Even at the youth level, playing hockey can be a large commitment for everyone involved. Parents, coaches, even the players themselves have to sacrifice a lot just to play the great sport of ice hockey and to have a chance to be successful.
Starting with the obvious, players have to give up their nights and weekends for practice and games. That isn’t all either. Players take part in weekly dry land training and power skating sessions outside of their normal practices. Director of the Jr. Comets Bill Horton provides players with activities to do at home. “I give them homework. I give them some extra stickhandling and other skills they can practice off-ice. I want to keep them engaged even when they’re away from the rink.”
That’s a huge commitment for kids, and that’s on top of their normal schoolwork, but it’s something that is necessary to prepare them to play at the next level. There is a lot of positives that come from such a big sacrifice. “Players spend so much time at the rink together that through this sacrifice, they’re able to build camaraderie and deep friendships outside of their friends from school,” Horton said.
Players aren’t the only ones who have to make sacrifices during the hockey season. Coaches put a lot of their time in as well. All of the Jr Comets coaches are volunteers and have to give up a chunk of their free time to put together practice plans and run practices on top of being on the bench during games. Despite the sometimes long hours on road trips and weekly practices, coaches enjoy what they do and want their players to succeed. “I know for me, being from around Utica, I want to help grow the game in the local area and keep our local talent here so they don’t have to go to travel far to play at a higher level,” Horton stated. “It’s about the kids in the end.”
Perhaps there is no bigger sacrifice than what the parents put in. They are the ones taking time out of their busy schedules driving the players to practice, dry land training, games, tournaments, etc. They also provide the financial support for the kids that allow them to play. Without their parents, most, if not all kids would not be able to play. Parents always find a way to make the best of the down time during practices though. Moms and dads can be spotted doing makeshift yoga classes and running the stairs and concourse of the Adirondack Bank Center.
Some parents just embrace and enjoy the grind of hockey season. “I actually see it as a bonus, not a sacrifice. It’s an opportunity for my son to play at the highest level in the area. Yes, it’s tough and we have to juggle schedules. We can’t do it without hard work, but in the end we made a commitment to our family and we support each other no matter what,” said Jen Roberts, whose son Jacob plays on the 2004 team.
Sacrifice is a big part of the Comet Culture. The handbook reads,
“Our Comets stand fearless. They find something they would die for and breathe their life into it. But at the end of the day, it’s important to know there will always be people who have made far greater sacrifices. So take internal responsibility for your actions and surrender your own self for the common cause. Leaders sacrifice individual glory for the benefit of the team. These same leaders create leaders, just as Comets create Comets.”
As with any sport, players, coaches, and parents have to put in so much in order to play the game they love. A successful season just would not happen without sacrifice.