Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Unsuccessful Dream Killer

As I write this, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is about to get underway. Aside from the fact that it totally bugs me that people try to put their own spin on The Star Spangled Banner and sing it in a different rhythm so it's hard to sing along, I'm pretty darn excited.

I love hockey.

Good thing considering that we leave early Friday morning for a hockey tournament.

But whatever.

My point here is that to this day, Declan thinks he's going to the NHL. And I'm very glad for that because of something that happened on his first day of Mini Mite hockey. First day.

Picture this. About 35 or 40 kids, 6 and 7 years old. Declan was 6. It was his very first official day of hockey. He'd done all of the learn-to-skate, learn-to-play hockey, intro to hockey, and hockey camps that he'd been eligible to do at this point. This is a kid who, at the age of 3, told us he wanted to learn to skate. And pretty quickly after that, skating became hockey and hockey became playing as goalie.

By the ripe old age of 6, he has already started watching hockey on TV. He has already started playing hockey in the basement (mostly making up his own rules so that his little friends don't actually want to play with him). He makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..."

It is beyond sweet.

So it's October 2006 and 6-year-old Declan is one the ice, stick in hand. The kids skate around and warm up. A coach skates to center ice and blows his whistle. All of the kids gather around. The coach gives a little speech. I assume it's some sort of motivational speech, welcome to hockey, yaddah yaddah yaddah. The coach is talking. I see all of the kids raise their hands. More talking. They start doing drills.

I was wrong when I thought the kids were getting a little "welcome to hockey" speech. And I found this out after the practice when I asked Declan what the coach said. There was no, hi, great to have you. Nope, it went something like this:

Coach: "Who here thinks they're going to the NHL?"

Of course, every hand goes up.

Coach: "Well, actually none of you are going to the NHL. There is no one here who is going to the NHL. And because none of you are going to the NHL, we're not here show off or let people be superstars. We're here to learn and have fun."

Now, his words are true, I'll grant him that. Statistically, it's unlikely that a little Mini Mite from a small rural Colorado mountain town will end up in the NHL. And I agree, overall, with his message. Kids need to learn the sport, have fun and not have all of the crazy competitiveness that comes, regardless, with kids' sports.

What I resent and despise is killing a child's dream by saying "You know those dreams you have? Well, they're never coming true." His speech would have been better served being directed at the parents: "Keep your shirt on, your kid isn't going to the NHL."

Anyway, right or wrong, from that second on, I despised that coach. And I still do. I try not to be a person who dwells on stuff for too long, but that has always bugged me.

And I probably should get over it because clearly Declan still has the dream. He still makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..." Sometimes he'll say in a horrified voice, "What if I get drafted by the Red Wings?!?!?!" They're the Blue Jackets' archrival, in case you were wondering.

So tonight while I was cooking dinner, a player for one of the teams playing tonight (Vancouver Canucks--Finn's favorite team vs. the Boston Bruins) talked about how Game 7 is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, the playing out of a fantasy since he was a child. He talked about how as a kid he played hockey in the basement, in the driveway, in the street, or on a pond with his friends and in their games, it was always Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Never Game 3, never Game 6. Game 7 is IT. It is THE DREAM of anyone who has ever played hockey.

Which wouldn't be me, of course, I can't even really skate. But I have heard that Game 7 scenario in my basement more times than I can count--coming up through the air ducts, floating through the house, whether it's spring, summer, winter or fall. Regardless of whether we've been away at hockey, camping or the pool. It is their dream and they replay it over and over and over again.

So I admit I got a tiny tear in my eye when I heard the player talk about what playing in the biggest game of his life tonight meant to him. Maybe a coach told him he'd never be in the NHL one day, and yet, there he is on my TV screen right now, living out his greatest dream.

And so really, is it so wrong to let kids dream big dreams? Do we need to be the ones to say to them, "You know, that's not going to happen, right?" I grew up riding horses and for a long, long time, maybe into high school, I had a dream of going to the Olympics. Now clearly, there came a point in my life where I realized I wasn't going to the Olympics, but I figured that out on my own and it didn't diminish the love I had for riding or my commitment to it. My point is I didn't have some jackass telling me I would never achieve my goals and dreams at any point, let alone when I was 6.

So go chase your dreams--whatever they are--and don't let anyone ever tell you they won't come true. And then look for me in the stands in 2018 or maybe 2022 when I'm watching Declan in the gold medal ice hockey game at the Olympics. Because when he goes, I'm definitely going, too.

Learning from Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard.


Donetta said...

I hope he makes it to the NHL so he can go back and tell that coach a thing or two - or maybe you can. ;) I'm with you on realizing that it's a long shot but to tell a group of 6 year old kids that?!? That's just ridiculous! A kid should be allowed to have a dream for crying out loud!! Yea for him for keeping that dream alive! You never know! :)

Lauren said...

That makes me mad! Being realistic and helping an individual kid get to know his own strengths and weaknesses is one thing; blanketly (if that's a word--spellcheck says no) telling a group of kids their dreams are worthless is just terrible. I see what he was aiming for, but he could have done it so much better. Good for Declan for hanging on to the dream anyway.

When I was in junior high, an older female teacher--who liked me and knew my academic strengths--told me I would never be a veterinarian because women couldn't get in to vet school! Turns out she was reflecting her own frustrated dreams; even then (1979-80), women were starting to appear in the vet field more often. Of course by the time I went, my class was 70% women. That teacher's comment just fueled my desire to prove her wrong; maybe that's somewhere in Declan's mind too. Roadblocks can make some dreams stronger. However, they can sometimes kill a baby dream, especially in a six year old. Grrrrr.

M said...

I was going to play center field for the CA Angels way back...but WTF...I can't wait until Declan makes the NHL and gets the last laugh at that coach :)

Marci said...

what you are going to the olympics with out me! you better get me a seat too!!!

Anonymous said...

I hope his dream comes true!

Kristie said...

I hate that the coach's message was directed at innocent kids like that .... now, I know more than a few parents (not hockey, but other sports here in OK) who would probably be better off, hearing it about their own kids. I know more adults who have unrealistic dreams for their own kids ..... But the kids need to dream big, as long as it makes them happy.