I remember coming out of my son’s first season of hockey. If I had to paint a picture for you, it would be of me running out of an arena yelling, “Never Again!” I had started out that season anticipating watching him skate around with a huge smile on his face scoring goal after goal. As I’ve said before, the only thing he scored that season was Tim Horton’s because it was the only way I could get him to the rink. He hated hockey and I was sure we’d never get him out again.
His first season ended in February so we headed to our cottage for some winter fun. My nephew was there with his goalie pads, and to our surprise, my son was quick to put them on. They were pretty much up to his waist but he loved them. He had my husband take shots on him for hours and we had to coax him to come in. The truth was, he didn’t hate hockey, he just hated playing out. This kid was a goalie and we’d spent a year trying to convince him otherwise.
As Summer approached, ball hockey registration was underway. My husband asked him if he wanted us to register him and he said, “yes but he wanted to play net.” We explained that at his age he’d have to take turns and that he’d be playing out the rest of the time. He didn’t care, any chance to get between the pipes was worth it to him. As it turned out, nobody else wanted to be a goalie; go figure, he was the guy for the job.
He loved every minute of that season and it was all he talked about it. As soon as one game was over, he was outside practicing for the next game. His team did really well and as the end of the season was upon us and we were getting ready for the final game, his excitement was contagious. We arrived at the arena for the big game and he was literally bouncing up and down. When he walked out of the dressing room, I could see he looked pure white and a little scared. My heart sunk; something was wrong. Was he not feeling well? My husband was coaching so I watched as he spoke to him and kept tapping him on the head. About a minute before the game was to start, I could see he was crying. I literally felt sick for him. All I could think of was that he couldn’t go out there like that, it was too hard, too much pressure – why had we put him in this position? He walked to the net and I could see his little shoulders trembling. Within seconds my husband called the referee over and explained the situation. He had panicked and couldn’t handle the pressure of being in net for the final game. My son was crying uncontrollably so my husband rushed to help him take off his equipment and put the pads on one of his poor teammates who looked like a dear in the headlights.
Once he started watching the game, he settled down and he asked his Dad if he could go back in. They had won against this team before. This should have been fun for him but he just couldn’t handle the pressure. I was sweating, I just wanted to go and grab him and take him home. My husband kept him on the bench but he explained that it didn’t work like that. If he was going to be a goalie he needed to play when it was his turn, he needed to be ready and if he couldn’t manage that – he wasn’t cut out to play that position. I remember thinking, please say you aren’t cut out to be a goalie, please say you want to quit! He decided then and there that he’d never do that again, no matter what the game, no matter how hard, he’d stick it out. He hated watching from the bench and he realized he’d rather be in the game even if they were losing rather than watching from the sidelines.
I learned that I’d rather be anywhere else than watching my child feel that kind of pressure with tears running down his face. I also learned that I had no choice, this kid loved being a goalie and it was my job to support him. It didn’t take me long to realize that being a goalie Mom would teach me some incredible lessons. It meant that hockey equipment would always take priority over new furniture for the house. I learned there was nothing worse than seeing the disappointment in his eyes after a tough game. I learned that sometimes people in the stands feel comfortable blaming the goalie for a loss as if they are the only one on the ice…I’ve never handled that one well.
More importantly, I learned that there was nothing better than seeing his sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks through his mask after he made a great save. There was nothing better than watching him battle between the pipes because I knew he loved it. Finally, I have to say that I learned that he’d always manage the wins, the losses, the chirping and the pressure much better than I did. For all you goalie parents out there, I just want you to know that I get it. If you need to pace, stand by yourself, go to your car for a breather – do what you have to do. I’d never change those years for anything. I do have to admit, I might have changed my behaviour from behind the glass from time to time but I’d never change the experience. Being a Goalie Mom is a gift.