In the spring of 2015, Jacob had his first tryouts for ice hockey. Up until now, he’d being doing drills but never playing an actual hockey game.
Ry took him to the tryout. He called me 30 minutes after it started and said it was bad. Really bad. “Should I pull him off the ice?” he asked.
I told him it was his call. In the end, he let him continue the tryout for another hour.
The other kids would skate from one end of the rink to the other, while Jacob was busy getting up after falling for the fifth time. All the other boys were waiting for him to finish his lap. Every single time. Until they eventually had to keep tryouts moving
He was the worst kid out there.
We figured his hockey career would be over after this. We thought he’d get off the ice bummed, then we’d trot his gently used equipment to Play it Again Sports and hope to recoup some money. I expected him to come home shattered.
My heart hurt for him.
We weren’t prepared for Jacob’s reaction when he skated off the ice and through the heavy gate.
“Daddy, did you SEE me? I was AWESOME!!”
Was this just like the American Idol contestants who’s kind, and potentially tone-deaf parents told them little Connie Crooner was a talented super star and she should keep singing?
Should we tell him he sucked? Should we let him keep trying?
“Um….ya…..good work out there buddy!” seemed like something a good parent would say.
He loved it, and wanted to keep going.
During the first few games of the season it was painful and horrible to watch as a parent. As I sat shivering with my butt on the cold metal benches, I’d cringe every time Jacob would go after the puck.
If he was coordinated enough to actually make contact with the puck, he’d lose his balance and fall over. Knocking kids down on both teams, ungracefully interrupting what could have been a great play for his teammates.
My face burned with embarrassment for him and myself. Sitting in the stands with all the other parents of amazing and talented hockey players I wanted to personally apologize to them all for Jacob’s playing…or, er…lack of.
He’d sometimes tell us about some of the other kids that told him he sucked. I asked him how that made him feel, he said it made him feel angry.
Jacob kept going. We taxied him to practice three times a week some weeks. In ever practice he gave it is all. He pushed himself to his limits every time his wobbly ankles hit the ice.
He never whined either. Even after an hour of drills, he’d skate his huge heart out.
Coming off the ice drenched with sweat, dripping from his smelly helmet he ALWAYS said he had fun.
During one game in the late spring we looked at him in awe – he was actually…good. How did that happen? He even had an assist! We prayed for a goal, but were happy with an assist. Coach gave him the actual puck he got the assist with. Jacob slept with the puck that night.
Fast forward 6 months.
After practicing once or twice a week for 6 months, and every waking hour all summer in the driveway with the net he bought with his own money—he got really good.
I’m grateful to his coaches – who worked with him and encouraged him.
Once we realized he was good, he said he wanted to play goalie.
What? Just stick with what you’re doing—you’re good at it!
He wore us down. He told me his way of getting what he wants is to keep asking. It worked.
Coach said if he wanted to give it a whirl, he should.
Today, he tried out being a goalie for the first time. I was hesitant. And not just because goalie equipment is damn expensive, and didn’t we just buy hockey equipment?
See, the goalie can either get all the glory for a shutout, or lose the game. I couldn’t bear my son being the cause for losing a game. Couldn’t I just enjoy him being good for a while? Why did we have to change?
He tried it out for 90 straight minutes of scrimmage, and from my untrained eye he did better than I thought he would. Of course I was rooting for him, I’m always rooting for him.
Checking in with the coach after, “Give it to me straight coach – you don’t need to sugar coat it. How’d he do?” Coach said he had a natural ability for the position and he should keep doing it.
As I sat there watching the determination on Jacobs face as he let in about 50% of the shots on goal, I realized he was doing it.
Since his very first try out, he was playing in the arena. Literally and figuratively. And he didn’t give a rats ass about what anyone else outside of the arena thought about him. He fell hundreds of times in the past six months. He got up every single time, and cheered his team on.
In the past week I picked up Rising Strong from Brené Brown. It’s a book about what it takes to get back up after we fall. In it, she says, “If you are not in the arena also getting your butt kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
Jacob is seven, and he already gets this – and has no idea who Brené Brown is.
Today, we bought goalie equipment.
As I watched Jacob giving goalie his all, I had an arena-a-ha moment of my own.
I was plugging along making final edits to my book, I didn’t intend to put it on Amazon for sale.
That’s for big time people. That’s for people who want to sell millions of books. That’s for professional authors. I want to stay small. I don’t want people comparing me to the pros. I can’t play where they play.
This was the story I was telling myself.
I was playing safe.
I’ve always been one to play it safe. Except for that one time, in the Adirondacks with a semi-stranger. I’ll tell you that story later.
I was planning on distributing my book through my website, so I could offer my tiny book to the small audience on my site.
More importantly – if people hated the book, they’d have to go out of their way to email me and tell me they hated it…and who does that?
If it was on Amazon, people could write nasty things about me. They could tell me how much I suck with the click of a button and a few keystrokes.
After getting my ass kicked by Ry (not literally) after telling him I wasn’t putting the book on Amazon, he helped me realize I was playing small and safe by hiding my book. This way, if the book flops, no one would ever really know—and I could spare my feelings.
If anyone gives me shit or says they hate the book – and like my brave 7-year old, if they’re not also in the arena getting their ass pummeled, I don’t want to hear it.
Which way to the arena?