Sunday, March 24, 2013

Life Lesson: Betting On Yourself

For the past seven months, Henry has been playing on two hockey teams.  That's twice the number of practices, twice the number of games, and twice the number of tournaments.  While sometimes Gordy and I thought we might pull our hair out in scheduling/carpooling exasperation, Henry has absolutely loved every minute of his double-the-fun season.

Henry's club team phases into a U14 league for next year, and Gordy thought this would be a natural time to segue back into a one-team existence, but Henry had other thoughts.  He had no interest in only playing on his town team and he fully expected to find a new club team to join for next season.

Henry picked two teams that he wanted to try.  Club team tryouts have been held over the last two weeks - alongside Henry's town team placements and Josie's town placements.  It's been a crazy few days -  way too much hockey and a whole lot of nerve-wracking hours at the rink.

I took Henry to the second night of the first team's trial.  I try not to watch my children's tryouts because I find myself getting nervous and anxious - two sensations that I've been working very diligently to avoid since New Year's - but I did look up from my book periodically enough to give Henry some encouragement.  The tryout went on FOREVER, at least fifteen minutes past the time when I had been told it would be over.  Henry looked exhausted when he got off the ice and he took his usual life-time to get undressed.  I couldn't tell how he had played or whether or not he was interested in the team at all.

When he did come out of the locker room, Henry was joined by the team coach who introduced himself to me and said that he wanted to offer Henry a spot on the team.

Yeah!  Right?  Well done, Henry.  

Of course, I know nothing about this team.  I don't know where/when they practice.  I don't know who this coach is or who else is on the team.... I'm not the hockey parent in this family and I plan to keep it that way.  When you are not the hockey parent, you can smile, thank the coach and say, with all honesty, "I'll tell my husband and have him get back to you.  I'm not the hockey parent."  

This simple statement buys us time to lull over the offer and for Henry to make up his mind.  Henry does not like to be put on the spot and making quick decisions is not his forte.

Within minutes of our arrival home, the coach had called Gordy, though, and the hard-sell was on.  The coach needed to know YESTERDAY whether or not Henry was going to take a spot on the team and he didn't like Gordy's answer that Henry still had one more team he planned to consider.  He reluctantly agreed to give Henry one more day to make up his mind or lose his spot on the team forever. 

I know what you are thinking:  where's the dilemma?  Henry wants to be on a club team.  Henry makes a club team.  Henry will choose to play on that club team, no?  What's the problem?  Where is the life lesson that I teased you with at the top of this post?

Here it is:  the team that offered Henry a spot is perhaps not the best team.  And the coach?  He seemed kind of pushy and angry.  And Henry really hoped to make the other team, which is a better organization and whose coach is someone Gordy knows (slightly) and respects (much-ly).

Gordy decided that it was time to call the coach of the second team - the man that he knows (slightly) -and ask if there is any way that after one night of trials, he might be able to give us an idea about Henry's status.  It is not uncommon for a coach (in these circumstances) to tell a player that they either have a shot at making the team or that they have no chance in H-E-double hockey sticks of joining the team's roster.  The second coach said he would be happy to give us an indication after the first day, but he warned Gordy that he wasn't looking for many forwards.  He suggested that another option for Henry would be to join the team as a practice player (meaning that Henry would practice with the team but not play in any of the games).

The first night of the second team's tryouts came and past.  Henry was absolutely exhausted from a solid month of non-stop, daily hockey and Gordy felt that Henry had not done his best.  Gordy said that Henry looked as tired as he felt and wasn't in the play as much as he should have been.  

I should stop now and tell you that we were disappointed.  Gordy did not want Henry to join the first team and had hoped that he would be able to call that first coach and tell him off.  Gordy had done some asking around, and he was convinced that the first team was not the best fit for Henry and besides, the pushiness of the coach rubbed Gordy the wrong way.  Gordy thought the practice player option was a good one.  Henry could still get the benefits of practicing with the better team and we would have less games to go to on weekends.  

Henry did not agree.  

Oh Lordy, did Henry not agree.

Henry wanted to be on a club team.  He wanted to be ON the team, and he wanted to play games with the team.  He agreed that the first team wasn't necessarily the right place to be, but he was worried that he wouldn't get an offer for the second team... and if that was the case, he'd rather be on the first team than on no team at all.

Is your head spinning yet?

Henry's head certainly was.

Should he take the offer and play for a lesser club team?  Should he join the better team as a practice player and never feel like a real member of the team? Time was ticking on the first team's offer and Henry was no closer to making a selection.

Gordy and I both talked to Henry about his options and we could see that the decision was nearly killing the poor boy.  There wasn't a right answer or a wrong answer and the amount of unknown in the equation was enormous.  

Gordy called Coach Team Two and asked for his opinion. Coach Two was blunt.  Henry hadn't done wonderfully, but he was still on the cusp and battling for a spot with three other candidates.  The coach said that he couldn't give Gordy an answer that night and that Henry should really come back for the second tryout and show the instructors what he had to offer.  Henry was to skate hard and put himself into every play.  Hope wasn't gone, but the chances of making the team were narrow.

Meanwhile, the first coach was emailing away and nagging Gordy almost every hour.  

Oh the agony!  Oh the hand-wringing!  What should Henry do?  

And then Gordy came through with the following zinger:  This was an important life lesson in betting on yourself.  Henry didn't want to be on that first team - if he did, he would have taken the spot and not bothered trying out for the second team.  But Henry was also feeling unconfident and unsure of his ability to make the better team.  Gordy argued that it was time for Henry to step up and fight for what he wanted.  Henry wants to be on the second club team?  Well, get out there and play your hardest.  Show them what you've got, Henry.  Believe that you can do it and then prove it to everyone else.

When you bet on yourself, sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail, but at least you faced the battle and didn't just give up.

Gordy responded to the first coach's email and told him we needed another day and that if that was a problem, we understood.  He, very grudgingly, allowed Henry a bonus day.

And so we arrived at the second night of the second team's tryouts.  And guess who got the honor of accompanying Henry to the event?  Yep - me.  Lucky, nervous-stomach, tryout-hating me.  I was doomed to break my New Year's Resolution by the end of the night.

  I may not be the hockey parent, but I did my best to give Henry a pep talk in the car on the way to the rink.  My words were filled with inspiration and encouragement.... and Henry didn't hear a single word since he had his headphones on for the entire ride.  Sigh.

I didn't watch the trial.  I sat and read a book and when my nerves got the best of me, I watched an old episode of "The Office" on my ipad.  Two parents that I knew told me that they thought Henry had played well, but when Henry came out of the locker room, he told me that he hadn't handled the puck as much as he thought he should have and he second-guessed a lot of his on-ice decisions.

I felt sad for Henry.  I never played any sports growing up, but I played the violin and I endured many similar tryouts over the years.  I know what it feels like to not make a team or to wish that you had done something differently when the judge was watching (or listening, in my case).  But I also know that at some point, you have to relinquish control and so that is what Henry and I talked about on the way home.  He worked hard and did what he could.  The rest was out of his hands.  What was meant to be was meant to be.  

We arrived home after 9 o'clock and once again, within minutes, the phone rang.  

It was Team Two Coach and he offered a spot on his team to Henry.

Henry's bet paid off.  

And Gordy got the joy of writing to the first coach (Mr. Hard-Sell) and telling him that Henry had accepted a position on another team.  It was a real win-win situation.

I am so proud of Henry.  I'm proud that he worked so hard.  I'm proud that he believed in himself and I'm proud that his hard work paid off.

I'm also proud that he really thought the entire thing through and that he was willing to talk to us about what he wanted and what worried him.  It was a hard two weeks, but with the best possible outcome.  

Well done, Henry!  Life Lesson Learned.


Angie said...

I seriously had my fingers crossed while reading this hoping he got a spot! Way to go Henry :)

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Way to go Henry!! This story reads like that of a college senior trying to decide which pro team to play on. :-) I'm happy for Henry that the outcome was good, but it is sad to me that so much pressure is put on kids when it comes to sports. I played sports when I was younger and it just seemed easier then. (Maybe that's just how I remember it - or maybe I'm just old!) Anyway, glad it worked out and I'm sure Henry will do great!

Martha said...

My mother-in-law said the same thing, Angie! I'm glad that I was able to hook you in!

Martha said...

Lisa - I agree! Sporting has gotten out of control but maybe it's always been that way. I never played any sports growing up and I was pretty oblivious to athletic competition. I'm glad things worked out for Henry, too.

Guymons said...

Great writing! And way to go Henry. And even though our kids sports are different I could relate to SO much of Henry's experience that you just described. ESPECIALLY the "pep talk" in the car with the head phones on!!!!! HAHA!!!

I may have blogged about this, but Bradley has a big decision to make next year. High school basketball and soccer are the same season. He will have to choose. For basketball there are freshman, JV, and Varsity teams, each taking 10-15 players. For soccer, there is just varsity, they usually take 2 or 3 freshmen. He will probably make the freshman basketball team, just because there are so many openings (and he's athletic). He may make the soccer team, it's more of a risk. Now, another factor comes into the choice. Which school to go to. Melanee and William went to Pleasant Valley. Chico High is the school in our boundaries. The kids from his jr high will go to PV. PV is also close to where the kids from our church go to early morning seminary. PV also has less gangs. Anyway, Bradley wants to go to Chico High. Chico High is where his league soccer coach coaches. The last thing that coach said to him when the season was over was "You are a waste of talent". Bradley doesnt really want to play for that guy much. And, PV has TWELVE seniors this year, so they will probably take more than 2-3 freshmen next year. But, Chico has lost every game, and Bradley is good, so I'm sure he would make that team if he picks Chico. And, less junior high basketball players will go to Chico High, so there's a better chance of him making basketball at Chico High. Guess he's going to have to gamble on his choice, many choices, so many factors.

Martha said...

Diane - Thanks! These decisions are so stressful, aren't they? Henry will have to make another decision next year, too. His school doesn't have a hockey team and he can stay in our town program but a) it's only a partial year team and b) most kids will play on the High School team and therefore won't play on the town team. I don't know what Henry will end up doing. Can't wait to find out!

Hopefully Bradley will have an easier time with his decision / options!

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