A View from the Bench

I have worked as a trainer for AA and AAA Midget hockey teams, as well as a trainer for Bantam lacrosse teams. And I’ve managed my son’s hockey team since he started playing. All “my” players have been boys from the ages of 12-17. And I say “my” because I really do take my job (paid or not) seriously.

Trainer! Trainer!

Trainer! Trainer!

I treat them the way I’d treat my own kid. Including the time I had to fend off a drunk moron from trying to beat up a kid in a hotel hallway at tournament. They’ve had me laughing til I cried and, yes, sometimes they made me cry. But I can honestly say the boys in this age group are … unique. Do I hug and kiss you or do I kick your ass? That is the question.

Some of my favourite people <3

Some of my favourite people <3

By the time boys get to this age, their personalities are pretty much set. Thanks to hormones, they can still be little powderkegs of emotional timebombs. Some are better at keeping their emotions in check than others. Some are prone to retaliating. Some are prone to smashing their sticks on the ice, on the bench … on someone’s head.

Some can’t deal with the emotions in a healthy way and retreat into themselves and their playing suffers. They might criticize their teammates, they might cuss at the ref, they don’t outwardly react but they inwardly combust.

Then there are the kids that let things slide quite easily. If a ref misses a call, they might grumble but the move on. They might get frustrated but they get over it. They focus forward, they stay positive. They encourage and they press on.

It’s been my experience that the kids that are more resilient and let things slide and keep their emotions in check are – by far – the more successful little humans. They appear happier. They seem to enjoy the game more. They want to play. They want to practice. They seem, well, emotionally healthy.

And here’s the thing:

There’s often a correlation between the kids who CANNOT control their emotions in a healthy way and parents in the stands who CANNOT control themselves.

No shocker there.

Here are the ways your behaviour is affecting your kids:

Your kid hears that and it increases his frustration with the ref. He begins to see the game as “us vs them” and the “them” is the ref. He blames the loss on the ref, but never credits the ref with the win, strangely enough. When parents criticize the ref, it causes kids to focus their efforts and anger on things they can’t control. Teach your kid that the ref doesn’t put on his pants for a game and think “I’m gonna go out there and miss some calls.”

Kids should never criticize their teammates but for some reason (and this is especially true for parents of the goalie!) it’s ok for parents to blame the defense and yell at them for not hustling or getting back fast enough. It’s a team and there’s a coach and his job is to teach, coach, and manage the game. Kids should focus on their efforts and not the efforts of their teammates. When parents criticize a portion of the team, it creates division on the bench.

Blaming the goalie for a loss when he has a “bad game” is counter-productive. It may not happen in the stands, but it happens off ice, maybe on the way home after a loss. Kids need to be able to adjust their game, strategies, and tactics based on whether or not their goalie is having a “good” or “bad” game. This is called being flexible. It’s a great characteristic in a human being. Perhaps if the goalie blocked every single shot, every single time the defense wouldn’t have to stretch themselves and improve their game – what would be the point? Teach your kid that goals-against is a TEAM stat, not a goalie stat.

Yeah. This is just embarrassing for your kid. I’ll be honest, if you’re That Dad or That Mom in the stands then the rest of the team pities your kid. And your kid can hear you from the bench. And the team can hear you. And I, personally, want to throat punch you. You’re an embarrassment to sports parents everywhere. And I can tell you from personal experience that other teams say things like “Oh, are we playing McKnight? That’s the team with the crazy mom, right?” You become the object of ridicule. Explain to me how this helps your kid? Kids should never have to yell “MOM! STOP!” from the ice because you’re fighting. Kids should never have to join in on the laughter about their own father because to defend you makes them look just as crazy. Stop. Just stop.

As a sport parent you have to realize that there’s a coach-player and coach-team relationship that has nothing to do with you. At some point you should not be advocating for your child to the coach and your child needs to self-advocate. This includes ice time, discipline, behaviour, leadership opportunities, etc… At some point you need to stop sitting at the dinner table and feeding the spirit of malcontent in your child with things like “yeah, the coach should give you more ice time instead of Johnny, you’re the better player” and instead start saying “Have you spoken to the coach about your concerns?” If your child believes he can advocate for himself, he will. Unless he thinks YOU don’t believe he can.

(Note, there have been some high-profile cases of abuse of players by coaches, I’m aware of these situations and the above paragraph does not apply. If you have concerns about any adult behaving inappropriately, DO SOMETHING.)

Kids see what you’re doing. They see you when you’re barging into the timekeepers’ box to cuss out some other parent for making a mistake. They see you when you’re yelling at the lady volunteering at tryouts because the line is too long and she helped someone else instead of you. They see you when you grumble and complain about the amount of fundraising. And strangely enough, when they see you do these things… they rarely see you volunteer. You’re teaching your kids that volunteers aren’t valued, and yet almost every sport they play is upon the shoulders of volunteers.1015928_10151440173666175_1518763870_o

Seven ways to be a sport parent your kid can be proud of:

  1. Volunteer to help the team or the organization.
  2. Cheer positively, encourage resilience. “Good job!” “Next time!” “Let’s go!” Or my favourite: loud whistling. Kinda hard to whistle angrily!
  3. Know the rules and regulations – follow procedures with complaints instead of just complaining. Encourage kids to have sober second thoughts and follow through on issues.
  4. Apologize if you make a mistake. Then change your behaviour.
  5. Spend more time listening to your child than you do talking about the game – his performance is not a reflection of your parenting. His performance is a reflection of a set of circumstances on one day, for one hour of his life. It does not dictate his future – don’t assign it more significance than it has. Good or bad.
  6. Let your child see you encourage others. This is a team.
  7. Smile. Yes, smile. Give a thumbs-up once in a while. When your kid looks back to see you in the stands, don’t let him see your grumpy ass scowling with arms folded in discontent.

Finally, since not every kid can go to The Big Show, sport parents everywhere need to start redefining success.

It’s not a game. It’s not a season. It’s not an award.

It’s your kid looking forward to practices, games, seasons … loving the game and enjoying it with you.

My Favourite View

My Favourite View


Fighting For Yourself

I was in the garden yesterday afternoon with my six-year old daughter and she stood from the middle of a big pile of soil and said “I need to go get gardening gloves, mommy.”

“No you don’t,” I admonished, “You need tougher hands.”

As she considered her dirty, sore hands, I considered what I’d just said to her.


Why exactly had I reacted that way? It wasn’t in anger and I hadn’t made fun of her, I just stated something I thought was obvious. Tough, strong hands are good for a girl to have.

“Go ahead, find your gloves, sweetie,” I relented.

Up until that moment, I don’t think I’d really considered how differently I parent a boychild and a girlchild. Even before I had my daughter I stated I was terrified to bring a girl into this world. “You can teach a boy to respect girls … but it’s damn hard to teach a girl to respect herself!”

In a world where we still have not solved the problem of stupid gender stereotypes in advertising and the media … I still find the prospect of raising my daughter to be terrifying. I know that I cannot protect her from everything, I can’t shield her or prevent her from making poor choices once in awhile, so it seems my alternative has been to coach my daughter into Being Tough.

Because if you are tough – no one can hurt you. No one has to be your shield because you wear your own armor.

It’s why I say things like “Hey beautiful girl, look how strong you are!” or how my heart jumps with happiness when she says “let’s go exercise our legs mommy!” and how she knows the difference between a burpee and a push-up and a thruster.

Ah this beautiful, strong-willed, powerful little child of mine. I spend half the time thinking “Who is this child?” or “How have I created this?” and the other half saying “Hell yes, that is my daughter!”

I spent my teenage years feeling like I did not fit in anywhere. Not in my family, where I was the angry, explosive child. Not in school where I was so terrified of rejection that I didn’t try out for a team – I had already been told I was too fat or not good enough, why risk the rejection? (I made the swim team in high school but was so uncomfortable in my own body by then that I quit.)

I put on my armor where it was safe. I hid in the woods of school where I felt most vulnerable.

And now, without saying it, I am teaching her one lesson:

You have to know how to be tough and fight for yourself because there may be times you are the only one who will.

I was five or six years old when my parents left my brother and I to be babysat by a cousin. Oh I adored him. I remember being so excited because he was older and cool and let us do all sorts of crazy things … at one point he cranked Billy Idol’s White Wedding and we all raced around the house and jumped on the beds. Oh the thrill of hanging out with a cool kid.

And then it was time to go to bed – and he climbed in with me and tried to get me to touch him.

I said no and tried to sleep on the floor.

He laid behind me and tried to touch me, I resisted by curling into the tightest ball that I could but he was older and stronger and forced my arms behind me and my hand between his, now naked, legs. I kicked and screamed and fought like he was killing me. He pinned me. I fought. He covered my mouth. I bit.

At some point he gave up and I went to bed – he left my room and I can still see him silhouetted in the hallway light, looking nervous and afraid.

I had won.

But I’d also lost parts of myself.

The part that trusted others easily. The part that was able to give myself wholeheartedly with unreserved adoration and say “Hey! I like you! Be My Friend!”

It’s three decades since that day.

I still cannot stand White Wedding.

I still feel panic rise up if I’m overpowered or pinned.

I still have difficulties being a good friend because I’m afraid what my vulnerabilities will let them do.

But. However. Nevertheless. 

I have forgiven him and I am no longer angry. I’m simultaneously saddened by the event and …  aware of the positive aspects I chose to gleen from a very negative experience. It took a lot of time to mine the positive out of the negative, but I’ve chipped away at it and now I can see how it’s made me the parent I am today.

I can teach my daughter to be strong, tough, resilient … and I can encourage her to trust and be vulnerable. She doesn’t have to learn my lesson to benefit from the knowledge. I may slip up now and then … the older neighbour boy tried to kiss her and I had a momentary freak out … during which I taught her how to loudly say “NO!” … and to place an uppercut on the soft underside of his jaw. Sorry, Neighbour Boy, I am sure NO would suffice …

But I want her to know she’s more than capable of looking out for herself.

That it’s ok to be in the woods when you’re your own warrior.

That she can still trust others – because she trusts in herself first.

That vulnerability is actually incredibly courageous.

That she can have tough hands and a soft heart.


Where Were You When …

… the Newtown shootings happened?

I was not where I wanted to be … 3 hours away from my kids, working as a hockey trainer.

Immediately a feeling of panic set in as I realized what had happened. It was Friday and I wasn’t going to see my kids until Sunday.

But here I was, with a group of 19 teenage boys, watching over them as they played in a tournament in Medicine Hat. I wanted to be with my kids but I couldn’t leave and I knew there was no danger, it was just my knee jerk reaction to the shocking, terrible news. I called my kids and tried not to cry. I cried in the bathroom where no one could see. I cried into my pillow at the hotel after everyone had gone to bed and I’d walked the halls to make sure.

Lunch with the boys. Friday afternoon.

When I regained my composure I realized the position I was in.

Here were 19 boys (granted, at 16 & 17 they are hardly helpless kids) who I had a role in protecting. Their parents sent them out the door that morning, too, and were probably thinking the same things I was thinking about my own kids.

So I did the only thing I could think to do – I focused on the boys. For this weekend, they were my kids.

It’s pretty easy when they are so funny and awesome.

It’s pretty easy when all you have to do is dodge a few pucks and sticks on the bench.

It’s pretty easy when you win the whole tournament.

Medicine Hat 2012 AA Midget Tournament Champions
NWCAA AA Midget Stamps

It’s pretty easy when you know for certain your kids are safe with your family (my daughter with my mom, my son with his dad).

I’m back home now – got home in time to go skate for an hour at the ODR (that’s outdoor rink for you non-hockey folks). We had hot chocolate and baths and I prayed with my kids and sang them to sleep. And I tried not to cry. I wasn’t very successful.

“I’m not trying to humiliate you, mom, but I really like to deke you.” – my son, the comedian.

We are in the aftermath now. I’ve stayed away from the news, stayed off of most social media. I hide overtly opinionated stories and remind myself people express grief in different ways: some attack, some retreat, some opine, some listen.

For me, I think about what it’s like when I’m on the bench, watching the team play a great game of hockey … and if we happen to be down I think “this other team is under the false impression they are winning … they are not”.

That’s right, I think that every single time. Even when the clock runs out and it says we lost.

Did you see my boys’ efforts? Did you see that shit? This is not a loss.

Because it’s not the score, it’s not the measurable amount of loss … it’s not the strong overpowering the weak or body counts or penalty minutes or any kind of measurable number that tells you the real story.

There is nothing quantifiable in true loss or true love. We can’t measure it or call it a fact. We can’t tally it. We can’t fill out a score sheet on good versus evil.

And that’s why I know … Despite all evidence to the contrary … Love is winning


That Which Angers You

I see a lot of anger today.

Election results.

People blocking each other on Facebook.

Viral hate on Twitter.

Hockey coaches hitting kids.


Best Mad Face. EVER.
I kiss that face.

The last 24-hours have been a maelstrom of anger, tantrums, poor decision-making (no, I’m not making a veiled reference to any election), and hurt. Mostly hurt.

And I am not immune. I have spent the last 12-hours being so over-the-top angry at an incident at a local hockey game that I had trouble sleeping and woke up tired, with a headache … and still mad. And here I thought I’d been doing such a good job because I had controlled my temper. I had not over-reacted last night. I was damn proud of myself.

Look at you, the redhead in the mirror said. Look at you being all grownuppy and helping people calm their tits down instead of riling things up.

But inside, I’m still angry.

I keep seeing the coach from the other team, intimidating one of our kids, rubbing his eyes like a crybaby to make fun of him. I keep seeing his one finger salute to our team. I keep seeing one of our own kids skate down the line to shake hands and not raise his hand once to make peace. I keep seeing the charging penalties that weren’t called. I keep seeing one of the boys, crying in the locker room after being checked from behind so hard. I hear the ref saying “well, coach, you should make your kids run the gauntlet so they know how to give and take hits”. I keep hearing the jeering from the other parents, and the jeering from our own parents.

I tried so hard to keep my mouth shut, to keep my behaviour in check. I thought I did ok.

But I was still angry.

Maybe you are angry today.

Maybe you are mad because YOUR kid got hit. Maybe because your candidate didn’t win. Maybe because someone on Facebook said something. Maybe you got blocked on Twitter.  Maybe just looking at Donald Trump’s face makes you mad. Or Obama’s. Or you husband’s/wife’s. There is a lot of name calling and talk of “moving to Canada” and “diggin’ up mah ammo” and “d-baggery”.

There is one saving grace for me today. For an hour I worked out at the gym. For an hour I did not think about my anger.

When the workout was done, I realized, I wasn’t angry any more because I had spent that hour controlling my movements – directing my body in all manner of positions and I had come to terms with the reality:

That which angers you, controls you.

Or maybe better said:

He who angers you, conquers you. I believe that’s the quote from Australian Nurse, Elizabeth Kenney.

It’s what I used to say to my son, many years ago when he dealt with issues of not being able to control his emotions and temper. And it’s worth saying again, to all politically minded friends, to all hockey parents, to all coaches, to all kids … to myself.

It isn’t really about that outward expression of anger. That smack. That word. That Facebook post. That tweet. Those are reflections of your anger. And anger is a reflection of your fear. Don’t let someone conquer you by taking your fears and boiling them up into such vicious anger that your minutes, hours, days are wasted in their service.

For myself I can say:

I was afraid someone was going to get hurt.

I was afraid my son would get hurt, he’s 60 lbs playing against kids 100+ lbs.

I was afraid that my son would think that behaviour was ok.

I was afraid that hockey – his Island of Competence in life – would because something hurtful and painful for him.

I was afraid that a child who has faced bullying so bravely this year would be completely undone by a conquered man. Acting in anger, out of fear. Doing more damage than I want to believe he intended.

I was afraid our coaches would also take part.

I was afraid if I didn’t step up and do something, it was going to get worse.

This isn’t about controlling your anger – it is about knowing the real reason why you are angry, facing it and realizing that it isn’t a threat.

But Heather, what it if it is a threat?

Look, are you sitting at your computer reading this? Are you under threat? Unlikely. You are breathing. Your heart is beating. Unless there is a knife held to your throat, a gun to your head – there is no threat to your life. If there is – fear and anger are totally justifiable. I’m with ya. I got yer back.

But stop slamming the cupboards and cutting off drivers and snapping at your husband (wait, just me?) saying you’re “fine”.

I didn’t want to get too preachy. I really didn’t. I just finally found this calm spot in the day and needed to say something.

Sorry my quote isn’t more eloquent than “calm down your tits”.

I’m no Elizabeth Kenney.

Thank You, Hockey

This post will not be about the terrible behaviour I just witnessed from grown adults. I’m going to let the authorities deal with that.

This post WILL be about how stinkin’ proud I am of my son’s behaviour.

Celebratory Ice Cream

I know, every mom is like this, I get it.

Bear with me, please.

My kid is the smallest on the team. He’s a left winger. When we started in hockey, I had to Google (or as my daughter says, “search up”) “left winger’s job“. According to Wikipedia “Nowadays, there are different types of wingers in the game — out-and-out goal scorers, checkers who disrupt the opponents, and forwards who work along the boards and in the corners.” My kid is the one who works along the boards and in the corners.

During the game tonight, he had some serious hustle. He was on the puck as often as he could be, he skated as hard as he could. I honestly have never seem him play this well.

It was a scary game because of somethings that were going on … but again, this isn’t about that. But he did not weaken. He kept his head up, he hustled, and he listened to his coaches. He didn’t succumb to cheap shots, dirty plays or name calling. He played clean.

His coaches awarded him the Hardest Working Player of the game. This means at the next game he gets to be Captain and wear that coveted C on his chest.

I could hardly talk, I was so proud of him. Mark this day on your calendar. I could hardly talk.

After the game I let him do the talking.

“Mom, I did not like playing that team.”

“I was so frustrated with the refs and the other team, I wanted to scream … but I didn’t, I knew I’d get a penalty or something if I did, so I just tried to play hard.”

“I didn’t get scared, I just tried to get in there and get the puck.”

“Everyone was frustrated, it was really hard to keep my cool.”

Imagine that – an eleven-year old kid, one who got suspended three times in Grade Three for unruly and disruptive behaviour (I believe “willful disobedience” was the term) had more control over himself than half the adults in that rink.

Argh. This post isn’t about that.

This post is about my son, and the character that he has. I’ve said it a hundred times: sport does not create character, it reveals character.

Despite the poor behaviour. Despite the frustration of trying to hold in what my inner toddler wants to say and do. Despite the disappointment in my fellow hockey parents (from the other team, not ours). I still say THANK YOU, HOCKEY.

Thank you, Hockey, for revealing my son’s true character.

Fair Play Rules for Players

  • I will play hockey because I want to, not just because others or coaches want me to.
  • I will play by the rules of hockey, and in the spirit of the game.
  • I will control my temper – fighting and “mouthing off” can spoil the activity for everybody.
  • I will respect my opponents.
  • I will do my best to be a true team player.
  • I will remember that winning isn’t everything – that having fun, improving skills, making friends and doing my best are also important.
  • I will acknowledge all good plays/performances – those of my team and of my opponents.
  • I will remember that coaches and officials are there to help me. I will accept their decisions and show them respect.

A Catalogue of Pain

When a friend recently posted a picture of her injury, it got me thinking about the large database of injury-related pictures I have … not because I’m an EMT (it would violate my code of ethics to take a picture of a patient, I’ve even had them offer to send me the picture with their own phone, but I decline), but because sometimes my family’s first reaction to an injury is “wait, lemme get my camera”. My mom used to do it … and I do it. But these days I’m more apt to share it with everyone on my Facebook page.


Why do we feel the need to catalogue our pain?

Fell off the kitchen chair at gramma’s.
Right in front of me.

Do we need sympathy?

Stupid Stupid Stupid.
My first summer with red hair and fair skin or what?

Do we just want to feel better?

Attack by “friendly” neighbourhood cat.
Left scars.

Do we need to know others make stupid mistakes, too?

Never try fast, high-impact wheelchair sports your first day in a wheelchair.

Does it bring our pain closer to the forefront so it doesn’t stay buried?

Army feet. Not mine.
Good thing she was rooming with two medics.
“Uh, yeah, it looks broken.”

When we share, do we excise the pain like a tumor?

How exactly does one injure one’s self gardening?

Does it make us feel more human, more fallible, more real?

Head + Window Sill = Glue

Do we need others to know we’re clumsy?

Head + Door = Glue

Is everyone this clumsy?

Head + Round Coffee Table = Stitches

Or does everyone feel like a bad parent when their kid gets hurt?

A horse used me as a springboard.
It hurt.
I learned not to fall off.

Can we protect our kids from every injury?

Teaching my son to ride and *I* get hurt.

Or can we just hope to learn from them?

What do you think?


An odd dynamic these days. My family is all over the place. My son is headed to Disneyland with his dad, my daughter to Indiana with her dad, and I’m in training. The days are long and I don’t see my kids as much as I’d like. In fact, I’m really hoping to make it home to see my son before he goes to Disneyland because it will be a week before I see him again. My daughter is already away and I’ll go almost 10 days without her smiling face.

But knowing that they are with their dads is a good, good thing. Sure I miss them, sure *I* would like to be with them, and I want them to miss me… but there is something sweet and awesome about kid and dad time.

For my daughter it’s like she has her own favourite play-toy when she’s with her dad. He’s firmly wrapped around her finger. And now she’s with her cousin in Indiana … and she didn’t want to talk on the phone with me, she was having too much fun playing!

For my son, there is no one cooler than his dad, the sun rises and sets on him.

If I let myself, I can give into a small sad part of me that wants to be the favourite parent all the time. It sucks that for both of them I’m the main disciplinarian, the rule creator, the rule nazi, the grounder and the Enforcer. Whether by circumstances or personality, the dads aren’t the main enforcers. Not that they can’t or won’t, it just usually falls to me.

But I don’t give into that.

Instead I celebrate the awesomeness of my kids’ relationships with their dads. Especially with my son – it’s not every divorced family that has what we have. I can trust my ex to leave the country with my son when I know other moms who wouldn’t even consider that possibility, even for Disneyland.

I admit some trepidation as both my kids head to the US with their dads, but not about safety or happiness… but about those logistics I usually take care of. Do they have metal in their pockets to set off scanners, do they have enough snacks for the flight, games to entertain, gum for take off?

I’m good at this… my daughter had 18 flights under her belt before she was 18 months old. I got this.

Except for the one tiny thing I forgot last week.

I forgot to renew my daughter’s passport.

Yeah. Whoops.

By some miracle, my husband was able to head to the US Consulate and renew it on the day of the flight. I may never recover from the total shock of my organizational failure.

But while my kids are busy not missing me, I’m left missing them.

And my husband.

And my routine.

I did not realize how difficult it is to be all on my own.

No one else to look out for but myself.

It’s not nearly as fun as I think it will be when I’m in the midst of family drama and angst… when I wish for a moment alone. When I want to wring necks and banish kids to their room and just have a tidy room stay tidy for more than a half-second. When I fret because I didn’t change careers before my kids so now I worry I’m missing the boat and things are more difficult than they should be.

It’s good to have times like this – by myself – to remember what I am really missing.

Hockey Marathon of Pain

If you have been trying to get a hold of me, I’ve been at the rink. A cold and stinky place with which I’m well-acquainted. But it’s not my son or my midgets skating, so why (as I asked myself at 0200 this morning) am I there?

69 Hours In...

Because some guys knew some guy with a kid with cancer, whose wife had also died of cancer… and they decided to do something about it. There’s a whole line-up of news stories covering Diamond Marshall and her battle with cancer. Basically 40 guys are trying to raise $1.5 million to support the Alberta Children’s Hospital. I know one of the skaters, but it turns out I went to high school with a couple other of the players as well. Good to know us kids from the ‘hood all turned out a’ight.

When you walk into the arena, or watch online, it looks like a normal hockey game… maybe a little bit slower than normal pace. Especially when they decide to switch it up for an hour and play wrong-handed. Then they kind of look like a bunch of TimBits out there!

But when you get on the bench you’ll see why they are moving so slowly.


Swollen feet.

Bleeding toes.

Raw spots from padding, helmets, gloves, skates… socks, even.

In fact I woke up this morning feeling tired and then realized while I’d been sleeping, these guys had still been skating. In pain, hour upon hour.

If you asked them they’d tell you how much it’s worth the pain. Some of them have seen kids full of life, turned to shells, then gone. Some have even had cancer themselves and beaten it. And they know the pain a cancer patient can go through. What’s 250 hours of pain?

I considered taking some pictures and posting them here. But who knows, Dear Reader, you could be eating. Because it’s nasty. I have seen blisters worse than any ruck sack march I’ve been on. Maaaayyyybe my Basic Training partner, Goods, had one on her heel that was worse… but at least she could stay off her feet a bit more than these guys. They do have good medical care, don’t you worry, there’s a staff of volunteers like me (EMTs, Chiros, Athletic Therapists, Massage Therapists, Nurses….) and even a guy who is on-call to come throw a couple stitches in if required.

Because the players have to live there for 10 days, skating for 4 or 8 hours, resting for 4 or 8 hours, they have cots set up, a hot tub and an ice bath… and treatment areas for massage and restorative yoga. There is an entire army behind the scenes to support them.

But I do want to show you just a little bit of support they are getting from kids – just like the ones who will benefit from their fundraising efforts.

Letters to support the teams.

This is a picture of a package of letters that arrived this week from a local grade 4 class.

In the scratchy, disjointed handwriting, the kids break your heart.

“My little sister died of cancer.”

“My brother was born with cancer.”

“My grandma just died of cancer, I haven’t gone to her funeral yet, but I will soon.”

“Fight hard so you can cure cancer.”

There are two teams, Team Hope (in white) and Team Cure (in red), and they are fighting hard.

They have to fight through so much pain. Stitches and broken teeth are the least of their concerns. The ongoing pain, exhaustion, emotional upheaval are enough to weaken many.

I know they have thought about quitting.

But they don’t.

Because a kid with cancer can’t just quit fighting today because it’s hard.

Because there’s a kid in hospital today that has only a couple weeks left and he can’t just quit even though his time is running out – he has to push through to the end. And so do these players.

Please, please, please consider donating to their cause.

I am a Little Warrior

Here in Canada recently there was a lot of hoopla in the news about Graham James. He was a hockey coach in the 70s and 80s who ritually abused boy and was recently sentenced to two years in jail – a pitiful, incomprehensible sentence considering the suspected vastness of his crimes (he’d served 3.5 years on a previous charge, and – barf – had been given a pardon!). One of the most famous of his victims was Theoren Fleury. He used to be one of my most favourite hockey players from back in the day. I can remember when I first heard that he’d been abused by Graham James… I couldn’t figure out at the time how he’d been so successful, because surely that kind of abuse would have done someone in. Wrecked them.

It was the first time I learned what coping mechanism were. How damaged people did not always appear as damaged people. If you read Theo’s book Playing With Fire you can read all about the destructive behaviours he engaged in, all in an attempt to fill up the hole created by Graham James.

I was molested as a child on a few different occasions, by a former family member and a babysitter, both time so brief I often wonder if I can call it a molestation but my body has memories that still come back, so I know it still affects me. Nothing even close to what Theo (and other boys) experienced, not even in the same galaxy. You can read Theo’s victim impact statement here.

M & Theoren Fleury

I had recently attended a hockey event and cajoled my shy son into getting his picture taken with Theo (for the record, I’m not sure if he likes to be called Theo or Theoren … I grew up here in the 80s, I call him Theo.) because he was my favourite hockey player…and one of the few I can recognize off the ice. We’ll just gloss over the part of this story where I may have called him short. I really do have foot-in-mouth disease. (He’s 5’6 and my son is very small for his age… I thought it was relevant!)

What I wanted to say was “thank you” for being so brave and speaking up. I understand that he didn’t have much choice but to face his demons, but it still takes amazing courage.

For the last few years I had heard about an organization called Little Warriors. It’s an organization that trains adults to recognize the possibility of childhood sexual abuse. Or, as they say much better:

Little Warriors is a charitable organization with a national focus that educates adults about how to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Little Warriors also provides information about the prevalence and frequency of child sexual abuse and information about healing and support resources.

It’s a good organization.

I had wanted to engage in some training for a while but had just not done it. So when a spot became available right in my neighbourhood this month, I jumped at it. I’m now what they call a Steward of Children.

I’d love to tell you all about the training they provide, but I could not do it justice. It only takes a morning or an afternoon, but it’s a very tough few hours. You have to really face things you don’t necessarily want to.

But that’s where the courage to be a Warrior comes in.

As a society, we know (in theory) that these things happen. Daily. Hourly. But we gloss it over and assume someone else is looking out for those kids being abused. We self-righteously point fingers at the parents, THEY should have known. THEY should have done something, THEY were supposed to be looking out for their kid.

Well THEY didn’t realize that someone was making their child PREY. And that person’s sole purpose was to confuse, distract and manipulate the parents, to gain access to their child. What THEY didn’t realize was that a child who is molested is least likely to tell their parents because the predator has positioned himself between them. What THEY didn’t realize was once a child is targeted, the grooming can take years. That’s YEARS where nothing happens and a form of trust is built between parents, child and predator.

As a society, we tend to see the dregs of society from the view straight down the ridge of our first-world noses. Prostitutes. Drug addicts. It’s all their fault, they made bad choices, they shouldn’t come in contact with our family. Imagine… seeing your child talking with a drug addict? A prostitute? Your heart would leap into your throat, you’d grab your kid’s hand and rush away. Or maybe you’d just grab their hand and smile and nod because it would be unchristian to be so OVERTLY disdainful.

Did you know that 76% of prostitutes were victims of childhood sexual abuse? Would you shun a six-year old girl being ritually abused by a predator? No, I don’t think you would. That prostitute IS that six-year old girl.

Or, more precisely, that six-year old girl on the playground at school that you watch your kid play with before the bell rings … that girl will be that prostitute.

Unless she has a warrior.

The kid who dropped out of school because of drugs? Kicked out for having pot in his locker? Dumbass, right?

70% of victims report excessive drug and alcohol use. That kid isn’t getting high to be cool, he’s getting high to get high enough away from himself that he can forget how damaged he is.

He needs a warrior.

I knew this training was important for me as my new life as an EMT, hockey mom, hockey trainer, volunteer, etc… means I am in close proximity to kids of all ages. From the kindergarteners in my daughter’s class, to the teenagers on my midget hockey team. I’m ready to be a warrior for any of them.

How about you?

I know you feel ready, even without the training you think you are ready.

Trust me, you need the training.

You wouldn’t run a marathon without first training. You wouldn’t play a hockey tournament without first training. You wouldn’t try to undertake your profession without training.

And a child’s well-being. His or her soul, feelings of worth, innocence, and future are worth first training.

Look for training in your area by clicking here.

Or, if you are in Calgary, drop me a line because I’m going to be hosting Stewards training this spring.


Don’t Judge a Boy By His Smell

I remember being a 15-year old girl. I was awkward and shy (yes, shy) and I had no idea what to do around 15-year old boys. They were strange, strange creatures. Not much has changed.

Last year when I took this job as a hockey trainer, I was not certain it would work out. I was worried that it would conflict with my son’s schedule of course, but mostly I was worried about how the heck I was going to handle 19 15-year old boys. I still remember my first game with them when they skated by and all I could think was “jeez, these guys smell.”

I still felt awkward because I had no idea how I was going to talk to them or figure out if they were lying to me about being hurt. And I’m sure they just looked at me like some uncool hockey mom invading their bench space.

Fast-forward to today. Five months of attending games and Saturday was our last one.

I spent the entire day trying not to cry. It didn’t work very well and I had to keep sneaking into the bathroom to make myself look appropriately professional. No one wants a mushy trainer with mascara running down her face.

I was holding it together pretty well. I thought. I had a little speech in my head all prepared for when I had to leave them at the restaurant. I’d go around to the tables and say:

You are all amazing, really, I am so proud to have gotten to work with you and I hope that you all continue to pursue your dreams with passion. It continues to amaze me that you can battle so hard on the ice and still have all the pressures of growing into young men to deal with. You’re doing a great job.

But that’s not really how it went. It went more like this: I got up to go. The manager stood up to say thank you to mem the boys started to clap and say thank you. And then I cried. I’m not really a pretty crier. I’m more of the red-rimmed eyes and snot-faced type so I just accepted their hugs and booked out of there without saying what I wanted to say.

I sit here today, amazed at the fears I had at the start of the season. I was so wrong. These were awesome kids.

For one thing, they can handle so much more than I could at their age. It’s not like they told me anything deep and revealing, but when you talk to parents and coaches and gather that information, you get a bigger picture of each kid. Plus, I got the chance to stand back, see them struggle and battle on the ice, on the bench and in the dressing room.

Because sports like hockey don’t create character in kids, it reveals character.

And I saw some excellent demonstrations of character.

Oh sure, there was some typical teenaged-boy behaviour, but that’s what bothers me: as a society we judge that behaviour as somehow being WRONG. Sure if they are breaking the law or doing something dangerous, that’s wrong. But acting like teenage boys? Normal. And, I have to admit, entertaining.

One parent commented that I treat the boys like adults. Absolutely. They have more pressures on them than many adults I know. They behave like adults, they get treated like adults. They put ketchup on my shoe, I punch them in the throat. Well, not really, but I think they believed I would.

I do also believe that my team in particular was just awesome. I worked on other teams over the season to cover other trainers and I remember one instance where I actually had to grab a kid by the jersey and yell at him to sit down. There may have been broken sticks and temper tantrums on my team once in a while, but nothing disrespectful. MY boys were awesome.

Because at the end of the day, that’s who they were, my boys. I was often as excited to go to their game as I was to go to my own son’s games. And while I wanted them to win every game, just as I want my son to win every game, I’m mostly concerned with how they are doing/feeling/coping. Are they ok? Are they hurt? Can I fix it?

And they did a pretty good job, whether they knew it or not, of making me feel like I was a necessary part of the team.

Maybe you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, maybe you think I’m being a silly mom, but the revelation that these kids are awesome was a big one for me. I can see the future, I can see my son’s future, and I can smile, because it’s not scary any more. I’m not raising a strange, strange creature… I’m raising a son. And because of these boys, because I got to know a little bit about them as people, I understand my own son even better.

(And that’s enough for now… I haven’t even gotten to the parts about loving the team dynamic, even when it’s not working…. and learning to love hockey again… AND, learning how to be an effective hockey parent… )

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