Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

why my husband quit coaching

Someone recently reminded me about this piece originally posted in 2016 on a site that has since been removed. I felt compelled to post it again because I want to enable coaches to seek and provide for one another the resources needed to keep good coaches in the game. It helps me to know that what I do as a high school coach is actually really hard. For any high school coach struggling with the challenges of coaching high school athletes and their families, I just want you to know you are not alone.

 Coaching high school teams is hard…possibly the hardest kind of coaching there is. I do believe it is possible to enjoy the journey, however, and I sincerely hope more and more high school coaches begin to believe that too.

Several years ago, my kids and I were saying our goodbyes to my husband in the parking lot of a youth hockey arena. My son, who was probably nine at the time, hugged his suit-and-tie-clad dad, patted him on the back and said, “Hey dad, say hi to your girlfriend for me!” My husband and I laughed as he then walked over to me for a goodbye hug and kiss.

More than anything, I wish I had had a camera to capture the dismayed look of the couple who had come out of their car right when we were saying our goodbyes. They looked so confused. They obviously didn’t know the truth of our situation and I wish I had been able to explain that it was a goodbye that made perfectly good sense to us.

My husband has had a mistress since well before I met him. Her name is HOCKEY. She is a seductress and apparently capable of lifelong relationship. Not having known her as a child, I have spent much of my adult life trying to understand her.

It didn’t take me long to figure out she’s quite a drama queen. She evokes such passion from the people who love her. I observed often how passionate my husband was about the sport that so fully defined who he is. I began to note the power she had over him when the only times during the winter months when he shaved, cut his hair, and got dressed up in a coat and tie were in direct correlation to the time he spent at the rink. It’s true she has made her way into our marriage bed too…on the heels of a tough loss or on especially emotional outings.

His love affair started when he was a young boy. She would entice him from a frosted window when the city water trucks would flood the neighborhood rink for their winter tryst. She made him feel so good about himself as he slid to an identity in and out of organized meetings. Passion grew with him and when he began to have a lot of success and recognition for his abilities as a teen and into early adulthood, her hook was set.

They did break up for a while- when the course of their relationship was tested with the arrival of injuries and a new coaching staff in college. For the first time in his life, he was told what sort of relationship he was going to have with hockey, and it was from the sideline. This experience was possibly one of the most painful of his life.

That was when he and I met.

You would think I had power enough to help him to forget his first love, and for a few years I managed to be enough. I could tell that he was like the circle in Shel Silverstein’s book The Missing Piece and he was rolling around the world looking for something to make him feel complete again.

I take blame for the rekindling of his relationship with hockey. I felt somewhat obligated to help him pursue love that had left a gaping hole in his life…it’s what spouses do, right? I honestly didn’t know what a decision like that was going to mean for my life. She has changed everything.

I became the great enabler. I packed boxes and moved small children several times, I single-mothered most Friday and Saturday nights or trekked the three kids out in the snow and ice to watch him pursue his passion. I then became the enabler for the kids too as they showed interest in getting to know her. They’ve been lured into her sticky web and they each navigate a path of childhood that includes relationship with her. I helped make that happen.

Recently, something quite drastic has happened to his love for this lifelong mistress. I don’t know if he has outgrown her or if he struggles with the way other people have tarnished her in his eyes, but the glow has nearly vanished.

He took a head high school coaching job three years ago, after spending the majority of his coaching career at the college level. Probably from day one at the high school level, his passion for the game has dwindled. I’ve worked hard to support him through some of the harder discoveries he has made over the last three years, because that’s what spouses do, right?  Here are some of the things I’ve observed:

  • Most high schoolers don’t yet have a full-fledged passion for hockey (or for anything really). They are growing into the passions they will follow and it takes patience to wait for those passions to emerge.
  • My husband’s college coach demeanor on the bench was quite often misinterpreted as indifference. What people didn’t realize is he has spent a lifetime learning to control his emotions and no one will ever really know how much he truly cares about the kids and the game.
  • It is heavy to carry the weight of responsibility for the parents of teenagers who have ideas about how passion should be taught and fostered. Each person requires something unique. My introverted husband is not equipped to navigate that minefield.
  • He hasn’t enjoyed the 30 varied opinions about who hockey is, how hockey should be loved, or whether hockey becomes a passion for the young men on his team.

I’ve thought a lot about why his passion tanked like it did and one thought I had is that, likely, as a college coach there was no need to navigate relationships like this, because college men who play hockey have firmly established that they are sincerely passionate about hockey. Those who make it to play in college have a passion and commitment that my husband recognizes, and when they gather in the locker room they can see in each other’s eyes a kindred spirit.

If it is time for my husband and hockey to have a final break up, I’m okay with that. She’s done her work to mold and shape a large portion of our family phase of life.  I can see in my husband he is ready to put his energy into other things, like the relationships with all the children in our home. He acknowledges what I do, that their time here is coming to a close, and I am so glad he doesn’t want to miss it. He is also expanding responsibilities for his job and he is at the point in his life where he has to choose how to best expend his energy.

Hockey has served him well. She’s served all of us well, and for one or more of my kids she may remain an important part of skating through life. She can be a fantastic vehicle of connection, and a catalyst to incredible personal growth. I don’t hold any grudges against her.

I know my husband had hoped he would have had a chance to take their relationship to even another level, but he is fully grateful for the gifts she has granted. She brought us together, she has been an integral member of our family, she has been the reason we’ve met so many wonderful people, and she is the reason we live in a place we love with a lifestyle we adore. That’s enough for him.

There will be people who don’t fully understand this good-bye, because they don’t know how much more there is to the story. Just know, it makes perfectly good sense to us.

For the record, my husband still coaches our daughter a couple times a week at the goalie practices for her high school team. 

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2018                                     www.meaganfrank.com

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My daughter and I leave tomorrow morning for a hockey trip to Duluth. The girls will be building friendships, learning about themselves as athletes and as teammates, and playing some good hockey. The parents will be partying.

I am willing to roll our kids from rink to rink, from town to town because I want them to experience the ups, the downs, the heartbreak, and the joy of competing in sports. I know it will build them.

I worry it is crushing me.

As a sports parent, I am continually tested at a greater degree than I ever was as an athlete. Every outing, every out-of-town trip, and with every athlete in our house, I feel it is my role to process and help kids process the drama that unfolds on the way to the rink, at the rink (where I am too aware of the secondary drama unfolding in the space around me in the stands), and then on the way home from the rink where I need to be a safe sounding board for our kids.
It is much more emotionally draining for me as the parent.

As an athlete, when I stepped onto a soccer field or a basketball court it was my refuge from the stifling drama of my life. Sometimes I think my mom wanted to protect us from said drama, and the safest place she could think to put us was on a team. I suppose it worked generally. It was only occasionally I noticed the frustrated body language of people on the periphery. Or sometimes, at a stoppage of play, I could hear yelling that never really seemed to concern me. That is, of course, unless the yelling was the frustrated and raging voice of my father. He was never raging at me, but that damned offsides rule in soccer, or every ridiculous foul called by a basketball ref, were enough to awake his inner demons. I heard him then.

It was always with my dad that the drama of my life collided with my sports’ world. I suppose I am more sensitive to my role as sports parent because of that. My dad and sports were an interesting combination. My dad and sports…and alcohol… were a catastrophic mix.

As a kid I needed to ignore the scary moments. I needed to pretend I didn’t see my dad’s hands shaking from withdrawal as he sketched out a basketball play for my team. I needed to brush off the way I felt when at a lunch stop on the way home from an out-of-town game he “disappeared” for twenty minutes and then when my teammates and I went to get in the car for the long trip home we found the remaining two bottles from the newly purchased six-pack. We held hands praying the entire way home. I had to continually remind myself it wasn’t my problem when my dad would be thrown out of games for yelling at refs. I had to quietly internalize the pain of his visit to my hospital bed after I was injured. That was the night I was literally pinned to the bed and forced to endure what felt like an hour of his alcohol-drenched breath.

As an adult, I want to be infinitely better than he was as an athlete-turned-sports’ parent, and I sometimes battle with all it is taking from me to do that.

I can’t enjoy the hotel drinking games. Unless I intimately know and trust the other parents with whom I travel, the entire weekend is an exercise in exhaustion. There are times I’ll drink with the team parents, but there have been other times I have holed myself up in my room, thankful I had a little one in tow for an excuse. I don’t have an excuse this weekend, and I fear I’m nearing a point where I don’t have the energy to drink socially either. Some teams are rostered with parents who have literally made drinking their new sport, and when it is a group I don’t know well, it is tiresome to find a comfortable place to hang.

Sometimes I wish there were a rule about the number of drinks a sports’ parent were allowed to consume.

In two weeks I am going on a three-day school trip with our middle daughter. At the chaperone meeting last night we were asked to sign a waiver promising we would not bring alcohol or drugs to the sleepover camp. “It is an educational trip with children present. It is, of course, our expectation there will be no alcohol consumed.”

Why are sports trips different? Are they not “educational trips with children present”?

Beer-filled coolers are as commonplace as player bags and sticks when traveling for an out-of-town trip. Drinking is as much a part of youth hockey as inconsistent reffing. I’m just not sure what all of that means for me, and what the best parenting decisions might be.

What do you think? Is it totally cool alcohol is as much a part of youth sports as it is? Should anything change about the culture of youth sports and drinking?

 

Learn more about Meagan and her current project, Choosing to Grow For the Sport of It:  Because All Kids Matter, at her website http://www.meaganfrank.com

 

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Copyright 2013           Meagan Frank                         Choosing to Grow

 

 

Coach Steve Wills, Woodbury Hockey Peewee B2 Royal Head Coach

The story I am about to tell you is not a story you will find in national media. It’s not the kind of story that gets attention from the loudest tv or radio hosts. This is the kind of quiet story that reminds me why I’m glad our kids play team sports.  It’s why we encourage them to fight through those tougher moments, and it gives us all hope that it won’t take much to make youth sports exactly what all our kids need.

On January 15, 2012, two Peewee B2 teams faced off for third place of a tournament in Hermantown, Minnesota. The teams represented Woodbury (a bustling suburb of the twin cities-with over 62,000 residents) and Brainerd (a small northern Minnesota town- population 13,590)

Anyone who has watched much hockey history in Minnesota, knows that there is often no love lost between the city teams and the teams from up north. What happened in Hermantown should be a reminder to all of us that doing the right thing is easier than we think.

The story started even before the two teams took the ice. Just after dryland warm-up, and as the boys headed into their locker room to get ready, Coach Steve Wills, first-year head coach of the Woodbury squad, noticed a lone gentleman sitting in the stands.

Wills could see that the 74-year-old man was wearing a hat with military insignia, but he couldn’t read the specifics. James A. Hodge, a third class petty officer from the USS Chivo from 1955-1958, was wearing the 50th anniversary hat for his three years of service aboard a naval submarine.

Wills thought to himself, “I cannot just walk by this guy” without doing something. So, he followed the boys into the locker room and then asked them, “Hey guys, did anyone notice that gentleman sitting in the stands?”

A couple of the boys nodded that they had, but they hadn’t noticed what their coach had.

Steven Tharalson remembers, “Coach Wills told us there was a veteran out there and we should all go up and thank him and shake his hand.”

So they did.

The boys filed back out of the room, one by one, and headed over toward Mr. Hodge.

As they lined up thanking him, and shaking his hand, an idea popped into the head of one of the boys.

Max Gates, an older player on the team, shook the man’s hand and then stood waiting for his teammates.  He thought it would be nice to salute him too.

“I just thought it would be kinda cool,” Max said.

So with the confidence that comes when a team agrees to do something as a group, the boys all turned and saluted the gentleman for his service.

Woodbury Peewee B2 Royal

Coaches from left– Jim Hanson, Jeff Heinrich, Steve Wills and Brian Nerison
Standing players from left– Tanner Nerison, Nathan Julius, Andrew Pape, Jared Hanke, Steven Tharalson
Kneeling players from left- Logan Davis, Justin Hanson, David Heinrich, Thomas Young, Jayce Schorn-Pedro, Brody Wills, Alex Samuelson
Laying from left- Chase Wills and Max Gates
*not pictured: Sean Wood

When asked why it wasn’t hard to pay tribute to a stranger, Alex Samuelson said, “It’s really nice that man served and fought for our freedom.”

The seemingly small moment of gratitude and honor was a private one among the players and Mr. Hodge, but thankfully it didn’t stay that way.

What the boys could not have known, and what Coach Wills didn’t know either, was that Mr. Hodge was not only the grandfather of a player on the Brainerd team…he was also the father of the opposing head coach.

The story could have been that Coach Hodge learned of the tribute and sent a letter of gratitude, but there was something more to this story. There was that game to play, after all.

Tournament games for a trophy are too often the stage for less than desirable behavior from players, coaches and/or parents.

What Coach Hodge noticed was that this game felt different. There was really something special about this Woodbury team.

Teaching instruction before a drill

“I was listening to their coach, and it was all positive. He pushed them, but the way those kids responded to him… they played so hard the whole game,” Hodge said. He was impressed by the effort of the Woodbury boys, by the class they showed playing the game, and he appreciated the personality of the opposing bench.

“Teams take on the personality of their coach,” he explained, and it was refreshing to see such a vivid example of sportsmanship.

The Brainerd team won the game 4-0, but Coach Hodge admits that they would not win every contest against that Woodbury team.

Unknowingly, the Woodbury boys were going to have a chance to shake hands with another member of the Hodge family… while going through the handshake line.

“Every boy made eye contact with me, and told me good game,” said Hodge. He was impressed too, by the fact that the Woodbury boys took a respectful knee and clapped for the Brainerd team while they received their awards. There is an unwritten rule that such sportsmanship should exist, but, too often, teams forget to be that respectful of their opponents.

It was only after the game that Coach Hodge learned about the pre-game tribute to his father, and he just knew he had to do something to point out the positive things going on for the Woodbury Peewee B2 team.

“We (coaches) work really hard to win, but all the other things we do are more important,” Hodge said.

Coach Hodge sent out letters to local media outlets, and the link to his original letter is here.

A scene like this does not just happen. It is a combination of the right coaches, the right players, and the right kind of guiding parents who all come together at the right place… at the right time.

It took the extra effort of Coach Wills to pay tribute to a military vet he didn’t know.  It took extra effort for the son of that man, Coach Hodge, to then pay tribute to the team that behaved the way teams should behave. Both of these men go above and beyond the x’s and o’s.

Coach Hodge told me he coaches, “to influence kids to be better kids.” And Coach Wills echoed that sentiment almost exactly when he said, “I just enjoy finding out what makes these kids tick and trying to make them better young men; not just better hockey players.”

It was a chance collision of these two good coaches that made this story possible.

After I read the letter,  I too was compelled to do something in honor of all that is right about these teams. I had a chance to observe a recent practice, and afterward the boys were gracious enough to answer some of my questions. I asked them what makes Coach Wills a good coach.

Brody Wills, one of Coach Wills’ sons, told me, “He knows what each one of us can do and he expects from us all that we can do.”

Other answers varied, like, “He teaches us.” “We have fun.” “He doesn’t yell.” “He’s really nice.” and “He knows what to talk about.” But what I heard several times can be summed up in what Logan Davis said. “When we mess up a drill,” he told me, ” he teaches us and encourages us to get it right.”

It is, after all, about doing things right. Coach Wills shared with me the mantra he has for his boys. He regularly instructs them to, “do the next right thing.” It is completely apparent that Coach Wills doesn’t just coach that…he lives it.

Meagan Frank is a freelance writer and author living in Woodbury, MN. She is currently working on a book about youth sports, and you can learn more about her and the book project at her website:  www.meaganfrank.com.

Copyright 2012    Choosing to Grow                              Meagan Frank

 

Kids cannot help being bigger...but they can be discouraged from being goons.

 

I eavesdrop in ice hockey rinks, in sports bars, and I listen in on conversations that happen in the grocery line. I lurk in chat rooms and listen to radio programs that deal with the hottest issues having to do with sports.

I’m listening for the bigger picture. The one that portrays some sort of societal commentary that plays out in the microcosm of a game.

In the wake of Jack Jablonski’s injury, (and most certainly before the injury too) I would hear things like…”Hockey is for goons.” and “Violence in sport is what people pay to see,” and you can’t play hockey without fighting…or checking,” and “it’s too bad my kid probably won’t be able to play hockey by the time he is fourteen…he won’t be big enough to check well.”

What I hear in these comments is that youth sports mimic professional sports too closely. People may be willing to pay for violence (like an “R”-rated movie) but until kids are old enough to even attend those violent movies, they should not be allowed to play a game in such a violent way. Fourteen is too young to be excluded from a kids game…that is unless it’s not intended to be a kids’ game anyway.

I know there are some hockey purists out there who think like I do, and who believe that hockey can absolutely exist without fighting, even at the NHL-level. If anything has saved my marriage to my college-hockey-coaching husband it is that he and I have agreed to disagree about our philosophies on this subject.

Checking is an entirely different ball of wax, however. Legal checking is absolutely a part of the game of hockey. It is a form of physical contact that moves the game to another level of intensity and strategy, and it is as necessary as tackling is to football. It needs to be taught well and implemented efficiently.

Hal Tearse, the Coach in Chief of Minnesota Hockey, explains it beautifully in the recent enewsletter sent to all Minnesota hockey families. He distinguishes between a “hit” and a “check”. Hitting is for intimidation…momentum shifting…and taking good players not only off the puck, but sometimes out of the game. My addition…(if they are not physically hurt in a hit, the hits are an attempt to take them out mentally)

Intimidation works, and I can hear the “Hockey players are goons” proponents nodding their heads in adamant agreement.

Hockey has goons, but the declaration that all hockey players are goons is incredibly misinformed. The goons (at least in the NHL) are often there to protect the smaller, more skilled players, and there has yet to be a shift in hockey culture to deem them unnecessary. That is the pros though.

There are goons in every sport, however, and they are often the biggest, strongest and meanest among us.  Goons in football stand over the sacked quarterback, or the returning punt-returner, that they have just leveled, and get cheered for delivering blows with incredible brute force.

Maybe the problem is not the goons, but rather the fans who cheer for them. The money we throw at them to be big and strong and brutal is enough to motivate anyone to foster that in the kids with goon potential.

Young athletes watch what the rest of us watch, and they hear what the rest of us hear. Goons are valued. What else explains a high school basketball player throwing his weight around (literally) in one of the most brutal displays of goonism (totally made up word) I’ve ever seen.

The problem is that our culture tolerates goons, and hockey seems to have a system in place that breeds them early and reinforces their behavior too regularly.

So, what do we do about it? Here is my never-having-played-hockey-but-watched-a-million-games idea:

Let kids check the kids their own size.

Contact sports should be separated by weight…until everyone has grown up enough to decide to put themselves in the mix with the big boys. Football has heavy-weight and light-weight teams in middle-school and wrestlers are brilliant enough to know that wrestling in a weight class is the safest and fairest way for wrestlers to compete.

So why isn’t there a weight-class distinction for checking hockey players? At least while the kids are going through maturation and at the ages when puberty is so varied among them.

As you might have guessed, my disclaimer about this proposal is due in large part to the fact that our oldest hockey player, an 11-year-old boy, is one who will NEVER be a goon. Not only is that behavior not tolerated in our house, but he has also been straining on the scale for over six months now to finally weigh in at 80 pounds, (and that was with his wet towel tied around his waist!)

I know he’s worried about what checking is going to mean for him, when it starts in a year-and-a-half.  (He was  relieved when the checking age was moved to the next level).

He doesn’t want to say he is afraid, but he has collided with bigger players, and he knows it doesn’t feel great. There is a line I tread as a mother of a small hockey player. I tell him there is value in being tough, and there is value in being smart enough to stay out of the way. The problem with hockey, is that there are instances, when it doesn’t matter if you are tough and smart…one-hundred pounds makes a big difference when two bodies collide. (Especially if the 100-extra-pounds are hell bent on taking you out)

I think by the time boys turn into men and they know what sacrifices they are making by setting themselves out there to physically collide with another (bigger) player, they are consciously choosing to put themselves in harm’s way. My issue with the current state of checking, and the cultural support of goonism, is that the sport my kids love isn’t safe long enough to protect them from the goons among us.

My kids love to skate…they love the workout that hockey provides for them…and just because they are not big enough to deliver big blows yet, they shouldn’t be closing in on a time to make a decision about whether the game is worth the risk they take playing it.

Copyright 2012  Choosing to Grow

If you want to learn more about Meagan, or her current For the Sport of It book project, visit her at her website:  www.meaganfrank.com.

Marsha Mayes, mother of Terrell Mayes, was comforted at the vigil. Three-year-old Terrell Mayes Jr. was killed recently when he was struck by a stray bullet. Photo Jim Gehrz Star Tribune

This post is dedicated to Terrell Mayes-  a three-year old Minneapolis boy who was killed by a stray bullet as he ran into his house and away from gunfire.  His story is more tragic than Jablonski’s…his family deserves justice and there is no reason those who have money enough to support injured hockey players can’t donate money to help this family too.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been incredibly impacted by the injury to Jack Jablonski. Actually, just read my blogpost about it.

It rocked our house…I could see our son in the smiling face of that kid.  I could hear my voice in the teary-eyed interview of the mom.  My throat gets an immediate lump EVERY time I see Jack’s younger brother skating to center ice of some game that has been dedicated to help support his brother.

I’m equally affected by the injury to Jenna Privette. There are two girl hockey players in our house, and I have a sneaking suspicion one of them is going to be the source of many scary moments for me. Jenna’s family seems to be a bit more private, so it is a little harder for me to completely connect there.

That lack of connectedness is part of my challenge.  The outpouring for Jack has been unbelievable…mind-blowing really. I connected from the start and so did a million other people. I’m starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with all of it, however.

There is the discrepancy in overall support between the male hockey player and the female hockey player, but if there is any blame to place, it is on the fact that Jenna’s camp isn’t as effective as the supporters of the Jablonski’s. Jack is surrounded by marketing and promotional geniuses. He’s on Facebook and Twitter. He has a hashtag and an army of tweeters and retweeters. Take a look at Jack Jablonski’s website. It’s professional and organized and already running like a business. There are places for merchandise sales, and a map of where donations have rolled in from all over the country.   I am part of that tide…because I’m connected.

It’s about having the right resources, the right connections, the ability to raise your voice well and have someone listen.

The hockey community is an amazing community…made up of some of the best and brightest. Jenna will have all the support she asks for.

Hockey people are online…and if enough noise is made…they will respond in kind.

Let’s face it, there is NO WAY there would be the buzz about #Jabs if it were not for the ease of social media. (and the group of people who were so immediately proficient with it)

I should be thrilled, right? I am part of a community that really does take care of its own. I think what I’m starting to realize though is that I am part of a Private Sport. It’s an exclusive club. We’re talented, generally affluent, successful people who can afford to keep our kids playing an expensive sport. We look in awe at what we, as a community, have been able to do in such overwhelming support of Jack and his future struggles…and we should be proud.

We should also be challenged.

The thing is, Jack is going to be just fine.  He has an amazing family, the support network of thousands of loving and dedicated people, and by the time all of this fundraising is done, he will likely have enough in his coffer to invest well and cover costs.

Maybe the Jablonski Foundation can support causes outside of the hockey community.  Maybe some of the money we raise can go to places like the Mayes family…a reminder that just because their online community isn’t as established or as effective… Terrell Mayes’ life means just as much.

Last I checked, the Crime Stoppers effort to raise money to find Terrell Mayes’ killer had collected $5345 of the $10,000 goal. If you have an interest in donating…click here.

Copyright 2012 Meagan Frank, Choosing to Grow

To learn more about Meagan Frank , you can visit her website.  www.meaganfrank.com

Except for what I’ve seen on the news, and read on his caring bridge site, I don’t know this smiling hockey player. I don’t know his parents or his younger brother. I don’t know the record of the team for which he plays, or how many goals he might have this season, but I do know that his story has become an important one worth sharing. What I know about him is that he became, in an instant, the face of fear for hundreds of hockey players and parents around the country. He is the reason for this concerned contemplation.

It took little time for two opposing players to skate toward him at an incredible rate of speed and then collide into him from behind. It took even less time for him to hit the boards and to go from motion to stillness.

I can only imagine the hush that followed. That deafening silence that envelopes a group of people who realize that the line that we so regularly approach in sport had been tragically crossed.

In the retelling of the story I feel for his mom, and I can’t help it. It is with her I most identify. She loves her kids, she loves and supports their passion for hockey, and she has a writing niche online that covers so many facets of what it is to be a hockey mom. I can hardly imagine the heartbreak and the change in identity for everyone who’s close to this.

Photo: Richard Sennott-Star Tribune

We don’t want this. No one wants this. No matter how much we adore speed, strength, and brute force, I have to believe we are still compassionate human beings who don’t want to see the most elite among us injured too badly to play the sports they love.

Yes, I know the statistics are pretty low for incidents of the most traumatic injuries, but it is hard to ignore how prevalent head, neck and back injuries have become for hockey players. According to Canadian journalist Dave Stubbs, 2011 was the year of the concussion for hockey. He names some of the biggest players who were sidelined for concussions in 2011 like Sidney Crosby and Chris Pronger.

Because of the rash of injuries, awareness is certainly heightened, and I really hope it will start to be enough.

Hockey has evolved at a speed that matches its pace on the ice. According to the statistics at USA Hockey, membership in youth hockey increased from 200,000 in 1990-91 to nearly 600,000 participants in the 2010-11 season.

Along with the increased interest in the sport, the speed and strength of the players playing has also increased.

If you watch hockey as much as we watch it in our house, you would agree that the NHL game seems to be getting faster every year. While watching the NHL highlights of the 90’s, our 11-year-old son said, “It looks so slow.” He’s probably right, but even more important is how young players are achieving faster and faster speeds too.

Technology of the equipment is better, and the ice skates are faster than they’ve ever been. Speed camps are teaching kids how to be faster, but maybe what we need to spend more time on is how to stop. I couldn’t find a single camp that helps to teach kids how to stop well, how to brace for a ride into the boards, how to deal with a hit that they don’t even see coming.

We’re giving them speed, but the brakes are malfunctioning…and sometimes non-existent. Sixteen and seventeen-year-old boys with the speed of grown men, have a responsibility to use that speed wisely. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I cannot help but to think we’re not there yet.

I hate that the Benilde-St. Margaret sophomore lies in a hospital bed…especially if the entire thing could have been avoided.

Maybe now is the time. Maybe Jabby’s injury can be a wake-up call to start making the necessary changes to make hockey safer for the players who grow to love it. It takes just an instant to break someone. It takes time to build speed, and an equal amount of time should be spent on the stopping.

To learn more about Meagan or her current book project, Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It, visit her at www.meaganfrank.com.