суббота, 16 марта 2013 г.

What Hockey Taught Us

By Lori Fairchild

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.
~Author Unknown

Every head in the locker room turned as my seven-year-old daughter pushed open the door and strolled into the room filled with seven- and eight-year-old boys and their parents. The boys shot surreptitious looks our way, as if looking to see if that really was a girl on their locker room bench. It was our first introduction to the world of youth hockey.
When I was seven years old, one of my friends played on the boys' hockey team. She had to get a court order in order to play. Thankfully, the acceptance of girls in hockey has grown and there are even girls' hockey leagues. Just not in Kansas. Truthfully, there's not much hockey in Kansas at all. Playing hockey is definitely an anomaly for any kid in this part of the world, and even more so if you're a girl.

How my daughter decided at the age of six that she wanted to play hockey, I'll never know. I'm not even sure she had ever seen an entire game when she announced one spring morning that she wanted to play hockey. We patted her on the head and told her that was nice, thinking she'd forget about it. Two months later, she asked me again when I was going to sign her up for hockey.

After diligently checking into hockey programs in the area, I discovered the only hockey programs were mainly made up of boys, with just a few girls in each program. With trepidation and visions of frozen pieces of rubber flying at my daughter's pretty face, I signed my daughter up for learn-to-play-hockey classes.

My daughter is about as far from your vision of a hockey player as you can get. She's the smallest kid in her class. She's got a mop of blond, curly hair that is the envy of anyone who has ever wanted curly hair. She's Shirley Temple with a hockey stick.

We really figured hockey would be a passing fancy. She would get out on the ice, realize it was hard to skate and cold and decide she wanted to do something more traditional. We should have known better. This child has been anything but traditional her whole life. After sixteen weeks of learn-to-play-hockey classes, eight stitches in her chin from falling on the ice without her chin guard and countless tears over not being able to perfect the hockey stop, we showed up to turn heads in the locker room for our first night of youth hockey.

I think my daughter thought she was going to step on the ice and be the next Wayne Gretzky. She never thought it would be hard to learn to play. She never thought she would be the worst player on her team. Most of the boys she was playing with had been on skates almost since they could walk. She had a lot of catching up to do and little help from a mom who can barely stand up and skate in a circle and a father who has never been on skates.

But she had what a lot of kids don't have at age seven — determination. She wanted to play hockey more than anything else — and she wanted to be good. We went to every clinic, took private lessons and wore out our welcome at free skate. We even built a homemade ice rink in the back yard during the winter. When she scored her first goal, it was cause for huge celebration.

That first hockey year wasn't easy. It's never easy to learn something new. It's even tougher when you're the only one like you doing it. She was the only girl on the team. While most of the boys were nice and encouraging, it was still tough to be the one that always stood out.

Her coaches were great. They told her how much they loved her polka-dot stick and her pink skate laces, yet treated her like a hockey player on the ice. The parents loved her. They rooted for her to get better all year. When she scored her first goal, every parent was in line to congratulate her.

More than a year later, we still can't keep her off the ice. She has her eye on the travel team next season. Instead of hearing "Who's the girl?" from the other teams' parents, we hear "Who's #8? She's really good." Heads have stopped turning when she walks into the locker room, and now there's another girl on the team.

But that first year of hockey was life changing for my daughter. She learned more from hockey than she did in her entire second-grade year at school. She learned the value of determination. She discovered that following your dreams may require hard work and even some blood, but it's worth it in the end. She became a champion of the underdog and began to stand up for kids who were being picked on at school because she knew what it was like to be different. And she gained confidence that she could be exactly who God made her to be, even when it flies in the face of society's conventions.

And her parents? Well, we learned that you can't keep your kids from their passions, even when you see the road ahead will be bumpy. We learned stitches aren't the end of the world. We learned that when your child doesn't fit society's mold, it's okay to make a new one.

And we have hockey to thank for all of that.
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