Let’s talk about not going to all these hockey tournaments.
Hockey is just getting underway. You check your email frequently this time of year as there is an avalanche of information. And there it is, the welcome letter from the team coach.
Philosophy: It’s an upbeat, newsy email welcoming your child to the new season and their new team. No doubt the email contains a couple of lines about his or her coaching philosophy and plans for the coming season, rooted in developing hockey stills and having fun. So far so good.
The schedule: The coach is telling you where to be and when to be there and reminds everyone how to check for themselves where to be and when to be there. No need to panic; you got this!
Let’s get down to business: The coach is asking for some help (volunteers) and some money (team fees). Things are getting serious now and you haven’t even been on a date (the team icebreaker party) though this is scheduled for next week! If you make eye contact with the coach or manager, you’re hired!
Tournaments: On top of the practices and league games, the coach is now telling all the parents about the tournaments that are planned for the coming season and suddenly you’re getting a little clammy. Looks like the team is committed to four of them (maybe three, maybe six; this all depends on the level of hockey and the coach). Your heart drops.
The away-tournament is often hyped up as the supreme hockey experience. For many young players, it is the supreme hockey experience. But for some, these tournaments, especially the away-tournaments, are an economic and logistical hardship for many families.
The cost of a tournament registration is built into the team budget. You’ve already paid for a portion of that through your team fees but now there is a hotel, gas, restaurant meals and unexpected emergencies (like your child forgot their hockey stick and you’re faced with purchasing a new one). Taking time off work to attend a tournament (which almost always starts on a Friday) can mean lost income. The driving, especially night driving in the winter, can be extremely unpleasant, stressful and occasionally downright dangerous. And finally, if you have more than one child, there is always the added challenge of arranging childcare and carpooling for the home team. For single hockey moms? I won’t even begin to try to preach.
But maybe I can preach just a little. At one point in my life as a hockey mom, I navigated a hockey season with fourteen hockey tournaments for our three kids over a seven-month hockey season. Now those days are gone, with only one left in minor hockey, but I do want to advocate for the novice hockey mom who says ‘no’ to some hockey tournament participation. If you’re new to the hockey mom thing, you have some options that can save you time and money or both.
You can arrange for another family to take your child at a fraction of the cost. Doing so is emotionally difficult when they’re young but gets increasingly easier for everyone as the kids mature. (In fact, anyone want to take my daughter to Huntsville in January??)
You can decide not to participate this time around. There will be other opportunities, I guarantee it. Your coach can generally arrange for a pick-up or affiliate player from another team relatively easily. It happens all the time.
You can also have a say in the budgeting process of the team. Six tournaments, really? How about five, leaving more money in the budget for a pizza dinner after a home game? Four tournaments, really? How about three?
Raising a hockey player is a tough job. Sometimes saying ‘no’ is a tough card to play. Sometimes saying ‘yes’ isn’t even a card on the table.
Three cheers for all the hockey moms – especially the ones who know their limits.
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