Summer Reflections - I am really lucky!
by, 08-03-2012 at 08:32 PM (160 Views)
It's been a little while since I've written a blog entry, but I thought it might be good to get one in here for mid-summer. It's hard to believe that summer's already half over. I will admit August kind of caught me a little off guard. Even though I've been out of school for over five years (considerably longer if we're talking high school, but I digress...), I still always find it a little bit bittersweet when the 'back to school' advertisements start showing up on television. Pretty soon it will be September and the start of another season. (Crazy to think of that!)
As it turns out, this has been a great summer for hockey so far. The 'D' or novice league here is very active. I've been taking turns renting ice with one of the other players all summer, so we've all had an opportunity to play at least once a week since the Spring league wrapped up. Everyone chips in at the end of each session, so it ends up being a reasonable price for everyone concerned. We've also been really lucky to have good turnouts. The last few weeks have had 16-25 guys show up with at least two goalies as well - so it's been a blast!
This has been a fantastic opportunity to improve my skills as well as to try some things that I'd be reluctant to experiment with in a game situation without some prior practice. In particular, I've had a chance to practice playing the puck out of the net a bit more (sometimes with comically bad results, I'm afraid, but you have to try somehow!)
I think one of my personal favorite moments this summer was when I had one of my defensemen (who also played on my team this Spring) skate up to my after tonight's session and comment on a few of the things he thought I had improved over the summer. It was a really nice gesture on his part, and one that I really appreciated. (I think all athletes regardless of level want to know that they are contributing something positive to the team effort overall. I don't know if I would go so far as to say that goalies are an extreme example of that, but insofar as, in the words of one of my goalie-colleagues, we get to be 'difference-makers', it is always especially satisfying when someone else recognizes and values the effort involved.)
In addition, there have been several other highlights from the summer session that I have found especially enjoyable. First, there have been a number of guys who have come who had never played organized hockey before ranging from those who have never skated to those who may have played some roller hockey or pond hockey, but no organized hockey.
I have enjoyed watching these guys for several reasons. First - it reminds me of my own experience first showing up to play and I like welcoming other newcomers to the game. Hockey is a fun game, but it is definitely not an easy game to pick up right away, and it takes some commitment to get over the initial hump and get into it. I really respect the courage the new guys show in putting themselves out there on the ice and getting into it. Not only are they willing to take the plunge, but they didn't do too badly either!
The second thing that really impressed me was the way that the veterans interacted with the newbies. They were out there shouting words of encouragement, advice, and were quick with a pat on the back and a kind word as well as suggestions on how to improve and get more into the game. It was really pretty spectacular, and reminded me again that in the pantheon of athletes, hockey players are pretty special. More specifically, it made me realize that I am really lucky that I get to play with a good group of guys.
This brings me to my third point - I've been living in a small town now for a little over five years. I grew up in a big city, and while I have spent time in a variety of places, I've always considered myself to be a big city person. There are certainly things I miss about living in a bigger place. That said, there are some uniquely wonderful things about living in a smaller place, and the sense of community is one of them. (For the record, I'm not saying you cannot get this in a big city, but it definitely is one of the sweeter elements of living in a place like Midland.) Since I've been playing hockey, I find myself feeling more a part of my community than simply a resident of where I live. It comes up when I run into people I know at the grocery store or elsewhere in town and the common-thread we share in our interest in hockey, and that is an enjoyable outcome in and of itself.
I think in the end what most people want is to feel like our existence matters. I'm not suggesting having an out-sized ego or grandiose plans, but merely the sense that we are in a place where we fit - where we can care about others and have others care about us as well. Hockey has been a remarkable vehicle for me in this respect. I find myself really very lucky these days - as a research scientist I get to work on problems that are difficult and intellectually stimulating, as a goalie, I get to work on problems that are difficult and physically stimulating, and as a teammate and friend, I've gotten to know others in my community, form friendships, care about other people, and have a good time all at once. Life can be aggravating and frustrating, but it is also short - I'm lucky I get to pack some good stuff into it!