Staying Humble & Kind

As I watched my sister take her son’s hand on the dance floor during his whirlwind wedding day, so many memories of the two of them flooded my mind. Wasn’t it just yesterday Brian was the little boy teaching his younger cousin (my son) how to embarrass your parents by slipping a whoopee cushion on their seat at dinner time? 

My silly memory quickly turned sweet and heartfelt when the song for their mother-son dance played. I knew exactly why my sister had the Tim McGraw melody, “Humble and Kind” on her playlist.

“It emanates everything I wanted my son to be throughout every aspect of his life,” Teresa Marzec, my sister, said.

That included his dozen years as a goalie for his high school and travel teams. 

Teresa explained that Brian never disappointed them, as they instilled those “don’t steal, don’t cheat and don’t lie” principles that she wanted both of her children to live by.

“Brian was a brick in the net and a fierce competitor, but he also showed humility in his goaltending, even when his performance made the difference in winning,” Marzec said. “He also showed kindness when teammates failed to step up in defense. Respect and empathy toward rival goalies, especially if they got pummeled in the crease.”

John Manzi, a USA Hockey ADM administrator and Level 4 coach, says teaching humility in sports provides young athletes a powerful tool. 

“Humble athletes earn respect from their teammates, coaches and competitors,” Manzi explained. 

More importantly, Manzi sees a great advantage as humility can help create for a successful season, especially when everyone is treated with respect.

Manzi also sees hockey as an opportunity to set good examples for his two sons.

“It’s one thing to tell your kids to be respectful and not over the top, but when kids are bragging or blasting another team after a win/loss, what lessons are they learning?” Manzi said. 

Anthony Tomasula, a coach with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, said that humility and kindness also applies to the parents behind the glass.  

“If I’m being honest, over the last nine years of my son’s youth hockey career, there are way more moments where I let my emotions as a parent/coach get the best of me vs. him.” Tomasula recalled. 

Travel hockey requires a big investment of time and money from parents. 

Tomasula believes an investment in developing patience will pay off too.

“I wish I could say to my younger self, ‘Relax!’ What you think is so important right now is literally meaningless in the big picture of his hockey career.” 

Tomasula would like to see every youth hockey organization require new/younger parents to attend a meeting hosted by 18U parents to help develop children’s talent in a humble manner. Parents of the older players can help share their wisdom with newer hockey parents.

“This is their journey, not yours,” Tomasula emphasized.   

Let’s not forget, our emotions can affect our bodies as well as our minds. Your heart beats faster, your breathing quickens, you feel those butterflies in the stomach. Emotions can also impact how we behave. 

That’s where emotion regulation needs to come into play, says Mike Bonelli, a coach with the CT Junior Rangers and hockey dad. 

“It’s okay for kids to celebrate, and it’s okay to feel total loss,” Bonelli said. “It’s how you handle and gain an understanding that highs and lows come with sports and life. Embrace them, but understand that circumstances change quickly. That old adage, ‘What comes around goes around,’ is very true.” 

Bonelli compares it to nimbly celebrating a game-tying goal in the final minutes and expanding all that emotion only to give up a goal in the next shift and ultimately lose the game.

Controlling the highs and the lows, and not letting it take away from the moment, can be a valuable life lesson for young hockey players.  

“I’ve always preached not to get too high and not to get too low,” Tomasula added.    

And for my sister on that dance floor with her son, I could hear them in unison sing this verse of those resonating lyrics from Tim McGraw: 

“When the dreams your dreamin’ come to you. When the work you put in is realized. Let yourself feel the pride. But always stay humble and kind.” 



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