By Melissa Walsh
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. — Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
By Melissa Walsh
In this early part of my rookie season as a U8 hockey coach, I’m highly alert to two sets of wisdom: 1- insight into how little kids think; and 2- statements about how respected coaches think. I want to blend that wisdom and package it into how I interact with our Mite hockey players on the ice, on the bench, and in the room. I understand my role as nurturing their love for the game, which is achieved by teaching and motivating. It is the great balancing act of the youth hockey coach.
An often repeated Scotty Bowman quote is: “The better the coaching has become, the worse the game has become.” I couldn’t find the original context for this quote on the Internet. But as a mom of four hockey players, I’ll take a stab at this quote’s implication for youth hockey: Nailing the Xs and Os is far less important than evolving a coaching finesse for motivating players, bringing alive their passion for playing the game, and channeling every player’s innate will to win.
In his hockey memoir, The Game, Ken Dryden shared in detail his perspective of Scotty Bowman and his style of coaching. He said that Bowman understood his players very well, yet didn’t seek to befriend them. He had a talent for motivating players, getting all of his players to dig deeper. He earned respect and trust from the players. And, according to Dryden, Bowman did not employ systems. Rather he brought to each game “a plan” for “getting the right players on the ice.”
What does this imply for those of us coaching the game’s youngest players? If we are to coach Bowman-style, we will know our players. We will treat our child players like children. We will praise them concretely for skating hard and tackling a new skill. We won’t force systems; our practice and game plans will give them room to hone creativity and hockey sense. We will grow their love for the game.
We will find a way to develop each kid on the roster, despite the team’s vast range in skill level. How? By enhancing the will to win in every player. During every practice drill, each player should sense his or her potential as an athlete. Practices should be fun, and heads should be sweaty when the helmets come off after practice. And during every shift of every game, each player’s confidence must grow. Effective youth coaches use “mistakes” as teaching moments, not open opportunities to belittle players.
I’ve been hearing so much complaining around the rink about USA Hockey’s revised Coaching Education Program and its new rules, which are rooted in LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development) and the ADM (American Development Model). Indeed, USA Hockey’s new approach is forcing significant change and cutting into the agenda of many coaches, most who are far more seasoned in this sport than me. As a hockey mom who has seen up close the good, bad and the ugly of youth hockey, I support and applaud USA Hockey’s LTAD approach. I believe that with its effort to foster each kid’s love for hockey and chance to evolve creativity in playing hockey, USA Hockey is redeeming some of the best aspects of pond hockey and giving the game back to whom it should belong — to the kids.
As Don Cherry said, “People think common sense is common, but it’s not.” USA Hockey is forcing common sense on youth hockey coaches. Next, I hope they’ll develop an education program of common sense for our hockey parents.
By Melissa Walsh
They open their own jars, kill their own bugs, and mow their own lawns. They not only own toolboxes; they know exactly how to use the right tools to fix a leaky faucet, change a brake light, repair a vacuum cleaner, install a screen door, or assemble a backyard playscape.
Who are these guys? These guys are single moms who've manned up to lead fatherless families. They're strong. They're tough. They're mighty.
Are they scary? Sometimes, if you get in their way. Mean? If necessary. Defensive? You bet. Single moms run on adrenaline daily to go the distance to care for their families. So don't label them “needy,” and their kids “at risk.”
Okay, I had fun writing the above caricature of the super strong single mom. I can do this, because for many years I was that “guy,” that hybrid dad/mom fearlessly leading and defending her fam through life's crazy highs and lows. I was courageous and driven to raise and protect my kids and certainly wasn't looking for sympathy or thanksgiving baskets. I didn't have the time or patience for a mentoring program.
From those around me (relatives, friends, co-workers), I did crave some recognition and respect for how strong I had to be every day and regular doses of encouragement to keep going strong. From time to time, I needed a quick reminder to stay brave and stay close to God. I needed help remembering that God truly loved me and my boys and wants the best for us. I needed help in growing my faith in God's promise that I would get through this long, hard season and that my boys and I would make it through to the other side.
Being a strong single mom dramatically altered my character. During those years of manning up as a single mom, I became super strong, mostly an asset to my character, but at times a shortcoming. I became so strong that it became difficult for me to feel compassion for and with people whom I perceived as emotionally weak.
During your thrilling and harrowing single-mom adventures, allow God's strength to flow through all you do and all you say. Instead of sporting an “S” on your chest and a cape on your back, you may just want to hang a simple cross around your neck as a symbol of how you found your amazing single-mom strength.
When you have to become the rock, you eventually get out of practice being warm and soft.
Recently I admitted to a friend that I feel really awkward when I find myself in a setting where women are crying, like in a Bible study or prayer circle. I look around and find that I'm the only one in the room not crying. I think, “What's wrong with me? Should I be crying?”
The friend said, “You know, Jesus wept.” He was referring to John 11:35, when Jesus burst into tears upon hearing of his friend Lazarus' death. That got me thinking. In this passage, the Greek for “wept” can also be translated as “shed tears.” Jesus' eyes didn't just tear up; he burst into tears. He cried. He grieved with those who grieved.
You don't get any stronger than Jesus. So how do we balance super strength like Jesus' with authentic compassion and empathy for others? When it comes to loving God and others, how can we be both a rock and a soft place to land?
I think that Romans 12 tells us exactly how to be strong God's way:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what GodÊ¼s will is –his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the LordÊ¼s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for GodÊ¼s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So here are biblical guidelines for being “single mom strong”: 1- be a “living sacrifice;” 2- serve others humbly; and 3- love God and others sincerely. There it is. Romans 12 is God's prescription for being strong, including falling into the difficult role of becoming super hero (or super shero) for your kids.
During your thrilling and harrowing single-mom adventures, allow GodÊ¼s strength to flow through all you do and all you say. Instead of sporting an “S” on your chest and a cape on your back, you may just want to hang a simple cross around your neck as a symbol of how you found your amazing single-mom strength.