I grew up an active fan with my parents of the Hershey Bears near our hometown in Pennsylvania. They will forever be my favorite team of all time. But it wasn't until the Winter Olympics of 2002 that my dream became a burning desire. That January I first saw Girl's Ice Hockey in the Olympics. I wanted to become an ice-hockey player.
I had tried a few other sports but none really fit me. Dad assistant coached my elementary softball team. I had also tried a few years of bowling in an after-school program. But those sports and others seemed unsuited to my tomboy personality and active lifestyle.
Hockey also seemed to be a good idea because it was something Dad wanted me to do. In his youth, he had wanted to play ice hockey, but his parents could not afford the expense. My playing would be like making two dreams come true. It seemed a perfect fit for family. I was too na´ve at the time to anticipate the coming pressure to be a star.
Dad started me in Clinic One at the end of the spring of 2002 at the age of eleven. Most of the kids in the clinic were really, really young. I soon wished I had started a few years sooner. I wasn't very big for my age, but I was a giant compared to those five-year-olds in the clinic. First thing I did out on the ice was fall into two little guys. Oops, maybe it would have helped if I had known how to skate. After two eight-week sessions in Clinic One, I was allowed to advance to Clinic Two.
Dad also put me on a summer team after I got out of Clinic One. At this time, I was the only girl my age at the Lancaster Ice Rink playing hockey! The boys on this summer team were nice, but I was a stranger, and most of these boys had been playing together for a long while already. Sure, the team was a step in the right direction, but I seem to achieve more when I'm at the head of the team or class. There I was, the worst player on the team by far.
Over the years, I've continued playing with all boys. I worked my heart out enough to make it to the first line of offense on my team. Although I am not the worst player on the team anymore, unfortunately Dad doesn't seem happy until I'm the best.
For the past year or so, Dad has criticized my playing. I welcome constructive criticism, but the comments Dad made just really cut me to the core. It hurts being told you're not "good enough" on a regular basis. Initially, I easily brushed off the comments. But soon they became too much to bear.
Christmas of 2004 brought with it, a sickness that clipped my skating wings. I was down and out for over a month. Without being able to take my frustrations out on the ice, I became a hermit in my room. Dad didn't understand my sickness and kept telling me I should be out on the ice. I started really listening to and believing all the things he said about my ice hockey skills. I didn't want to get back on the ice anymore. I was afraid I had been a handicap to my team all along. I believed I was an awful hockey player.
Finally, feeling healthier, I tried out my wings again. And with help from my Mom, coaches, and teammates, I began to fly again, really soar. And above all, I enjoyed it! I remembered I am not a handicap to my team. I am a part of that team. I didn't play anymore to make Dad's dream come true, I played to fulfill my own dream spurred on by my love of hockey.
I have a post-it note in my room on which I wrote: "Dreams don't just come true! They are made true! Don't give up!" And even if I never become the best, I'm satisfied as long as I'm playing my best. And I am having fun on the ice!
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