Hockey Mom: Empowering Life Lessons

Kids in the Capital is pleased to welcome back Antonia Cetin to the blog. Antonia is an educator and the author of You’ve Got This, Mom! A Mother’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Modern WorldThis post originally appeared here.

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Having woken my son at 5am on a Saturday morning, I’ve fed him and got him out the door to sit in a cold rink where I wait for his hockey practice to begin with the mug of coffee that I cling to for warmth and solace. I joke with the other parents, “Who thought this was a good idea?” Yet, we’ve been coming back for 7 years.

Over the course of the 7 years my son has participated in NMHA activities and teams, Matthieu, has grown and learned so much. When he first started playing at the age of 5 as a little Timbit, he could barely skate and after 3 months of the early wake-ups, the complaining that this was too hard and the helmet was heavy and itchy, and watching him flop on the ice and finish all of the drills last, that protective parent doubt began to creep in and I was beginning to think that maybe this was not such a great idea. Then, miraculously, in what seemed like the space of a week, he went from barely standing to flying across the ice. He was sliding, gliding, and having fun. He was hooked!

As a parent, I was happy for him that he was enjoying his new skills which I knew could provide him with a lifetime of opportunity for physical activity and comradery but even more so, I was thrilled that he was learning a very important life lesson. Without knowing it, he was learning so much more than how to skate: he was learning that even when something isn’t easy, you stick with it until you succeed. He was learning to be resilient. And, you know what? I was learning something, too. I was learning the importance of letting him struggle so that he could become resilient. I was learning that my role of Mom wasn’t just to protect him, but to provide him opportunities where he could learn to be resilient in a safe space.

Since these first beginnings, our learning has continued and Matthieu has blossomed. He has learned the satisfaction of belonging to a team and arriving at practice to welcoming cheers of, “Yeah, Matthieu is here!” and I have learned to be grateful that he has a space where he belongs. He is learning that you don’t always win your games, but that it sure is fun to play, and I have learned that it’s ok to let him be disappointed in his losses and to cheer him on anyways. He has learned the value of seeing the bigger picture (what all is going on around me on the ice); of collaborating on plays and of sharing (the puck, the defeat, and the glory), and I have learned to step back and let him have the space to try, to fail and to succeed.

Hockey has brought Matthieu a common ground for conversation with people of all ages, an excellent way to stay fit and healthy, and perhaps most importantly, a lot of joy. As a parent, aside from watching my son grow and learn about hockey and about life, and being happy that he has found an activity that makes him happy, I appreciate that the NMHA has brought us the opportunity to meet and chat with other wonderful hockey families. Hope to see you at the rink sometime, too!

A family night out with the Ottawa Fury

KITC would like to welcome back, guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel.  During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival.  During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.  

Certain summer nights are almost perfect.  We experienced one of those moments at a recent Ottawa Fury FC match.  

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The first element was the weather.  As all Ottawans know, our spring has been less than stellar. The night we attended the Fury game, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was a perfect twenty-two degrees celsius.   

The second factor was the game day experience.  Our son, David, had been picked to be part of the pre-game ceremonies. We arrived at TD Place  stadium and met up with someone from the Fury staff. We were soon down on field level. David had the opportunity to watch the players practicing. He enthusiastically gave them high-fives at the end of their practice.

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David was given instructions for what would come next.  He was given a Fury flag along with a number of other children. I must admit to feeling chills as the players walked out accompanied by the booming voice of the stadium announcer. David got an up-close view as the players passed through the tunnel of Fury flags.

Soon enough, both national anthems were complete and it was time to make our way back to our seats. The Fury were playing against the Charlotte Independence. Both teams were evenly matched and the soccer was high quality. I liked the fact Fury fans represented all different ages and demographics. There were families enjoying an evening out along with more hardcore supporters who probably knew the history of each player.   

Ottawa Fury Player

After forty-five minutes of action, the score was 0-0. It was the perfect time to stretch our legs so we made a beeline to the family fun zone. This area features a variety of activities including inflatables, face-painting and Jenga blocks. Basically, it is the ideal place to take your younger Fury fan if they want a break from the game. David took a few shots on net and scored a goal. David was craving a hotdog so we headed to the concessions area where he ate almost all the dog leaving me a small bite-sized portion to enjoy!

It was time for the second half to begin. The major excitement for us was when the Fury promo team threw  t-shirts into the crowd. A shirt landed close to our seats but was just out of reach.  An older fan grabbed the child-sized t-shirt and did the kind thing giving it to David.

Unfortunately for the Fury, even though they carried much of the play, Charlotte scored a late goal marking a 1-0 victory. To be honest, the score did not really matter to us. We had a great night out and plan to attend at least another game this summer.  

Ottawa Fury Soccer Game

There is something of a Canadian invasion going on with the Fury lately as many of the starting players are from Canada. There are even several home-grown players from Ottawa that you can cheer. For more information about the Fury schedule and tickets, visit, www.ottawafuryfc.com

Special thanks to the Ottawa Fury for providing David with tickets for the purpose of this article; all views are his own.

Let's get N.U.T.S!!

We all know that kids need more physical activity. The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth shows that only 9% of Canadian kids ages 5 - 17 are getting 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day (did that statistic shock you? It shocked me!!)

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When recess and phys ed are so restricted in public schools these days, how can parents take initiative to get their kids moving? I know for me, it's hard to find the motivation to get the kiddos out after a long day at school, especially when we have to get dinner made and bedtime routine started early (we prioritize an early bedtime in our house!) In the warmer months we always get out for a post-dinner walk or bike ride....but the winter months are HARD!!

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Just when I was despairing that winter would never end, I got a cool invitation from a new activity in Ottawa called N.U.T.S. The name stands for "Neuron Upgrade and Training Station." The facility is located near St. Laurent and Industrial Rd, and last week the Kids in the Capital team and friends got to check out this obstacle course where both your mind and body are challenged.

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When we arrived we walked into a huge dark room with glowing black lights and upbeat music. Friday and Saturday nights at N.U.T.S are glow-in-the-dark, courtesy of Glow Sport.

The first order of business is the waiver form. You then get to choose which type of trivia you would like, and I mistakenly chose Rock 'n Roll (mental note: I do not know ANYTHING about rock 'n roll.) When you give the staff your email address, all of your scores on the trivia portion of the obstacle are averaged out and you're emailed a score  - so you can go back and try to beat your last score!

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The premise of N.U.T.S is to run through an obstacle course, while stopping along the way to challenge your brain with trivia. The instructors showed us the entire course once, and explained how to move through it. The trivia is on small screens, and the passcode you have on your bracelet is entered into the computer so that your specific trivia questions pop up (my daughter chose Canadian History, which was a fun one to do together!)

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The obstacle course is not a race, but of course, some kids loved to see how fast they could do it! There is a lot of jumping, crawling and climbing. Most of the challenges along the way can be modified, so that older/stronger kids can choose the harder options on the obstacle, while younger kids can do something a bit easier. Anytime an obstacle is too much, we were instructed to do 10 jumping jacks instead!

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Have you ever gone for a walk and then had some brilliant breakthrough in your work or at school? Well, that's because physical activity is good for our brains! It gets all those fancy synapses firing in there, and answering the trivia questions was super fun.

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N.U.T.S is not just for kids. The idea is to run through the obstacle course three times, and I made it through it once. It was TOUGH (but of course, you can make it easier on yourself!!) I joked that this was clearly a mommy boot camp activity (and funny enough, N.U.T.S just introduced a mom and child fitness class!!)

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All the kids in our group declared it an amazing success, and were sad to have finished after three rounds. My daughter has already planned to hold her ninth birthday party there (and I got word that they supply a completely vegan cake, which is apparently out of this world!)

N.U.T.S is available for specific drop-in times, and they also tour all around the city visiting schools and having children take part in the obstacle course. They regularly host groups in their space, ranging from school-aged kids to workplace team building activities with adults.

This place is on our "must-return" list, and I can't wait to challenge myself again.

Choosing a soccer league for your child

I have a seven year-old who wants to do EVERYTHING. Over the past few months she's asked to try karate, soccer, pottery, dance, road hockey and forest school. 

As much as I love her enthusiasm and want her to try it all, I realize this is a) not realistic; and b) not affordable. So we have asked her to focus on one thing she'd really love to try, and she chose soccer.

My daughter did Sportball when she was younger, learning some basic skills and just having fun with the ball. I didn't go further than that because she was never keen to wear proper cleats, shin pads or the team uniform.

 Can you spot my kid? :)

Can you spot my kid? :)

But all of a sudden she has grown up, and realizes that proper equipment means she can participate and feel comfortable. For a kid with many clothing sensitivities, it's a huge win to have her willing to wear a uniform.

I started looking at soccer league options, and was immediately confused. What was best? A city program? A soccer league run by volunteers? A soccer league with certified coaches? The option for her to play competitively at some point down the road?

I put the question out in our Facebook Group, and got a LOAD of information. I've put together a few things parents mentioned - you may want to consider some of these when choosing a soccer team or league.

Location and times

This seemed to be the most common thread from parents - choose a league where the location is close to you, and the times of the practices and games are doable for your family. It's going to cause a lot of stress if you are driving all over the city, or missing work to rush home for an early meet.

Long-term development and competition

Many leagues have a development soccer programs for youth. The goal in the younger years is not to push kids to the max - this way, they learn to enjoy the sport. Player positions are not assigned for younger kids, and many leagues don't even play games until a special festival weekend. At this stage, children are working on basic skills, often in groups instead of teams.

One suggestion I received is to ask if the children will be grouped in the same group, or if they're switching each week. Different groupings make it hard for kids to make friends, and can take away from some of the social aspect of the sport.

If at some point your child shows an aptitude for the sport, there are leagues that will funnel into competitive programs.

Volunteer coaches vs. certified coaches

Some leagues are run by parent volunteers, whereas others are run by certified coaches. As you can imagine, the coaching ability will vary widely when it comes to parents - some are naturals, while others require a bit of, um, work. 

I've heard some parents share positive experiences about volunteer-run leagues, whereas others feel that is too much of a gamble (will you get the great coach, or the not-so-great coach?) 

Cost

I've seen anywhere from $100 - $190 for the season. If this cost is prohibitive for your family, there are a number of programs that support low-income families:

- some clubs will lower the fee if parents volunteer

- the club may have scholarship programs, so be sure to check before you register

- Canadian Tire JumpStart program

- KidSport Canada

- Minding our Bodies Youth Grants

Competitive soccer is a whole other ballgame (no pun intended.) Parents are looking at hundreds of dollars in fees for the season. We're not there yet, and not sure we'll ever be, but it's good to know!

Finally, the last piece of advice I received was to get involved - make sure the rules and guidelines are clear. Find out if there are ways to volunteer (even for rotating snack!) This way you can see if coaches are encouraging team play and a supportive atmosphere. Sports at any age need to be FUN!

Is your child in a soccer league? What do you love about it?