how to tie your skates

U13 hockey coaching

These were precovid days.

It wasn’t unusual to have two parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins to fill our tiny piss stained sweat boxes of dressing rooms after a game. People huddling to be warm. Family members wanting to be part of the team.

By week three we had a rule.

No parents in the dressing room.

But what about the tough to pull over jerseys?

They’ll help each other. They’ll get to know and trust each other that way.

What about the skates?

I’ve got those -

But Sparky is really picky…

Well, Sparky will have to deal, until January. In January he ties his own.

They looked like they were shot.

Sparky’s parents.

He ties his own?

He ties his own.

The colour draining from their faces should have been my first warning.

Things went fine. I tied the skates and the kids became great friends.

In January I reminded them they were responsible for tying their skates again.

It was a practice. I told them they would practice in their skates tied as they were. If they were loose, too loose? They’d learn to skate in really loose skates. Or? They might want to consider practising tying their skates at home.

So, with that challenge, the majority of the kids set about the task.

Sparky was not impressed.

Alan? Bill? You guys run things, this might take a while.

Sparky’s eyes were tearing up.

He was muttering his way into a meltdown.


He paused and looked up.

You know that feeling? When you haven’t been able to do something. You move around a lot right? Something feels urgent in your body? Do you get that?

Yeah I have ADHD.

Me too. When something feels really urgent, the best thing you can do is just stop everything.

Unless I’m being chased by a bear.

Yes. Unless you’re being chased by a bear.

The team filed out and onto the ice.

Sparky’s eyes began to glisten.

I can’t do it coach.

I know. I also know that you will. I’ll wait until you can.

Sparky didn’t move. For a long time.

Coach? Help me please.

I am. You haven’t even tried.

When I try I get frustrated and then I freak out and people hate me.

I see. I won’t hate you.





Still nothing?

A look at his coach.



Well, that was ridiculous. Want to try again?

Fifteen minutes later we joined the team on the ice

Insisting. Sometimes it’s tough. And necessary. And. It can be fun.

There are times as a parent I’m like a teabag, porous, open and all the love of the world passes through me.

Other times I insist. Those times, I feel like I need to be a padded cell, an emotional container for a safe emergency to take place.

Sparky had a safe emergency.

Sparky learned something.

The team did too.

And sometimes, if you want people to make a change, ya gotta hang in with them way longer than you initially thought.

This is important for all of us now.

In these times of increased uncertainty, unknowing, division, isolation and strife, we need a container, a place for our frustrations, fears and insecurities. We also need that to be a pretty soft structure.

Leading children is fun. They flow freely between polarities of good and evil, big and small. It’s easy to help them reframe things that help them laugh at themselves and keep going. By insisting on being sensitive and playful as a counterpoint to their rage and aggression, I set the tone for engagement. Light and firm.

Soft structures.


Staging for connection.

One Derful Thing


This is a riff on water.

We’re 80(ish) percent water.

The earth is mostly water.

Life depends on water.

Water always wins.

It persists.

It continues.

It keeps coming back.


Be water.


Be soft.

Adapt and bend to what is facing you.



Spend the day with a felt sense of knowing

In the end?

You win.