When my boys were small they took up the sport of hockey. This was hard for me. I knew nothing about hockey. To me, hockey was for thugs who had got kicked out of figure skating class.
I was not alone in my perception. Many people close to me were curious about my enrolling my children in a sport known for aggression and fighting. Why not soccer, or basketball, or football?
We are all responsible for the image we portray. If the game of hockey is known for aggression and fighting, then hockey is responsible for its image. I am learning, however, that hockey is not the only place where aggression and fighting break out. Look around you. The changes in our lives breed anxiety; anxiety breeds anger; and anger vents itself in aggression and fighting. This takes place in all kinds of places from hockey rinks to church meetings, the dinner table, and wherever people do not get their way.
If we want our children to be able to navigate change and transitions with grace and dignity, it is imperative that we learn to handle change and transitions with grace and dignity, too. We all can learn to relax, lighten up, and settle down. We must teach our children that they will not always be on the starting team or in first chair in the orchestra. Classes will drop at the worst times. Professors do make mistakes and some coaches are jerks. We must teach our children that change happens – and they can handle it!
In 2007, the National Hockey League initiated the “It’s Just a Game” Campaign. The campaign was designed to teach the hockey world that hockey is “just a game.” The National Hockey League was committed to changing its image. Hockey is not about aggression and fighting. Hockey is about teamwork, skill, and sportsmanship.
In 30-second television ads children and others were portrayed in everyday situations, but acting like a “perceived” hockey player.” Fights would break out in absurd situations. The ad then concluded, “It’s just a game.” In other words, “Relax. Lighten up. Settle down.”
In one campaign, a policeman pulls a man over for a traffic violation. The man’s 12-year-old son starts yelling, “This call stinks, you moron! Are you kidding me? Where are your glasses!!” The boy then starts yelling at the Dad, “Are you going to take this Dad? Stand up for yourself.” The campaign ends, “It’s just a game.” Clearly, bad behavior is ridiculous at hockey games and everywhere else. [cf.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxduazZp7bo].
My boys loved hockey. They were never in a fight. They learned life lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship, and respect for authority.
Our children will face many changes in life – especially as they head back to school. As dads, we can help our children face these changes with grace and dignity. We want our children to know that change does happen and they can handle it!