Tryouts Suck and Other Realities

This is a tough blog for me to write. It has been on my mind, stirring around in the back of my brain since Wednesday but I have not been able to get my thoughts from my brain to my fingertips until now. It seems every year, around hockey tryout time, there are kids and families who have bitter pills to swallow. The mood in hockey families around Richmond becomes a little somber as kids drag their gear out of storage, strap on their skates and work to make a travel hockey team. This is a tough blog to write not because my boys didn’t make their hockey teams but because other kids didn’t make the teams they felt they should have made.

Last year, we were the ones on the outside, looking in. Lucas was cut from the team of boys he had been with for two years. He was the only one who didn’t make it and the wound was deep. So, I know the row these boys have to hoe this year. I understand it and I empathize with the parents. Tryouts suck.

Last year, a whole team of boys was cut from our organization at the 13-14 year old age group. Last year, five boys who only had one year left to play for the Royals Hockey club were cut from the U18 team. They had been with our organization for 10 years or more. They had no hockey team to call home here in Richmond. Along with Lucas, these boys had to find a new place to play hockey. The cuts were brutal and the effect on our organization is felt to this day. We lost many families who will never again trust the Royals to be fair to their kids and will never come back to play for our organization.

The world of travel hockey, and I am sure other travel sports, creates tight bonds between families as we work together to juggle practice schedules, game schedules and travel schedules. Our families become a small village, always making sure all of our kids are safe and well cared for. So when cuts are made the effects are felt not just by the family whose son was cut but by all of the families who come to love and care for these kids. Tryouts suck.

But tryouts are a reality of life. Not every kid will always make the top team. Not every kid will always be selected to a team at all. As kids grow they will experience bigger and deeper cuts than not making their hockey team.

It is how we, as parents, react to our kids not making a team that will determine how they handle the stress and distress of being cut from a team or anything else. Last year when Lucas was cut I was pissed. I was told it was a three way tie between Lucas and two other kids. I was the secretary of the hockey board, pouring so much time and engergy into helping our organization and this is how I was repaid, I thought…with my kid being the one to get cut?! I think I was hurt just as much as Lucas. But I knew it would do Lucas no good for me to voice these opinions so I kept them from him. Stan was the main person who felt my wrath (as were the hockey director and vice president of hockey operations). Stan, seeing how angry I was, tried to push me to quit the board. I knew, though, that would teach Lucas the exact opposite of what I wanted him to learn. I didn’t want to teach him to run away when times get tough. I wanted him to learn how fight through adversity. I fought hard for not only Lucas but all of the other boys who were served crap sandwiches after tryouts last year. I probably could have been a little less vehement in my approach but…

Lucas handled himself with far more class and dignity than I did in the time after tryouts last year. He was the one who taught me how to rise above. As the first hockey game of the season approached Lucas said he wanted to go. He wanted to go cheer on his teammates. I took him to the rink and dropped him off. It was cowardly on my part, to drop Lucas off, but I knew Lucas was walking into arms of friends who loved him and supported him as he dealt with the disappointment of not putting on a Royals jersey. He sat on the bench with his old teammates and he opened the door for his friends as their shifts on the ice ended. I couldn’t have been more proud of Lucas and how he handled himself after tryouts last year. The reality is Lucas learned a valuable lesson in life and will land on his feet as he grows up.

Tryouts really do suck but they are necessary part of life and growing up. They are reality and sometimes reality bites. I wish tryouts had gone much differently for some of our kids this year. One, in particular, did not make the team he deserved to make, if you look at his role on teams from years’ past. He didn’t have his best tryout and because of that he was not put on the top team. He is hurt by the rejection of the evaluation committee. He is such a sweet kid and I am sorry he has to deal with the pain of rejection. I am sorry any kid has to deal with the pain of not making a team. I understand and completely empathize with what all of the families whose kids didn’t make the top team or a team at all are going through. Tryouts suck but, unfortunately, they are a reality of life.

Oh, for the love of my children…

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