Rink Rat (n.): One who spends an inordinate amount of time at a hockey rink either on the ice or in the stands.
By definition, nearly every parent can be considered a “rink rat,” whether they like it or not. Whether it’s spending many nights and weekends in frigid rinks or logging countless hours driving to and from practices and games, there is no doubt that parents devote as much time to the game as their sons and daughters.
But for Regina Cecconi, being called a “rink rat” doesn’t begin to scratch the surface when it comes to describing her life in hockey.
“The funny thing is that when my husband signed our son up for hockey, I told him that if he thought I was going to spend my weekends at the rink, he was crazy,” said Cecconi, team manager
Do You Have What it Takes?
(A few traits necessary to being a successful team manager)
1.Organizational Skills Are Key: By far the most important trait for any team manager is being organized, not only for yourself but for everyone involved with the team. Between arranging for an out-of-town tournament, ensuring all forms and waivers are properly completed, or overseeing the all-important snack sheet, being organized will make for a successful, and sane, team manager.
2. Have An Outgoing And Friendly Personality: Parents need attention to feel involved and liked. They need to be made to feel part of the team almost as much as their players. Team managers must be able to maintain personal relationships with not only the coaches and players, but the parents as well.
3. Keep The Lines Of Communication Open: Avoid surprises by making sure that everyone is on the same page. No matter whether you use e-mail, cell phone or bat signal, getting the word out quickly and correctly to parents and players is vital.
4. Stay Cool Under Pressure: As a manager, you are part of the coaching staff and need to back up the coaches and help put out “fires” in the stands when it comes to complaints and general unhappiness. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.
5. Don’t Forget The Snacks: Because kids and parents alike appreciate the simple gestures following a game or practice
for the Buffalo Prospects and the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles.
“Now I end up spending four to six nights a week at the rink plus hours [at] home on the computer doing whatever is needed to get done for the organization.”
Cecconi is just one of thousands of team managers in the youth hockey world who contribute countless hours for the good of the team. From Mite house leagues to Midget travel teams, team managers are a driving force behind the success of any program.
And while the hours are long, the headaches many and the pay non-existent, these dedicated parents do it because they love their children and grow to love the sport almost as much as their kids do.
“I was introduced to hockey when my son was very young…and then he was placed on a travel team,” Cecconi said. “He joked that he was going to train me so that I can start to manage the team in the future. I didn’t know a lot about hockey at the time, but because I saw how much time and energy I was going to have to put into his schedule, I wanted to learn as much about the sport as I could.”
Others also figured they were already spending so much time at the rink, why not pitch in and lend a hand.
“Because the kids were playing,” said Brenda Schlinke, manager with the Oklahoma City Association, “and [because] I was in a position where I had more time available to do the things that needed to be done, I thought it would be nice to help out.”
Between travel schedules, tournament arrangements, telephone trees and snack sheets, the duties are endless. Of course they are made more manageable with the help of fellow parents.
“I manage the team like I would manage a business,” Cecconi said. “It takes staff to get everything done, and a supervisor to pull it all together and keep it running smoothly.”
Like any “small business,” communication is the key to efficient operations. From talking with the coaches and rink operators to providing a link between the parents and players, communication skills are vital in order to help the team and association succeed. And as technology advances, the options are endless.
“I believe the manager is the person that ties the on ice and off ice together,” Cecconi said. “I send out e-mails [almost] everyday to parents and especially coaches. I use text messaging as an alert system for last minute changes. I also started creating a credit card-sized laminated contact sheet with cell phone numbers for each parent to keep in their wallet, and recently added another card with players’ cell phone numbers so that the players could keep in touch. A Web site is also a great way of keeping all the information concentrated in one area for each player and parent to access at any time.”
And while other commitments and jobs may pull these moms away from the managing that they have grown accustomed to, they know they will never be gone from the game for long.
“I have been mentally preparing myself for the last year and warning everyone that I was not managing this upcoming season,” said Cecconi, who is taking the 2010-11 season off to finish up her bachelor’s degree.
“But my hockey days are far from being over. I enjoy the sport and the parents. No one understands travel hockey like other travel hockey parents. We are our own subculture…[although] I am actually looking forward to being able to watch the games in the stands for a change.”