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Cornered Coach: Receiving a Royal Beating

 

"Avalanche!"
 
That's what it felt like Saturday, as the East York Atom Avalanche I coach in a Toronto house league got crushed 11-0. After winning the regular season title, we're now 0 and 2 in the playoff round robin.
 
But, hey!
 
At least we have an excuse for getting clobbered.
 
Saturday, you see, our two best players were both missing in action. Not because of injury, however. Instead, our top defenceman was on a snowboarding excursion, while our "franchise" forward was away at a cottage attending a buddy's birthday bash.
 
And Peter Horachek, the coach of the beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs, thought he had problems.
 
Actually, the Leafs would be better off scratching their best players; all the better to give themselves an even better shot at drafting Connor McDavid. Although, with the way alleged "stars" such as Phil Kessel are performing, the Leafs have a better shot at losing by just keeping everything status quo.
 
Minus our Avalanche stars, though, I knew I had to come up with a Herb Brooks-style "Miracle on Ice" pre-game speech.
 
"Guys," I said,  while confidently prowling the dressing room, "We can't worry about who's not here. If we all work five percent harder, we can make up for the guys who are missing. So, let's get out there and show 'em what we're made of!"
 
Sounded good in theory.
 
But the reality?
 
Something entirely different.
 
I knew we were in big trouble early in the game, as we fell behind 3-0 and the referee skated over to our bench.
 
"Coach," the ref said, "You might want to send a few of your guys down to pat your goalie because he's crying down there."
 
Yes, our little 'tender is a little tender when he's losing—a competitive guy who really takes it hard when the flood gates start to open. On the bench, meanwhile, I was dealing with another flood gate as one of our best defencemen and hardest workers, another competitive little lad, was also playing the game through tear-filled peepers.
 
"Buddy," I said, trying to calm him down, "You can't do it all yourself. If you try to score three goals on every shift, they're just going to score four against us."
 
That's a difficult concept, however, for a high-strung nine-year-old to grasp, and the goals continued to pile up against us.
 
Finally, the carnage came to an end and it was up to the coach to try and pick-up the pieces.
 
"Well guys," I said, wearing a rueful smile," We found out something very important today. It's almost impossible to bounce back from an 11-0 deficit, so we can't afford to do that again."
 
That seemed to lift the guys' spirits a bit, as there were a few chuckles around the dressing room. Nine-year-olds can be an emotional bunch, but they're also very resilient and soon the one-sided tilt was in the past and the boys were smiling again and talking about getting ready for next week's game.
 
Yes, we'll have our top players back in the line-up.
 
But even if we win, you can't beat the life lessons we received from taking a royal beating.
 
Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose... by a lot.
 
But it's how you deal with adversity, and bounce back, that really counts.

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