Friday, December 04, 2009

Ready For The Next Shift

What is with me at the moment? I am getting quite a lot of 'life moments' whilst watching my boys play ice hockey. There is something about the discipline, communication and hard work which I believe is a healthy life lesson.

Here is another one.

A hockey team consists of 15 players or more, plus two netminders. These players are typically divided into three 'lines'. These lines normally work together as a team in their own right. Sometimes whole lines are 'swapped' in a match and sometimes individuals are swapped to try and match up opponent players. You probably get the picture - your first line plays against their first line, your second against their second, and so on. These are called 'shifts'.

However, sometimes this gets mixed up. Teams try and out-fox their opponents by swapping players randomly, or pulling a player off and then putting them back on almost immediately. It keeps the opposition guessing.

When you play hockey, you need a strong mental attitude. Why? Because you could be 'swapped' on and a few seconds later, you could be 'swapped' off again.

It could be quite disheartening being swapped almost immediately, which is why players are taught to always think about 'the next shift'. No matter how long the last shift was or what happened in it, you always put your mind to the next shift. You might have scored. You might have been caught offside and thus stopped the game and been swapped. It doesn't matter. You always get yourself ready to 'go again' and play hard.

In the Bible, one of my favourite Authors (Paul) talks about "forgetting what is behind and pressing on towards the goal". I like to think that life experiences and life-seasons are like 'shifts'. They could be very short or long, but what is important is that we press on. We look forward. We take the experience and things learnt from the last shift into the new one.

Whatever your walk is at the moment, why not take time to think about the next 'shift' and not the one you have just been in.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Man Of The Match

Over the last weekend, both of our boys played hockey (ice) on different days in different towns. One of them won MOTM and one didn’t. Both worked equally hard and one probably worked a bit harder than the other one. Who do you think won MOTM?

Actually, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they did their best and that their Dad – that would be me – was hugely proud of them.

I have been reading book-snippets recently that have been through the eyes of grown men reflecting on the times their Dad came to see them play their favourite sport. All of them write about how they sometimes won awards, sometimes played badly, sometimes messed up and sometimes felt like the best player on the planet.

Each of them also writes about how their Dad was always there for them.

Always cheering them on.

Always the loudest.

Always proud.


What really struck me was how the love and pride of their Dad – no matter what the outcome - struck a deep, resonate chord with them in later life. MOTM awards come and go. Accolades come and go. Fitness, skill and desire come and go. The most important thing by far was the fact their Dad was ‘there’ for them. Maybe not always physically, but ever present.

The cheers from the previous match still echoed in the next game. The understated, humble congratulation after winning MOTM still ran deep. The hugs and tears and fish & chips after working really hard but losing still brought comfort and confidence. In later life, each and everyone one of those men valued the love and pride of their Dad far more than any award or outcome.

I want to be one of those Dads. I want to be the Dad that is always there, whether that be physically or in their hearts. In life, awards will come and go; accolades will come and go; challenges will come and go. They might win MOTM ten games in a row. What is important is that I am still proud of them when they don’t win it in the eleventh game.

When my sons are grown men, no matter what happens in life, the echoes of my love and pride will still be what they hear in the air.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learning To Let Go

As some of you will know, my two boys place hockey. Not of the field type, but on ice and on courts (roller). They love it and are doing really well at it.

Our eldest son started at secondary school this term and as part of that process, my wife and I needed to let go a little more. We needed to let him find his own way to school (once we had shown him how to get there, by the way). We needed to let him decide on his own after-school clubs. His own dinners. His own time-planning for being somewhere at the right time. All of it involved letting go just a little bit more.

I have recently been asked to sit in on a couple of meetings with his hockey coaches. He has one for ice, and one for roller. Both of the conversations were really encouraging. I was proud of what they had to say and of my son's response. But as I sat their in silence, I felt like I was letting go a little bit more.... again. As a Dad, I chat with my kids all of the time, particularly about things on their heart, and there he was talking to someone else about how he felt.

As the coaches inputted into him and gave him advice, I found myself thinking, "Hang on, I should be saying those things, not them". I then had to check myself (excuse the pun for any hockey friends). This was about letting go. This was about dropping my pride.

There are people now inputting him him who know far more about a given subject matter than I do. He is learning from them and applying what they say. Sometimes, I will see them chatting with him and giving him instructions which he then discusses with them and applies. When I ask him what was said, he just says "Nothing. It's not important".

And he's right.... it's not. Why is it important to me? I know a bit about hockey, but not as much as he does. What is important is that I let go. Slowly but surely, carefully and with sensitivity. But that doesn't mean I lose him. Far from it. It means I get a son in whom I am proud and with whom I am 'well pleased'.

If I let go I get something better back. I love him and will always be there for him (and my other son), but as he grows older and becomes his own man, I have to trust that he makes the right choices. I have to trust that he listens to his coaches, whether in sport or life, and applies what they have said.

I have to learn to let go.