Eli 12.5: RecoveryEli 12.5 is fiercely competitive and totally inspired on the ice. Off the ice, there's this:
If he squeezes the little handles, the arms on the tuque stand up.
The cracked rib healed--not nearly quickly enough, and it basically destroyed his sleep for two weeks--and he went back to practice last Tuesday. We had played tennis for four days in a row over the weekend, and he had no pain, so that was the all-clear.
It's hard to come back from an injury, plus he had new skates, because his other ones were small. Very small.
"When are we going to get you new skates?" I kept asking him.
"I like them tight," he said.
"You wear ten and a half shoes and you're wearing size FIVE skates," I said. "I should bronze those skates and hang them from my rearview mirror, they're so small."
He laughed. "Soon," he said. When we did finally get new skates, they were size 7 1/2. He likes them tight, after all.
So he was in double-whammy territory, but he looked decent in practice, and he had an hour with one of his coaches on Friday, working on specific situations:
That's what I call the "stuff drill", where the coach takes a shot to try and generate a rebound, then tries to stuff it in. It's hard work, because they do it for most of the hour. 80% of the goals that teams score at his age seem to come from chaos around the net, so doing this over and over again lets him see pucks in every possible situation--every crazy bounce, every angle--to help him develop muscle memory. It also helps him be more aggressive, because the coach is very, very quick, so if Eli isn't quick, he will get scored on almost every time.
He doesn't, though, because he's the quickness Superfreak.
After a few days of practice, there were two games in Houston last weekend. This time, the other goalie on his team was staying home (orchestra performance), so Eli was in goal for both games.
I'd write some long narrative about how those games went, but I don't need to. He won the first game 3-2 in overtime (17 saves), then won the next day 4-0 (23 saves). The Sunday shutout was stellar, because his team went up 3-0 midway through the second and promptly went into spectator mode. He was so dialed in, so precise, that he just dominated.
The biggest difference since he got pulled in San Antonio? Decisiveness on loose pucks and traffic around the net. He's spent hours working with his coach on that exact situation. That's what the stuff drill does, and it's made a big difference.
He's played five games since he got pulled that weekend: 1.6 GAA, .934 save percentage, 3-1-1 record, and two shutouts.
That's one of the qualities that separates him from most other kids his age. When other kids fail, it can destroy their confidence. Eli never loses his confidence. He just works harder.
We were lucky enough to go to NASA on Saturday--the Johnson Space Center (where DQ Ideas Guy John Harwood spent much of his formative years). It was a little sad and a little faded, but on the tram tour we stopped in front of a giant building and went inside. Then we saw this:
That's a Saturn V rocket. It's 363 feet long.
It's huge beyond all conception. You walk into the building and it's so overwhelming, so breathtaking, that it's hard to describe.
"So you know what all the stages before the command module are, right?" I asked Eli as we walked around.
"No, what?" he asked.
"Fuel," I said. "It's all fuel to get the command module where it needs to go."
"That's incredible!" he said.
"Do you know what fuel is?" I asked.
"This is one of those inspirational things, isn't it?"
"Work," I said. "Fuel is work."
He laughed. "I knew it!" he said.