Being a Teammate

I saw something today I never thought I’d see. (Or rather hoped I’d never see.)

Jordan’s hockey league is holding a summer training camp to get the kids on the ice until the next season when school starts again. It’s open to anyone in the school district, including new kids whom did not participate in the regular season.

There was a new kid at the rink, whom I was not familiar with. I know all of the other kids and parents from the regular season. I was talking with the team manager outside in the lobby about what time I could pick up her son on Tuesday because I am taking him to wrestling with Jordan and I when the dad and his son walked toward the ice. She called them back to sign in. Let me tell you, she’s one of the nicest ladies I know. We’re neighbors. Her kids are great. I’m thrilled that our kids are friends.

The kid’s dad was for lack of a more intelligent term, a total dick to her when she was asking if his son had obtained a practice jersey yet. He was decked out in gear from Robert Morris’s program, so he must be new to the district. The other kids all have Baldwin jerseys, or jerseys from the Predators at least (many play both). I’ve never seen a kid from the RMU program before. Dad got real sarcastic and short with her about the jersey when she was just trying to welcome him and be helpful. It was completely unnecessary.

I went back to the benches and told my boyfriend what had happened. So we’re sitting there and this dad is pacing around yelling things at his kid. It’s actually pretty ironic because I had just finished saying how much I like all of the other parents and how everyone is real cool and doesn’t yell at their kids and just be that pompous, “YOU’RE GOING TO BE A SUPER STAR” mom or dad. He turned to me and mumbled something about this guy’s attitude and joked about him living vicariously through his kid.

Continuing on, it’s later in practice and the kids are scrimmaging. We’re having a good time watching the kids. Jordan scored a goal. It was a fun time. Then I see the RMU kid going after one of his teammates. He’s extending his stick trying to trip the other boy. He just missed but the kid noticed what was going on and kept skating the other way. The RMU kid went after him harder and jabbed him with the stick and then swiped at his feet and tried to take his legs out.

These were two of the older kids. The victim in this reacted. He threw his gloves down and wrestled the RMU kid to the ground. The coaches intervened and got them separated. I know, “why weren’t the coaches paying attention? They were. But this was happening behind the play and they were focused on the kids who were playing the puck to give them instruction.

The part of me that wants kids to defend themselves was cheering for the kid for taking him down. But I was mostly appalled that it had to escalate to that. These kids are ages 5-10 or so. These were 2 of the biggest kids on the ice. You’d hope that they’d need less direction than the younger players.

I don’t know what they teach at RMU, but I’m sure they aren’t teaching children to trip each other and act out. I know Baldwin doesn’t condone that behavior, especially in the mites and squirts levels. When a kid at that age exhibits hostile and violent behavior (at a clinic with his own team), you have to assume that they learn it at home. Judging by his father’s actions, I’m probably not far off base.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to support the coaches and to reinforce sportsmanship in their children. Your children are looking to you to justify their behavior. You cannot have kids fighting their own teammates. Should the kid have flagged down a coach instead of throwing punches? Yes. Was his reaction at least somewhat justified and appropriate after he tried taking the high road and the kid continued to pursue him? I’m going with yes again.

You can only poke the bear so many times before he’s going to bite you.

Someone needs to intervene and teach this kid how to act before it gets worse. Turn around poor behavior now while he is still young and before he really hurts another kid. Lord knows hockey needs one less Zac Rinaldo or Chris Neil on its hands.

Tripping and instigating your own teammatese of all people is completely unacceptable. I’ve spent a lot of time with these kids and their parents. We’ve taken the kids out to dinner after games. Our kids go to school together. They play on the playground together and clan up at school functions. I’ve never once seen these kids so much as fight over a crayon, let alone throw a punch at each other. I’ve seen them collectively take a knee and remain dead silent when a kid went down on the ice and stick tap him when he finally recovered, no matter which team the kid is on. They understand and respect each other. They celebrate their victories and encourage one another. They help each other up when they fall.

It’s quite a remarkable thing to witness. I’ve been nothing but impressed with this group of kids, the coaches, and the other parents for the past year that we’ve been involved. They are wonderful.

Teach your children to respect the game, respect their team, respect their coaches, and most of all to respect themselves. They’ll thank you for it.

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