Life Goes On Outside Of The Hockey Rink

Best known for his poem, "The Road Not Taken," famed poet Robert Frost also proclaimed, "In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on."

Learning to appreciate what's in front of us can be tricky while wearing the blinders of a hockey season. 

A school trip to Gettysburg, Pa., posed a conflict to a season kickoff tournament for our son Joe, who happens to be a history buff. He was eager to walk the hallowed battlegrounds of the Civil War site, but didn't think missing games for travel hockey was an option.

His coach, an even bigger history aficionado, insisted he make the trip. By his thinking, there would be plenty of tournaments to be played in his young life. 

Life happened again. Our daughter's class trip to the nation's capital fell the same week as her team's qualifier for states.

Does she miss the trip? Miss the tournament? Or do we do the crazy hockey parent thing, and have her skip the bus ride home, travel from Syracuse to Washington D.C., to make it in time for Saturday's game in Buffalo.

Yup, we did the crazy hockey parent thing. We made it work. My daughter has fond memories of her class trip, the state qualifier, and remembers very little about that very long car ride, having slept the whole way home.

Maybe not so crazy, especially after hearing the story hockey dad Chris Mathes shares about a goalie parent, desperate to keep her son on the ice, made him wear a diaper so he could tend the net with a stomach bug.

"Once word spread of this, we definitely didn't agree with it, and other parents were super upset," he said. "It was an 'elite showcase' tourney, but the kid was 9 years old, and the parents needed to understand that there are no scouts in the stands."

The Liverpool, N.Y., dad and his wife agree that it's important to keep your team commitments to the team, but there are times - like family life cycle events or an illness - when you need to bow out.

Coach Mike Bonelli, USA Hockey associate coach-in-chief for New York's east district, creates an environment where families know commitment to the team is important, but it's still a game and opportunities in life should not be missed.

"If I am as organized as I would like to be with sharing my schedule and season plan," then I hope I am giving families the chance to work around that schedule," Bonelli says. "Things like doctor appointments, birthday parties, and family functions can be scheduled accordingly, so as not to disrupt the team."

As a parent, Bonelli seeks programs that support his boys' diverse interest. 

"I believe that family experiences and building friendships outside of a sport is crucial to overall development," he says. "If one practice, training session, or game is going to make or break a player's position on the team, then maybe it's the wrong team for our family." 

Families and teams will always have conflicts. It's mitigating those conflicts by having good, clear lines of communication between coach and family that will make life a little less crazy.  

Life goes on. Don't let taking the road less traveled totally distract from what's most important. Because that can make all the difference.


Syracuse, N.Y., hockey mom Christie Casciano Burns is the author of My Kids Play Hockey.




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