This piece was really prepared for the parents of my AAA Mite Major players many years ago, in preparation for our season’s opener. However, I thought some of these ideas just might prove helpful — or at least interesting — to quite a few others…
— Dennis Chighisola
Murphy’s Law — In Hockey and Elsewhere
Now, I’ve heard “Murphy’s Law” stated in several different ways, but the gist of it is that, “If something can go wrong, it often will.” 😦
During my first season in coaching, my young team lost its best player for a tournament game, just because 1) he ruined one of his skate-edges on a section of concrete in our lockerroom prior to the game, and 2) the rink we were playing in didn’t have a pro shop where his skates could be sharpened. (Ugh… Can you imagine the sick feeling, just seeing a 3- or 4-goals-per-game scorer sitting idly down on the end of your bench?)
You’d better believe I carried a skate stone with me from that point onward. And so did I start adding to my little collection of extra gear as I’d lose a player — for a shift or two, if not for an entire game — because he’d lost a mouth piece, a neck guard, a helmet screw, whatever. That’s pretty much how I deemed what needed to add — I mean by experiencing a problem, and then at least trying to not let that kind of thing happen again.
Ya, my collection grew, to the point where I ultimately started carrying around a huge box with all sorts of spare parts, tools and odds and ends of hockey gear. And little wonder I ultimately dubbed that box my “Murphy’s Law Kit”. 🙂 No doubt “stuff” is gonna happen; so I just want to limit the damage that stuff does to my team.
Now, while I’ve just described things from a coach’s perspective, you should probably know that I ultimately put together a mini version of that kit to go in a young Anthony Chic’s hockey bag. Something like a school bag pouch normally used for carrying pencils and pens can fit easily into the player’s equipment bag, and it is usually roomy enough to at least hold extra helmet screws, an extra mouth piece and a small tool kit.
Speaking of small took kits… I love the new (Christmas stocking stuffer?) gadgets that are similar to a Swiss army knife. I have one of these attached to my own skate bag, just in case a student or player needs to fix something in a hurry.
Anyway, I’m seriously recommending that every one of my players put together his or her own kit. For, some morning we might be at an important game, far from home, and without access to a pro shop. And that, I’ll suggest, is when we’ll all be very, very glad each player did.
By the time players are in high school, I think gear packing is their responsibility. Ha, I can tell you that no high school coach is going to like hearing something like, “My mom took my practice jersey out of my bag to wash it.”
Depending on the age, someone in each household has to be responsible for going down a checklist of the gear needed. And, this should be done the night before a game — no ifs, ands or buts about it.
I’m chuckling a bit right now, because I’m forever telling my high school guys about an old baseball player named Wally Pipp… As that story goes, Pipp was an American League All-star first baseman for the New York Yankees. Pipp’s problem was that he had to miss a game one day, and his replacement, Lou Gehrig, didn’t come out of the Yankees’ line-up for the next 2,130 games. (This year I updated that story with a young Tom Brady stepping in for an injured Drew Bledsoe.) The point of that story? No player wants to risk coming out of a line-up for a needless reason — especially because of a piece of faulty or missing gear. For, just missing a single shift might provide the break some other worthy player was just dying for.
While on the subject of being truly prepared to play, I feel the need to raise an important point with parents of younger players (and maybe with older kids, too)…
There’s little doubt that every adult reading this appreciates the need to arrive early for important engagements — be it a business meeting or something as significant. I mean, I’m sure he or she has hated the few times when the sweat started pouring because traffic was heavier than expected, because a car problem suddenly arose, or because he or she discovered that one more thing was needed to be truly prepared.
Yet, while a parent likely knows what I’m getting at here, he or she sometimes forces their youngster to get that same sick-to-the-stomach feeling by delivering him or her late to the rink.
Of course, not every parent has played a competitive sport, or he or she might not totally appreciate what I’m getting at. So, at least for those types, let me offer these fleeting thoughts…
Older players generally like to get themselves to the rink hours before game-time. They like to relax and ease themselves into readying, and a lot of them will even develop rituals that help them deal with the pre-game jitters. They’ll re-tape and otherwise doctor their sticks, and they’ll often study every piece of their gear to ensure it’s all just right.
Believe it or not, that time just prior to a practice or game is also when most bonding takes place between youth hockey teammates. Oh, it isn’t going to happen for the player who constantly rushes into the rink at the last minute, but it definitely happens for the kids who are able to relax together for a time. (Sadly, I’ve seen what happens to the kid who isn’t often there to mix with teammates, in that he or she ultimately starts feeling as if they’re not really a part of things.)
Please understand that the 3- or 5-minutes allotted for on-ice warm-ups is dictated by rinks and leagues, and hardly recommended by sports medicine people. God, no one can truly be prepared to go all-out after just that brief preparation. My old high school and college teams performed elaborate off-ice warm-ups prior to their games, while I at least like my youth teams to do some light rope skipping, or to just be active before I call them in for a brief pre-game talk. (I’m asking my AAA Mites to begin storing their ropes in their equipment bags, and to start using them on the runway mats every chance they get.)
Then, since I raised that point about Murphy’s Law, every parent has to appreciate that nearly anything is fixable IF given a little extra time. However, if you want your youngster to get totally upset, just allow a skate lace to break 5- or 10-minutes prior to game-time.
Oh, and that brings me to what I refer to as “my time”, or the “coach’s time”… You see, I view it as my job to help ready my players for the opening face-off. And that requires a careful pacing of things. (It’s not what a given parent might believe is the right pacing, but what I feel the team needs.) That said, I must have TOTAL focus from my players about 10-minutes prior to a youth game. As I hope you’ll appreciate, the players and parents can have all the hours leading-up to that point, but those last minutes are MINE (and the entire team’s). So, just imagine what happens to a team’s concentration (and my blood pressure) when one player or family suddenly disrupts that time.
One last thing when it comes to game preparations…
A number of years ago I stopped bringing “team waterbottles” to games. Simultaneously, some serious diseases started spreading within local schools and athletic teams, while I also noticed too many of my players being far too careless when sharing drinks. That’s when I put a stop to it, by just requiring my kids to bring their own drinks to practices and games.
Is this post worthy of sharing? I think so — for every individual player, parent and coach, as well as for every youth program’s website.