Hockey in Canada is BIG (case ya didn’t know). This week THE HOMESTEAD was all abuzz as my oldest niece on Sunday won Gold at the Women’s Hockey Association Provincials’. Dang, it’s for me beyond words and I’m so incredibly proud.
With stick in hand, this young girl defends the line for her team. Watchful, patient and determined, she is a true team player. For her, it’s truly all for one and one for all. My younger niece plays as well, and she too is a defender, except she is the goalie of her team and therefore defends the net.
Last summer when I was living at the Homestead, the question had come up on whether or not the oldest should try out for the competitive team in the fall, or stick with the House League group she’d played with the last 2 years. Oh, she hummed and hah’d about it all last year – one of the concerns was her friends she’d played with in years past. It’s tough to strike out and go your own way, and in the process have to make new friends. It’s a little scary – god don’t I know it.
She was growing up. For the first time, she had to choose between the companionship she’d grown used to or to skate out of that comfort zone and push towards an unknown. She went with the unknown, and I am so incredibly proud of her for that.
The unknown can be a scary place, and full of uncertainty, and possible regret. YET, it is the only path that leads one towards the happiness that comes with not merely accomplishment, but personal success.
The day she was to play the gold medal game I was at work, and my sister had been keeping me informed via text. When I could again check my phone, I was standing out having a cig. Oh dear, I had to block those tears that wanted so much to fall. I had to bite my lip from screaming YES!!!! I had to try to not tell every human I encountered…for fear of being thought nutty.
During the SOCHI 2014 Olympics, a photo came thru my newsfeed that sums it all up – it was a photo of the Captain of the Men’s Hockey Team, and his advice for THEIR Gold medal game – “PLAY LIKE A GIRL”. The Women had just won GOLD and had played one heck of an AWESOME game.
This game could one day actually win my niece a scholarship if she chooses to go to College/University. That is still a few years away, but even if she may never win Olympic Gold, and even if it may not BE her career, it can be the catalyst that helps her to find her own success.
That is not the only aspect of this, or rather, not the only aspect that is important. Professional success, certainly, but also there is a large element of personal success that comes with this Hockey thang.
This sport requires a dedication from not just yourself, but from those around you as well. It means your family has to be involved, and to a degree, you find yourself sometimes in a position where so many others are counting on you. Your teammates count on you. But more than that, your dedication to the team is the glue that holds each of you to a higher order.
I could wax eloquently on this, yet, at the core is the simple fact that a group of girls went out and played with everything they had, and at the end of the game, their efforts were rewarded with a GOLD medal. Their spirit, their drive, their determination, all these and more strengthened their success.
Working together, and not just being a team, but focusing as one on a small disk skimming across an icy surface. Defending the line, protecting a net, and passing back and forth this disk, as they as a group push together towards one goal, then perhaps another. There is that moment of heartbreak when your opponents break through your tightly held line and place their own goal within your net. OR, through round after round, you equalize and neither of you is able to pass through the others tightly held line. In Hockey, these are known as ‘periods’, with each comes a shifting of ends. So back and forth, back and forth, the pendulum of strength swings. You defend, then you push through, you defend, and back you go again…skating around a rink of white.
About a month ago my sister came out picked me up and took me to one of my oldest nieces games. I was stunned, this young girl I’d seen not that long before had somehow changed. She is on the brink of that time between – between being a child, and being an adult. Her focus is changing, and through that lens of time we gain as we grow older, I can see a glimpse of who she will become.
Walking home last night from the bus after work, I thought about what words of wisdom I would love to give her about this time of her young life. Yet, it hit me, that the reality is she probably has more to teach me, then I her. My oldest niece and I have a lot in common, as she has the same streak of quiet, creative introversion that I have. I see many similarities, yet, she is growing up and I see how her Hockey has changed her – is changing her.
So, instead, I decided that perhaps I would look through the Red Duo-Tang and see what words of wisdom Mom had for me. My nieces Grandma J was a wise woman, and would have been BURSTING with pride at her two beautiful granddaughters – so it is her words to me I turn.
[from THE RED DUO-TANG – August 19th, 1977]
You’re growing up so quickly sometimes I wish I could hold you back a bit, but I know that’s not possible. I was in such a hurry to grow up too, but being a child is the best time of a person’s life and no one realizes it until they’re an adult.