Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Tryout (part two)

"Give 'em to me," Eli 14.7 said, as he started carrying his gear into the rink.

"One: balance," I said. "Two: be correct. These kids will punish you if you aren't." He nodded. "Three: control rebounds. Don't give them any extra opportunities."

He hugged me and we started walking in together.

"And don't forget to have fun," I said.

"Oh, I'm HAVING fun," he said, laughing.

Then he went out and had fun.

These tryout camps are very odd, because he was playing one period of two separate games. That's not much time, and he came in for the second period of both games, so he wasn't even warm.

In the first game, though, it didn't matter. He came in focused and looked like he'd been warming up all day. He had plenty of work, but was never off balance, never out of control. Ultra efficient. He gave up one goal, but had several very nice saves and looked totally in charge.

"That looked terrific," I said when he came out of the locker room.

"I felt great," he said. "No problem with the speed."

The second game was a few hours later, and he gave up two goals and didn't look as sharp as the first game. Still, he looked solid, and again, he was never off balance or awkward.

That left the hour of drills.

"I don't know what they're going to decide," I said, "but you've had two strong games. Go out there and handle those drills and let's see what happens."

"I'm good," he said.

Drills show off how controlled and precise his technique and movement are, and he was particularly good at the three stations in the corner of the rink by where the judges were watching.

It was a tough hour, at high speed. Not much time between rotations.

With twenty-four goalies on the ice (two different birth years combined), seven stations, and thirty shooters, it was wild out there. Eli looked so good, but was anyone looking at him? How could just a few judges see all that?

He skated off and I hugged him. "They're taking six," he said. "I think I have a good chance."

He came out of the locker room at 7:15, and they were posting by 8:00. "That was so solid. You never let anything bother you," I said.

"No, man," he said. "I felt great all day."

We were talking about whether we should go for a quick dinner, then come back at eight, when one of his friends said they had already posted the results. "Dad, let's go!" he said, walking toward the headquarters area.

He got to the page before I did, posted on a glass wall, and he looked slowly down the list of names. "I didn't make it," he said, sadly.

Cue up the consolation speech. I had it ready.

"Look," I said, my voice softening, "I thought you did--"

"Eli, you IDIOT!" said one of his friends, who was standing next to him. "You DID make it!"

He had been on the white team, but the jersey numbers for the white team were listed in green ink. I looked down at the sheet, and his number was there. He saw it at the same time I did.

"Oh my god!" he said, laughing. "I get to play this weekend!'

Tomorrow: the weekend.

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