This is my 9 year old son’s 3rd year of playing hockey. He started at the 7 and 8s level and we got to watch his quick transformation from the awkward kid on the team who could barely stay on his feet to being one of the team’s top scorer and player the very next year. Not bad for having no skating experience at the Timbits level.
This year, Kenyan entered 9A1 tryouts with a high expectations. Unfortunately he was cut in the first batch. He was not fazed as he wanted instead to make the A2, a goal that many, including his parents, thought was a given. Watching him in his practices, I saw nothing to suggest that he was behind the other skaters. In fact I was certain he was in the top 10. Alas, I was just a parent. What do I know?
Today, he was handed his letter to open in the privacy of the car. We all knew what it would say so I had him read it aloud. “Thank you for trying out but you have been cut from the team.”
I thought it was a joke. I looked at his face frozen in shock. No! How? He had worked his butt off, overcoming some obstacles on the way like unknowingly skating with a broken skate on his first tryout then having to borrow a bigger skate for his next one, then today skating with a recurring groin pain. Through it all he barely complained, although as a dad, I could tell that something was off. He still managed to hold his own.
We sat in the parked car on the driveway for a long time with the tears streaming down his face. I felt for the little guy. He looked at me and said he no longer wished to continue. We discussed maybe seeing if it was still possible to play indoor soccer.
My knee-jerk reaction blinded me to a perfect teaching moment and I rushed to the computer to request a refund and ask his soccer club if there was still time to join an indoor team. The answer was faster than the response for a refund. “Yes, we will take Kenyan.” (Even though registration was long closed).
Kenyan plays soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter. He was his team’s top scorer and his old teammates transitioned to indoor soccer.
After chatting with Amie and my buddy Curtis, I was able to look at this setback without the daddy glasses. I even did some research on how to deal with getting cut from tryouts for kids and also parents.
As I went to give the boys their nightly hugs, I sat Kenny down on my lap. I told him I wanted to apologize for my irrational behavior. I explained that a ref or coach’s decision is always right and should be accepted. They might be contrary to our own but it is what it is. I explained the Michael Jordan story, him being cut from his college basketball team and other sports superstars who were deemed not good enough.
Then it was time for the real question. “Son, do you really want to be a hockey player?” He said yes. “Then take this as a blessing in disguise. Go on this A3 team and own it! Be the best player, not just a supporting cast. Learn and strengthen your weak areas. Your skating was as good as any but maybe your shot was not big enough? Work hard on that then at the end of the season let’s revisit. You are only 9 years old. There’s nothing to stress about. Go have fun!” As I planted his goodnight kiss on his forehead I added, “I love you no matter what.”
Yes, it’s just a game and the kid is a kid. Sure enough two hours later he was back to his normal self. If the kid really wants this, then this could not have worked out any better. A chance to be the big man on campus. Show the coaches what they missed. Have a good season, buddy!