November 21, 2012

There is an “I” in “Team”!

Two summers ago, I was convinced by a mom-friend in the school-yard to try soccer (see my post here). She convinced me that it would be fun. I was skeptical but I registered even though I had never played an team sport in my life. The last time I kicked a soccer ball was in grade two. I was terrified at that first game but what I found was an incredible world of supportive and encouraging women of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, a new-found appreciation for team sports and the “beautiful game”, a fun and easy way to stay fit and some lovely abiding friendships. I’m going into my fourth “season” (two outdoor and now into my second season of indoor soccer) in the Toronto High Park FC. In fact, I think I’m more addicted to soccer than my kids. Talk about being a "soccer mom"!

Looking to expand my horizons even further, I asked myself, “What else can I try at the ripe old age of 42?” and the answer was... hockey. God knows, I watch a LOT of hockey with my son playing at a rep level this year (five times a week). Soccer mom... Why not?

Last year on Boxing Day, I traded in my figure skates for a shiny new pair of hockey skates. I have been skating for 37 years on figure skates so how hard could it be? It was not as easy as it looks. Keeping my legs bent and my head up was a challenge. I kept trying to use my non-existent pick on my skates. And using a hockey stick and puck handling? Ummm... It was definitely time for some lessons. 

First I had to get myself outfitted in hockey equipment. Unfortunately, my son’s equipment is too small yet and my 6’5” husband’s gear is far too big. I had skates, a stick and hockey gloves so what else did I need? More than you might think: shinguards, hockey socks (which are like knit stockings), pants (which I keep calling shorts because that’s what they look like), a jill (a woman’s equivalent of a jock- see what you learn?), neck guard, shoulder pads, elbow pads and a helmet with a cage on the front. I borrowed my husband’s vintage hockey jersey from his Dofasco Minor Hockey League days. I was exhausted just putting on my equipment! But I had to admit, I looked pretty good.

I’ve joined a group of other hockey moms in a “learn to play” clinic on Monday mornings at a local arena. Every two weeks we pay a trainer from Dominate Hockey to teach us skills and run us through very challenging drills. In the weeks in between we practice what we’ve learned and scrimmage (that’s hockeyspeak for a casual game). I’ll admit that I’m pretty "unskilled". My first week out, I spent a lot of time wiping out and trying to get back up. However with practice and determination, I’ve seen improvement in just four weeks. This past week I didn’t fall at all and I might have actually shot the puck into the net more than once.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be skilled enough to join a women’s league but I’m hoping to get out and play some shinny this winter while the kids are at school and with the family on weekends. I’m actually looking forward to the cold weather and I find myself counting the days until the outdoor rinks open up. No more winter hibernation for this mama bear!

Here are some things I’ve learned:
  1. Surprisingly it doesn’t hurt to fall when you are dressed like a gladiator. That doesn’t mean that I’m any less terrified to fall.
  2. It is harder to dress yourself in hockey equipment than it is to dress a 9 year old child.
  3. Hockey equipment takes up a LOT of space in your home, especially when you have three family members playing on a weekly basis.
  4. My 9 year old is so much better than me at hockey and I have a new-found respect for his skills.
  5. It's amazing how much you can sweat on the ice. Hockey is just about the best workout I've ever had.
  6. Hockey uses muscles you never knew you had- rib muscles, sternum muscles, side of the shin muscles, foot arch muscles, muscles in your lower arms and hands. It takes me a full week to recover.
  7. It is much more fun to vocalize your efforts. I sound like Serena Williams when I shoot the puck. 
And most importantly:

        8.  There is a place for me in team sports!

Images © Treva Thompson 2012
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