much credence to all the chatter and gossip, but everywhere we went in the final three weeks before camp it kept being brought up. Our child will not be given a fair chance on this year's team if he makes it. When people who are friends in the hockey community, non-hockey friends, are pulling you aside and tell you their concern for your child. It is no longer rumor/gossip, the concern now seeps in, and now it is on your mind 24/7.
AAA Tryouts - Opening Night of Camp
Finally, the big day arrived, and it was the first night of tryouts! It was nice to have the break and to do other things other than hockey. As you pack up your kid’s gear and head over to the arena for the practice, the emotions running through you right now are mixed. One hand, here is your child in the back seat chomping at the bit to get out on the ice and show the coaches what he can do. Our son was very much excited to be trying out with his friends and kids from school. For me, on the other had as a hockey parent not so much.
The anxiety of not knowing if all the gossip leading up to tryout day is going to be true or just a bunch of "b.s.?" Instead of thinking about more important things of life or stuff to do around the house. By now you have spent countless hours the past few weeks thinking what is the outcome is going to be and will the result be positive or negative. It is now consuming you when it really shouldn't.
Your Worst Fears – Come True
Then your worst fears come true as you arrive at the registration table for the child to check in and get his tryout jersey, the lady behind the desk checking your child in and handing out jersey is one of the goalie's Mom. For weeks you have heard her child has already been signed and has already made the team without trying out. However, word has now spread amongst the parents, and you then realize you are not the only ones who noticed that she is at check-in table as other folks have noticed the same thing and made their thoughts known to you.
We are only have begun the first night of tryouts, and now we have to deal with this! Every whisper, rumor that you hear becomes much more magnified. You try so hard to block it all out it at this point. It becomes difficult to avoid, the further you get into the process. Other than crapping the bed in the first intra-squad game where he let in 6 goals in the first, seven minutes of the game. Our child had an excellent camp and showed himself well to the coaches and other players.
At times, it felt like we were not wanted. There was no communication between the coaching staff and us about our child's progress to date. As we got deep into tryouts, after the 3rd ice time the kids were told "No Cuts" today until the end. What were they waiting for to make their final decision on a second goalie? Were they waiting for another goalie released from another organization? They were down to three goalies of which two were only playing, but it dragged on and on. After two successful exhibition games and practices, there was still no word where our child stood. We were left out in the dark meanwhile “talk” began that kids were starting to be offer commitments they made the team. Again, no stress for the child or the parent. Just for us with the little one trying out.
Making the Team
When the final tryout practice was over, both of us now at this point were emotionally drained with all the drama that had gone on, and we were both just done with the process. If our child did not make the team, we were ok with the decision, as our child would have a chance to play for his coach from last year. We began preparing our child in the latter half of the tryouts there could be a possibility of being cut. If he were to no chosen to play for the AAA Minor Atom Team, yes it would be disappointing, but he would have a chance to play for his old coach, for another season. Both of us felt by doing this it prepared him for the worst and he would not be blindsided and have a difficulty dealing with the announcement. At this point, it is not the game that is important it is the mental well-being of the child. Our son did everything that was asked of him and then some. He showed that he could more than play at the AAA level, and there was nothing for him left to prove. We wanted to make him aware that like "Life" there is "Politics" in everything and hockey is no exception.
Moreover, when the final roster came out, it was like a "breaking story" on Twitter. When one person finds out, within seconds, everyone else finds out within minutes; word spreads very quickly. People are texting or emailing their friends letting them know that the list for the 2017/2018 roster was up on the team website. Luckily, our child had gone to bed for the night, but we could not wait. Our nerves we getting the best of us as we could not even type in the correct password. After several attempts we got into the team website and up came the list. Immediately your eyes race down the list of names in alphabetical order, and you skim by the other kid's names not paying attention. There it was your child's name was on the list and had made the final cut as one of the two goalies for the team. It was like the weight of the world was off your shoulders. You could breathe more easily now that your child was triumphant in his accomplishment!
The next morning in the kitchen while both of us were getting ready for work. We anxiously waited for the sound of little feet coming down the stairs, and as he enters the kitchen his first words are "final cuts made?" We got him set up on the computer and let him push the “enter” button and then watched his response. His little index finger went down the list and stopped at his name. There was a pause and then a big smile from ear to ear acknowledging that he knew he made the team. Then immediately, the little finger went up the list to see if his classmate at school made the team and when he stopped at his name, there was an "oh ya."
Before he went to school, we sat with him and gave him a big hug congratulating him. We told him that we loved him and were proud of him. We also reminded him other classmates were not lucky and will be sad on not making the team. They may not be happy today at school but to remember to be nice and comforting to them and be a good teammate.
Being in tryout "mode" was finally over!
No more hockey for a while!
No more conversations about the game for a while!
No more, "did you hear this about this player,"
No more, "the coach is going to be doing this,"
No more, "the coach already has his team picked"
Off our child went to school the happiest kid on the planet.
Off we went to work, "thank God it is over! Until next year's tryout season!"
It was nothing but hockey, hockey, and hockey at our house. It had consumed us and now crept into our home life. The Rep tryouts were the only topic of conversation that took precedent over the other siblings. Their activities and how their days were going took a back seat during this time. The comments from our other children were not positive, to say the least! Both of them felt we favored the third child and his love of hockey. His well-being it seemed, was far more important than theirs. However, in hind-site it was not just two weeks it was close to 6 weeks if you take into account the four weeks leading up to the tryouts. It was not healthy for the family, and we now see our other two children suffered in some way with all the focus being on hockey tryouts.
If our child decides to try out next year for Rep hockey, things will be different, the next time around. There is no need to go through what we did this year only to have it repeated the following year. There are far more important things going on this world than the game of hockey. It is just a game and only a game; we cannot forget that in the grand scheme of things.
That is A Wrap until Mid-August
Now that hockey is finally over for this year. We had one last thing to take care of, and that was to air out all that smelly goalie gear all across our driveway! Now an annual tradition at our household much to the delight of our neighbors on the street!
We have come to realize now more than ever rumors get started by individuals with agendas towards certain people and kids. By far, the sport of hockey is the worst for this type of behavior. As for us, we are going to take a wait and see approach this season. We have both decided that we will start off the upcoming season with a clean slate. If problems do arise, then we will address them at that time. Worrying and stressing about stuff that you cannot control is a waste of time. Now our son’s focus has turned to soccer and lacrosse activities. In a couple of weeks school will be over the "summer season" will have officially begun.
So, In the meantime, have a great summer and be safe!
Moreover, we will see each other back in the hockey rink in early September.