We have entered the playoff portion of the hockey season. And my boys are tired. Just recently, for the first time ever, one of my children slept past 8:30am. So when I say tired, I mean they are to-the-bone exhausted. It doesn’t get them very far with me because I’m waking up to take them to hockey practice. I sometimes like to think of it as payback for waking me up a o’dark thirty on summer weekends. Also, while I enjoy watching them play, it is not my first choice in how I would spend my weekend morning. A tea and a book would be the first choice for anyone keeping score.
But here’s one of the universal truths to any sport: You get better with practice. I don’t care if you swim, ride horses or play hockey, there is a reward to putting in those practice hours. And every year since we started hockey, we reach a point where one of them tells us that they don’t enjoy practice. They love games, but they don’t enjoy the practice. Tough.
The good news is that eventually, they learn not to argue with me about certain things.
On this particular Sunday morning, I went in to wake up Boy #1. So the conversation went like this:
“Boy #1, time to get up. You have hockey” And up he gets. He wanders out to the kitchen, grabs something that he can eat on the way to the rink, grabs his gear and he heads for the van. We don’t talk. There are no niceties at this hour of the day for him. But he has learned that arguing with me about practice is useless. He’s learned that practice is where you get better. That’s good enough for me. I don’t need to talk.
Boy #2 and Boy #3 haven’t figured that out just yet. When I got home from Boy #1’s practice, I left the van running because it was time to get Boy #3 to his game. The conversation quickly devolved from “Ok, its hockey time, let’s go” to “Get your boots on we’re late. You can finish this tantrum in the van”
Hockey practice isn’t optional based on how they feel. Neither are games, but I get fewer arguments about games. And yes, there are times where they have a legitimate reason to miss practice. Out of town tournaments for one of the brothers is acceptable.
Not “feeling like it”, is not.
It is my job as Hockeymom to decide on the rules. And I’m the one who reminds them of all the reasons why practice is where the good get better. Here are my top three.
Reason #1: We’ve committed to the team. They depend on us to show up when the schedule dictates, not when the mood strikes. So we show up and we do what is asked of us. Granted, they are asked to do more, but I have to repeat, they decided to play hockey. And there is nothing more painful for me than to sit through a game and watch one of my children not play to his potential. I might have said exactly that to Boy #1 after one too many practices where he lay on the ice and tried to make snow angels. Painful.
Reason #2: Practice is where a game is won or lost based on the work put in. To improve, to learn how the team plays together, to remind yourself of the mechanics of the game you have to practice. Because if you aren’t trying during practice, then you haven’t put in the work to be able to meet the demands of a game. For us, putting in the work is everything from listening to the coach to giving your best effort during practice.
There will always be games that you just don’t win. Games where you did your very best and it wasn’t good enough. You can’t control those games. But you can control how you feel going in to each game. And you control that by getting on the ice and giving your best every hockey practice.
Reason #3: Practice builds confidence. Fun story, up until this year, Boy #1 would not skate the puck up the ice. Ever. It was like holding the puck at the end of his stick would inflict some kind of electric shock. This made him really good for passing the puck to teammate, and rather fantastic at defense. But more and more there were times where he could have gotten the team further by skating the puck closer to a teammate before passing. But he lacked the confidence to carry the puck. So we’ve worked on that a lot this year.
Confidence in your skills will help when that puck hits the ice for a game. You want to feel like you know what you’re doing at that point. And that’s what practice will do for a player. The players that improve the most are the ones that don’t have to think about their game or their next move. They just make it. Practice puts brains in your muscles.
So until the season is over, I will continue to have this discussion with whoever thinks that I will bend on this demand that they attend their team hockey practice. And come next season, I’ll be ready to have this discussion again. I have three really good reasons for why we don’t skip practice. And I’ve come out on top of the argument with Boy #1. They aren’t the only ones that learn from practice.
One player down. Two to go.
See you at the rink,