Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Lout, Clout, And A Happy Shout (part two: Clout, And A Happy Shout)

Yesterday, I wrote about the negative side of being a huge fan of a sport that barely qualifies as fringe where I live.

Today, the positive side.

In Texas, it's often said that the number one sport is football, and the number two sport is spring football. Hockey is far, far under the radar, even with an NHL team in Dallas and three AHL teams (Austin, San Antonio, and Houston).

So if you live here and your son wants to play hockey, it might seem like a huge negative.

It's not, though. It's great.

Here's why. Every youth football leage coach (or most of them, anyway) in Texas thinks he's a superstar coach just waiting to be discovered. And if he wins his youth league games 60-0, maybe he'll get a junior high job, then a high school job, then a better high school job, then a small college job...then he's winning the Super Bowl, and he's the legend that he knows he so richly deserves.

In other words, in Texas, there is a giant ladder in front of every coach, and most of them desperately want to climb it as high as they can go. They want the clout.

And they're dicks.

They yell at the kids. They don't care about kids learning good judgment on the field, so that they'll be better players when they get older. Even if they're coaching a team of ten-year-olds, they have to win NOW. All they want is every kid to perfectly execute the instructions they're given.

I've watched youth football practices, and it hurts. I'm glad that Eli 8.8 hasn't expressed an interest in playing, because it looks like a soul-sucking experience, and that should never happen to a kid.

I've heard some horror stories about youth hockey league coaches in Canada, too, and I think it's a version of the same problem we have down here--hockey is the number one sport in Canada, and all those coaches have ladders to climb.

For a hockey coach in Texas, though, there is no ladder. Hell, there isn't even a step. Anyone who coaches hockey down here is coaching because they love hockey and want to work with kids. It's just not financially or professionally lucrative enough to attract selfish people. There's no clout.

Plus, lots of them are Canadians. Win.

Eli 8.8 went to his first hockey skills class last Saturday. There were thirty kids in his class, and seven coaches, so they split the kids up into groups based on their age and skating skill. Eli went with the highest level group (and remember, he's been skating for less than a month), so it gives you an idea of how low the initial skill levels are down here.

He was all geared up (I'll get a picture), and he skated around, and damned if he didn't look like a hockey player. He really did, and he's skating ridiculously well to have only put in about fifteen hours in his life on the ice.

All the coaches were just terrific--positive, friendly, funny--and the practice was extremely well-organized. At one point, Eli skated over to the glass, and I walked down from the bleachers. He had his mouthpiece in, so I couldn't understand what he said, but I could see the gigantic grin on his face.

Later, I asked him about it, and he said he just skated over to let me know how happy he was.

He's going to want a dryer  for his birthday. I just know it.

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