Contributed by Valerie Bean (Pickering, ON)
Like many rep hockey families, we lived a minor hockey lifestyle for the better part of a decade—from Tyke through Minor Midget—a lifestyle that required commitment from the entire family.
After a season of junior C hockey signalled the end of our son’s AAA hockey days—and by extension, the end of parental involvement—a neighbour and close friend commented that we had given up a lot over the years for our kid’s hockey. In a moment of defense, I said I didn’t feel as if we had given up anything. We simply encouraged and supported our son in pursuing his passion, which happened to be hockey, but it could have been piano lessons, or tennis. We would have done the same no matter the pursuit. But competitive sport, in particular, requires commitment as a family in a way that pastimes and extracurricular interests do not.
If we gave up anything, it was our free time.
Where many parents did the bare minimum, my husband and I volunteered our time. Hockey seasons filled our time with practices and games, but also with team-related chores like chasing parents for payment, completing game sheets, emailing team updates, scheduling ice time, booking facilities for year-end parties, collecting receipts for budget reporting. Then there was the pre-season preparation, and the post-season wrap up.
To do all that, we had to make time, and to make time, we sacrificed our summers.
Yes, every team requires the participation of each family throughout the season, but not everyone helps organize and execute fundraising events—pub nights, door-to-door hot chocolate sales, bottle drives—or assists with the yearbook, supports the team manager in her administrative tasks, or runs the team website. That is not to say that other families didn’t pitch in. They do. But on our team, it was always the same two or three families doing the majority of heavy lifting.
The commitment, however, meant that we did not have much of an off-season. We were dedicated to the team year round. And I wonder now if that was a mistake.
Maybe my son, sans memorable summer vacations, is missing important childhood memories with both parents instead of just one. We were never able to arrange summer vacations together because my husband’s tore his work schedule apart to accommodate the hockey season. Firefighters do their holiday picks at the beginning of the calendar year. If they want more time off, they do duty exchanges with guys from other shifts. He had to do a best-guess scenario for the upcoming season, and then hope the days were available when it was his turn to pick. And because he worked 24-hour shifts, my work schedule revolved around his.
I can see how others might think that we give up something.
When it comes to living the minor hockey lifestyle there are certain givens: You will attend three to five tournaments per season, two of which will be out of town, likely even out of the country, and inevitably, there will be one during the Christmas break. You will have to book time off work, off school, and shell out for gas and hotel. You will buy a pair of skates in a larger size each season and you’ll replace two or three sticks. You will get cozy with other parents on bus trips to away games. Some of whom you would never choose to socialize with otherwise.
This excessive involvement seems to overtax many parents because when it comes to off-ice extras, too many do the bare minimum. They pay their money then they sit in the stands and bitch about the coaching staff and their kids’ ice time.
It sure is a whole lot easier to kick back and finger point than to dig in and help out.