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Cornered Coach: See You in September


It's easy to get sucked into spring and summer hockey.

I think one longtime Toronto Triple A coach put it best.

"Mike," he once told me. "It's like the nuclear arms race. You might not believe in bombs but if the other guy is storing them up, you have to do the same thing."

Yes, even if you don't believe in yanking on the skates and grabbing your stick when the days begin to get longer, there's still a feeling of guilt and temptation that seems to turn the tide. The mindset of most parents is easy to identify: If other hockey players are slapping on the blades in the spring and summer, your child might be left behind if they don't follow suit.

A lot of coaches and parents talk a good game.

"I don't believe in spring or summer hockey," they sniff. "When we were growing up, we put away our sticks at the end of the season and played baseball or lacrosse."

But even the hardcore anti-spring and summer hockey brigade can shows signs of breaking down. Pretty soon, you check out TeamSnap or receive an email with an almost-apologetic tone.

"Hey! I know we said we were shutting things down for the year. But some ice time just became available and, if you're interested, we're going to start skating on Sunday's starting in May. It's totally optional but if you'd like to get involved,  the ice is there."

What to do now?

Your coach has already given a speech about the importance of taking a break from hockey and developing the "all-around" athletic ability of your child. But just when you've registered them for baseball, lacrosse or swimming lessons, along comes the same coach applying subtle pressure to head right back to the rink.

In my opinion, kids definitely need a break from hockey. And when it comes to parents, forget about opinion; I KNOW most parents need a break. As the father of a young goalie, I spend the whole winter hunched over in a crowded dressing room lacing up his pads. Then, it's up to the stands where you sit on pins and needles hoping your little guy doesn't let in the goal that costs his team the game, an event that requires a return trip to the locker room to deal with the resulting tiny tears.

Driving through snow and city traffic to get to the arena, wolfing down countless rubber hot dogs and stale popcorn to replace another home cooked meal  –  every hockey parent knows the drill. So, when May finally rolls around, it's easy to understand why a backyard family barbecue sounds so appealing.

Of course, every family, and every hockey-playing child, is different. Some people might get addicted to the distinct aroma of the arena and don't mind leaving behind the few hours of sunshine we receive in The Great White North. If there's a hockey game to be played, you can always count them in.

But if you're one of those people who "loves" hockey but doesn't want to "live" it twelve months of the year, don't feel bad.

Playing another sport in addition to hockey can actually be a huge benefit. My little guy, for instance, spends his summer chasing ground balls on the baseball diamond. Lo and behold, when hockey season rolls around, his glove hand happens to be one of his real strengths.

The message?

Even if your coach is trying to coax you into returning to the rink much earlier than you really want to, don't be afraid to stick to your guns.  Life is short and so is our Canadian summer.

Enjoy yourself and feel free to take a break from hockey. I can guarantee you'll return to the rink in the fall feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

With that in mind, "The Cornered Coach" is taking his own advice.

I've got my son's baseball team to coach. So, have a great summer and we'll see you around the rink in October.

Okay, maybe in September, just to keep the coach happy!

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