Being In The Middle Of The Action Is Not That Far ‘Out There’

"To be great is to be misunderstood."

Ralph Waldo Emerson coined that phrase in his seminal work, Self Reliance. He referenced some of the great thinkers, from Socrates to Galileo and Isaac Newton, as individuals once thought as "too far out there" for the mainstream.

In hockey, when it comes to "out there," most people immediately think of goalies. It's an all-too-common belief that you have to be just a little bit "off" to sign up for a position like that. 

So how do you handle it when your little Brodeur wants to strap on the pads and get between the pipes?

"Challenges came early," says hockey dad Bill Thieben, whose daughter is a goalie for the Syracuse (N.Y.) Nationals.

"The goalie position requires a kid to be a hockey player first - skills, understanding the game, etc.  Before that all started to come together, it was BRUTAL.  Bad goals were torture."

Thieben recalls his daughter enduring a hailstorm of 70 to 80 shots in a game. 

"We always tried to be supportive and made sure that she understood that no matter how bad it got, it was not the end of the world," he recalls.

Early on, the Thieben's would stand at their daughter's end of the ice for her occasional "look over," as her way of making sure parents were there. Much like teaching your kid to ride a bike, you run alongside of them, helping them find their balance until the moment comes when they ride off on their own. 

Their teen daughter is now soaring, and does her own self-analysis.

"When a bad one gets in, she knows it," Bill says. "Sometimes a tear is shed, or the stick hits the ice a little harder. But the emotional meltdowns don't occur. She, and conversely us, let it go."

You won't find Sharon Enck in the shadows of an ice rink, though. The Arizona goalie mom, turned blogger, sits at center ice with other team parents.

"You can't preach, 'It's a team sport,' when you are huddled in a corner muttering to yourself," she says. "Plus, by doing that, you are feeding in to the whole 'goalies and goalie parents are crazy' thing - which we kind of are. But still ..." 

It's natural for parents to take pity on the goalie parent. Yes, it's expensive. There's also stress and tension. But there's also a ton of pride that comes with being the role.

"That glow she gets when she's played her hardest and knows she did well," Enck says. "Knowing that she plays the toughest position on the team, has survived several losing seasons, and still comes back for more because she loves it and won't give up." 

While it's easy for pride to become bruised, goalies also have a certain amount of pride from the bruises earned between the pipes. Enck and Thieben have also discovered that their kids learn to deal with life's mental challenges. 

"It sounds corny," Thieben says. "But it has helped to build and shape her character, helping to make her a confident and independent young lady in every part of her life. We are not exactly sure what drives her, but something does."

That doesn't seem crazy at all. Maybe we're the ones who are "out there."

The author of two books, "The Puck Hog" and "Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid," Christie Casciano Burns is working on a compilation of her columns for a book to be published in the fall.




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