Like most things in life, having your child involved in team sports involves compromises.
Such as giving up any hope of having a social life that does not revolve solely around the arena, or the ballpark.
I think back to my parents, raising three kids in the early 70’s. I played hockey, and soccer, and later football, but never to the degree that required pretty much daily commitment. There was room for other things; Cubs and Boy Scouts, model airplane building, guitar lessons.
We don’t currently enjoy that luxury in our lives.
Alex attends swimming lessons every Thursday evening, the wife managing to sign him up for classes during the early autumn, and early spring, thus avoiding the meat of the rep. baseball season.
But the lion’s share of family time is now devoted to sports.
And that’s fine by us. Alex is a “busy” kid, as my wife puts it, and needs to focus his physical energy somewhere positive. Sports provides that outlet. Keeps ‘em off the street. Sets the stage for future endeavours, whether they are sports related or not.
So it’s a sporting life for us.
We have found a comfort in the routine, in seeing the same faces time and time again. At the kid’s indoor soccer game this past Sunday morning, I recognized Cole’s mom. Cole being the leadoff hitter for the Bulldogs. It was like old times, with chatter about the 2012 baseball season that just ended, and the 2013 baseball season that (gulp) begins again in early December.
So I figure once Sr. Rookie baseball kicks in, my life will be divided into three major categories:
One – work.
Two – kids sports.
Three – sleep, occasionally.
Friday night will be reserved for East York Bulldogs batting practise.
Saturday morning for Scarborough house league hockey games.
Saturday evening for East York Bulldogs indoor baseball practise.
Sunday morning for East York indoor soccer.
Sunday afternoon for Scarborough house league hockey practise.
Monday evening for Scarborough Select hockey practise.
Tuesday evening for collapsing.
(And if Alex is lucky, the Select team will need him to step up and play a few more games for them this season. If anything, that is the thing he most wants to do. First day of November, Coach Mike called at the last minute to see if Alex could sub for a sick player. Unfortunately, we had to take a pass, as Alex was getting over his own bout with the bug. That was a parental decision; Alex was practically dressed and ready to head out the door when I broke the bad news to him).
Don’t talk to me about the latest James Bond flick, don’t ask me to accompany you to a sporting event not involving my child, and don’t even dream of getting together at some cozy pub and drinking away the hours.
Not until April, at the earliest. That’s when hockey and soccer wrap up.
We anticipated a busy Autumn, so I asked Alex which sport he most wanted to play.
Golf was the answer.
Geesh, like we need another date filled in on the calendar.
There’d be time for that, I assured him, just not right now.
Turns out he wants to play hockey, and soccer, and baseball…and lacrosse, and football, and basketball, and tennis. Not to mention golf.
He didn’t want to walk away from any of them, so we’ll ride it out until he can’t anymore, or we can’t anymore.
School takes precedence over all these extracurricular activities, though thankfully there’s not a lot of homework in Grade Three.
There is still ample time for free play, usually accomplished in the hour or so after school is finished each afternoon.
But as the months and years fly by, there will be more and more demands on our time. Talk already is that the Sr. Rookie baseball team will participate in twice as many tournaments as the Jr. Team did last summer.
That means twice as much time in such hot spots as St. Thomas, and Guelph, maybe even Buffalo. All very lovely places, and all requiring more commitment of time and money.
So long as the kid is having fun.
Which he appears to be doing, despite not having registered one solitary win so far this season in house league hockey, Select hockey, or indoor soccer.
One by-product of being involved in a number of sports is you quickly become an expert on previously unfathomable minutiae such as equipment.
I have learned there is an art to preparing, and maintaining hockey equipment.
First off, let’s be clear about one thing. I take care of the boy’s hockey equipment. If I left it up to him, half the stuff would be missing by the time we arrived back home, and the other half would rot before the next game. The wife? She has enough other things to do, thank you very much.
Our modest Scarborough bungalow has a back room, a mud room I’m told. It’s heated, but barely. It’s the perfect place to put a hockey bag after a game. Natural ventilation.
First things first, take out the game worn under garments, and the sweater and socks. Those go down in the laundry room.
Then, keep the hockey bag open, and let the cold Canadian air go to work on the nasty smells that take hold, and threaten to stay there for the life of the gear.
Third, make sure the neck guard is out in the open, as that sucker gets drenched. Same with the hockey pants, and the gloves.
The skate blades are wiped down in the dressing room immediately following the game, and I do the same thing when we get home.
Alex has a house league game on Saturday morning, a house league practise Sunday afternoon, and a Select team practise Monday evening.
Once that final practise is over, I let the equipment air out until Saturday. Don’t even look at it until then.
Come Saturday morning (with apologies to the Sandpipers), the stuff smells fresh as new. No need for fancy deodorants.
Another part of my job as Alexander stick boy is to carry said bag, and contents, to and from games. Coach Mike informs me he has his Select player’s do that themselves, which I think is a great idea. If Alex ever makes the Select team, we’ll celebrate by rushing out and buying one of those fancy hockey bags with wheels. Most, if not all of the Select kids have them, the only way they’re going to be able to lug around all that bulky equipment.
Then there’s the water bottle.
Hockey requires a water bottle with a long neck nozzle on it, so you can have a sip through your face cage, and all the better to squirt your team mates with.
I tried putting our last name on the side of it, but the marker went dry after just the K was applied.
Guaranteed, after every game, and most practises, the second thing I say to him (after “Good Game”, or “Good Practise”) is “Where the heck is your water bottle”.
It’s imperative the kids have them with them. There’s no excuse not to, though when I harken back to my playing days circa 1972, we never had water bottles. Coach made us wait until after practise to get a sip from the arena water fountain.
We have progressed, contrary to popular belief.
Alex usually is in charge of carrying the water bottle, and his two sticks, to the game. We have two sticks just in case one breaks. We’re not talking Dennis Hull slap shot power as of yet with Alex, but one never knows. And they’re wooden sticks. About 15 bucks each. This year they’re Bobby Ryan models, for what that is worth. Alex is not yet aware of the phenomena of composite sticks, but that day will come soon. I priced one his size just for the hell of it, and said the hell with that. They wanted 45 bucks.
All I need is for him to leave one of those babies behind.
Not yet. Wood will do for now.
The week wound around to Saturday morning once again. The opponent this week were the Stars.
It’s starting to appear as if all the other teams in the league circle the date on the calendar when they line up against the Red Wings. The guys in red are getting crushed. The games aren’t even close. Yes, the wins don’t matter, but remember this; the kids keep a loose track on things. Ask Alex how many games they’ve lost, and he won’t say three, but he will say they haven’t won a game yet.
This morning, he looked sluggish out there, which is not all that surprising, considering he’s still fighting some sort of cough infection thing.
Coach Calvin put Alex back on the blue line for most of the game, so he didn’t make a lot of forays deep into enemy territory during this game, and didn’t register a shot on net, though he just missed on a hurried backhand.
Alex also was part of a nice two-on-one with Jacob, the Select team captain. Alex carried the puck into the zone, to the left of the Stars’ netminder, and made a very impressive pass to Jacob, who is usually money in the bank on these things. If it wasn’t for Jacob, the Red Wings would have been shut out in most of their games.
But he just missed connecting on this one, sending it mere inches wide of the open cage. The score was 3-1 Stars at that time, and that’s as close as the Wings would get.
Jacob and Alex also teamed up on another two-on one, which quickly became a two-on-none.
This time Jacob carried the puck into the Stars’ end, and could have just made a beeline for the net, but at the last second, he executed a very nice drop pass to a trailing Alexander. Trouble is, Alex is not yet aware of the concept of a drop pass. He wasn’t in any position to accept the pass, having gone to the front of the net, like his hockey Ph.D Dad told him to do in those instances. Undaunted, Jacob picked up the loose puck, and before the Stars’ defenders could get back to interfere, number #15 deposited the puck into the net.
We think Alex earned an assist at one point in the game, as his grandfather heard Alex’s name being mentioned on the P.A. system, but the Don Montgomery P.A. system is more muffled than the one they used at the bus station in that old Archie Bunker episode. They could have been calling for Alex Trebek because he left his lights on in the parking lot, for all we knew.
Before falling into a semi-slumber out there, our Alex had a great shift during a Stars’ power play. He stripped the puck from the Stars’ forwards on three occasions, shooting it back into their end. The Stars failed to score during the man advantage.
But they didn’t fail to score during seemingly every other opportunity.
Which only underscored something that has been bugging me somewhat since Week One.
The mixing of Novice 7 players with Novice 8 players is arguably detrimental to both age groups. Most of the 7-year-old kids are still working on their skating, and their hockey sense. So are most of the 8-year-olds, but they are a year advanced, and at this age, that’s a huge gap.
There are exceptions on both teams, but most of the 7-year-olds can’t keep up with the 8-year-olds. It wasn’t a coincidence that Alex had a plus/minus rating of zero today. (He was on the ice when the Red Wings scored three goals, and he was on the ice when the Stars potted three goals). His ice mates had the majority of quality scoring chances for the Wings, and they had better puck possession, hence the zero rating in a game that featured 13 goals by the Stars.
The 7-year-olds would be much better served playing in their own league, exactly like Alex did last year with the Bruins. He had time to develop at his own pace. If he had been thrown in with kids a year older (heck, maybe almost two years older), he wouldn’t have stood a chance.
But declining enrollment dictated that decision, and the 7’s and 8’s are together for the season.
It’ll be a bumpy ride, but they’ll learn together.
Once Monday Select practise was out of the way, I cleaned up the equipment, and stored it in the backroom, closing the door and not thinking about it until Saturday morning.
Until Coach Mike called late Tuesday afternoon.