A friend of mine asked me to help him out as an assistant coach. I told him that my time is limited but I would be more than willing to help out with coaching tournaments and donating some gear for his son’s team. I went out to a few practices and noticed one kid who was particularly talented. Every time he was on the ice, it seemed as if he always had the puck. In fact, this 9-year old kid achieved a significant milestone by scoring 120 goals in just over 30 games.
His mother was particularly intriguing, she always sat away from her husband who stood motionless behind the glass every game. What’s odd though was that the father of the kid would never show up to any of the tournaments. What made this even more interesting was that whenever the team was away at a tournament his mother seemed to take the drinking a bit too far.
One time she approached the coach and I, “A father from the other team said he was willing to give her 10 grand if my boy plays on his team,” she told us.
The coach rolled his eyes and told her, “First of all your son hasn’t even reached puberty, so who’s to say that your son will score 120 goals next year?”
She leaned in closer to the two of us and I noticed her chest seemed to brush up against his arm, it was obvious the effects of the alcohol were getting to her, she looked at the coach, “If it wasn’t for my son you’d lose every single game. My son’s the best player on the team, he’s the star of the team, and everyone’s looking at him. Why shouldn’t I accept the 10 grand? The money’s in my pocket, not yours.”
Perhaps as an assistant coach it wasn’t my business interfering in the conversation, however my pride took over, and that’s exactly what I did. “You have to look at the costs and benefits. Irrespective of how young your son is there are certain motives of why this man wants your son to play on his team. Perhaps he’s looking at something else rather than your son,” I told her.
I continued, “At this point in the hockey development stage it may not be your son that he’s interested in, he may be interested in other aspects of life. I grant you, if it wasn’t for your son the team would lose more games. But the truth is that in true development, it is the understanding of the game and the skills required to lift oneself in the competitive nature to not only succeed in hockey itself, but in life.”
“The choice is yours, you seem like the type of woman that wants to achieve glory for the sake of glory. Don’t think of it in terms of winning and losing. Success of a player isn’t tied to the winning and losing of a team, especially in minor hockey. When you stop and think of it, some of the best players in the world have played on awful teams, yet have accomplished feats unfathomable to the majority of individuals and have made their money by putting in work,” I stated.
“Have you ever heard of a kid that wasn’t drafted into the NHL because of playing on a losing team when he was 10 years old? The reputation of winning and losing begins in the major junior ranks, and that’s still a long time coming for your boy. Keep him happy, if he’s happy he’s motivated, and that will keep him successful and growing. It’s when the kid loses the desire and the parents try to force motivation on the kid that puts them off the rails and makes them loose cannons doing absurd thing like setting grocery stores on fire.” I told her.
I finally mentioned, “The world of the NHL is always in a state of uncertainty.”
We had a few drinks and a bite to eat and watched one of the hockey games from the tournament. Everyone calmed down by then, and we assumed all would be fine.
Tryout season began, her son was nowhere to be seen. We knew what happened, she took the bait. Only once did I see her son play against our team the following year. We won, but it was tragic seeing the kid not even registering a shot on goal. The mother sat next to the man who gave her the 10 grand, on the other hand, the kid’s father was nowhere to be found.
My friend played the right move. He continues to coach the most successful team in the league with integrity, love, and passion. He made the dominant move that night at the tournament. I’m proud to call him my friend, and I commend him for that. He is my coach.