Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in Lockroom Logic are solely those of Dan Bauer and do not reflect the opinions of Wisconsin Prep Hockey or its partners. Dan presents his opinions based upon his lifetime of teaching and coaching experience and we present them unedited.
We all have our favorite places. Our happy places.
Sometimes they are actual places like your lakeside cabin, a special vacation destination or Lambeau Field. Your place might be your hobby or your passion, like the golf course, a good book or your garden. And for some your happy place can be anywhere because it is about the people that are there like your weekly coffee club, your teammates or for many, your family.
These scenarios bring you happiness in many different forms. It might be about relaxation, peacefulness, friendship, comfort, maybe it is excitement and challenge or the solace of just being alone. We get to have more than one happy place.
As a kid mine mostly revolved around physical activity. I grew up in perhaps the greatest neighborhood in the world and our house was the central hub. Each change of season brought us a new and exciting sport and the dream of being the next Bob Gibson, Bart Starr or Bobby Orr. The yard of each family proudly wore the markings of our imaginary Fenway Park or hallowed Lambeau Field. Lawn service companies didn’t exist, and our parents didn’t mind.
My love for sports became my obsession, but my athletic ability never caught up. I enjoyed all of them, but it was clear my dream of becoming a professional athlete wasn’t going to materialize. I may not have known it, but I am certain my parents did. Sports were about playing for your hometown, not a road map to an elusive scholarship.
We played for the joy of the game.
That passion to play grew into a passion to coach. At times in my life, I can now admit that coaching consumed me. My drive to learn as much as I could was insatiable. I read every book, attended every clinic and snuck into practices wherever I could find them. I hoarded the knowledge I gathered into a mountain of books, manuals, and handouts. Three ring binders galore turned my office into a three-ring circus as I tried to soak it all in.
With a lot of help and growth along the way I learned to love everything about my happy place. Many years ago, Bob Johnson said at a clinic I was attending, “to expect adversity and to embrace it”. Once I began to see all those brushfires as opportunities to implement positive changes, most everything became an energy fueling challenge.
I recently finished my summer hockey program and as I stepped off the ice, I realized I don’t know when I might get back on. For the first time in nearly four decades, I don’t have the brochure for my winter hockey destination. My hockey place has been cancelled, and it is a strange feeling. While many Wisconsinites dream of flip-flops and warm beaches in January, I prefer a warm jacket and frozen water beneath my feet. While my skates have long since passed their expiration date, I am still not ready to leave. Society has subtle and not so subtle ways of showing you the door when your age hits the freeway speed limit. Slowly and painfully things you always took for granted begin to disappear. And quite honestly, until it begins to happen to you it is completely off your radar.
Time is undefeated and blow by blow it extracts its toll from everyone.
My hockey place and the surrogate family it provides has been a huge part of my life, but my biological family is the one that has always come to my rescue. There is no greater comfort for me than having them all together. They are the cure for all my ills: my ultimate, unshakable happy place.
You gain a wealth of knowledge through being an athlete and then a coach. Age also presents you with a perspective and file cabinet of invaluable wisdom. I have watched many players and coaches step away from the game. For some it is a struggle to find a happy place that can adequately replace the challenge and camaraderie of sports. Others find less stressful and demanding replacements. They say nothing lasts forever and grudgingly they are right.
I am fortunate to have found my happy “work” place because I know not everyone does.
As I contemplate my foggy future, I am grateful for all the valuable experiences, amazing athletes and supportive parents that have come my way throughout my coaching career. There has also been a boatload of failures, a multitude of mistakes and a remote tiny dungeon of reckless parents, but the magnanimous rewards obliterate all of them. As a child I dreamed of being the next Vince Lombardi and a future office filled with championship trophies. Half a century later my office is filled with cards, letters, photographs, a frisbee, a few cut-off neck ties, a priceless painting, a special key chain, some pucks and sticks—it is filled not with trophies, but wonderful memories. My mom called it my museum, and as curator, my plan is to continue adding on.
It will indeed take a book to properly document this marvelous journey.
I jumped off the teaching carousel because holding students accountable is no longer a benchmark of every school. Athletics is under a siege of selfishness right now. Some programs are all about winning, some are about building character and teaching life lessons, the great programs are about both! When putting the team first is replaced by a me generation selfie, it will indeed be time for me to leave coaching. But not yet.
I received a recent email from a mite mom whose son just finished my summer program. Her words perfectly echoed what every coach should hope to hear. She wrote, “My son, couldn’t wait to come to camp each week and shared last night that he was sad today was the last day. Thank you again for bringing so much joy to the rink for these kiddos!”
There is no trophy that can compete with finding that joy. When your hockey place is your happy place, you can’t wait to get back on the ice.
Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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