“What was that?”
The sound of his father’s voiced echoed in the background as the entry door to the rink swung open. Pretending not to hear, Dylan tried to skate into the crowd on his way back to the locker room. Sweat poured down his face as he removed his mask. His head hurt and his body ached from head to toe.
Entering the locker room, he dropped his stick, glove and blocker, falling onto the bench. Before he could even get his gear off, his father entered and immediately began again.
“What happened out there? You had them. What did I tell you about breakaways? You have to stay up. I can’t believe you blew that lead.”
It was a familiar speech. Dylan had been playing hockey since he was nine. In that time he had gone from a kid who could barely skate backwards to one of the top goaltenders in the league. It was a fluke actually. Never intending to play in net, Dylan had been asked by the coach to stand in for his regular goalie after a knee injury ended his young career.
It was a playoff game, for a ticket to the league championship, and all the coach asked is for someone to “stand in there.” Amazingly, Dylan showed a talent and tenacity that would eventually take his team all the way to the title.
Over the next few years he continued to work hard and grow. He went to five more championships, won several awards, attended multiple USA Hockey clinics, was invited to college camps for youths and even played in a few tournaments. Some games he dominated – others he struggled – but he never stopped trying. His room was filled with trophies and medals. He had a custom mask designed and the best gear available. Goalies were cool BUT good goalies were really cool. Often he would question himself for picking the most unforgiving and stressful position in all of sports.
You see in most sports it’s a total team effort, but certain positions ultimately dictate the wins and losses. If the pitcher or quarterback or goalie has a bad day – you can pretty much predict the outcome. Still he loved the pressure and the feeling of responsibility he had. His skills had made him popular and he felt like a true champion.
His father was always supportive, but also strict when it came to practice and performance. Over the years, he had spent a great deal of time and money on his son and Dylan never wanted to let him down. Recently he had been playing poorly, not terrible, but certainly not up to the caliber he was used to.
As a result, dad was becoming a real drag. The post-game lectures in the car were getting old and the term “slump” became a painful insult. It was a game after all and he was only thirteen. High School was on the horizon and tryouts for the JV and Varsity teams were creeping up too. Dylan looked forward to the opportunity, but lately he wasn’t having “fun” anymore.
After getting undressed Dylan walked out to the car dreading the drive home. Looking up at his father he said, “Dad I said a prayer before the game today and it didn’t work.”
“I prayed for a win too son, but not all prayers are answered.”
“No dad, I didn’t pray for a win, I prayed that you would be proud of me. I don’t like it when I lose and you insult my play.”
His father stopped in his tracks. A look of sadness and realization spread across his face.
“Oh Dylan I’m so sorry. I thought I was helping you, but I guess all I did was make things worse. I didn’t mean to insult you. And you’re absolutely right. This is about having fun and I forgot that.”
“That’s OK dad, Let’s just try to relax and take this for what it is, a game.”
And from that day forward, both father and son played together and prayed together. This time however, it was for all the right reasons.