Cheers and tears both offer lessons for young athletes

Believe it or not, August was a busy month — for hockey.

As summer comes to a close, schools are open again and we start to look forward to a long, damp few months ahead. Sports programs have been in full swing gearing up for the season as both soccer and hockey (at least) are in the throes of determining their rep teams.

I spent most of August on the ice working with some very dedicated young athletes from all over who were preparing themselves for tryouts. I am fortunate to be able to work with Pasco Valana, an amazing goalie coach who has trained hundreds of goalies who have reached all levels of success, up to and including the NHL. Suffice it to say, when you’re on the ice with Valana, there isn’t much resting, even for the coaches.

After all the training, there’s still the tryouts. It’s a stressful time for these kids — they are on the ice with their competition for about an hour, and get a total of about 12 minutes to show what they can do. As a coach, I can put together a fairly good ranking quite quickly, but sometimes it’s challenging when the kids’ skills are close, or they use a different style. I’m thankful I don’t make the final decisions. Regardless, these kids are giving it their all, trying to make an impression and earn a place on the team.

Some will make it, and others won’t. And that’s good.

It’s heartbreaking for the kids that don’t make it, and I feel for them. But regardless of how I feel, the kids that don’t make it have two choices — quit or find out what they have to do to make the team next time and work for it.

Sometimes, this is a player’s first experience with failure. For years we’ve handed out trophies for showing up or a ribbon for participating. That’s fine when you’re eight years old, but eventually you have to learn that not everything will be handed to you, and sometimes you won’t get what you want — you have to earn it.

I had an experience with one player who didn’t know why he wasn’t playing much. I told him to speak with the coach and ask why, and what he could do to improve so that he did play. The coach was honest with him, telling him what he needed to do. He listened, improved and became an important part of the team.

I found out later, the player had asked the coach the same question after every practice and game for years. Instead of quitting (which is OK as well), the player stuck with it, and enjoyed the sport much more.

I love coaching kids who want to get better, who listen and try hard. I want to help them reach their goals, but I can’t do it for them. Nor can their parents, who need to step back and let their child learn. As Valana tells his students, “The coach appears when the athlete is ready.”

Success starts with good grades. Doors open with a good report card, and close rapidly as the grades slip. It’s no coincidence that those who work the hardest tend to have the best luck.

Have a great season, and study hard!

Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has over 25 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches marketing at Douglas College.

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