Updated: Apr 19
Last week I finished my second term as president of our local minor hockey association.
Clearly, minor hockey is something I’m passionate about, so I’ve had mixed feelings about leaving.
But with other areas of my life opening up and my children growing up and soon “aging out”, it was the time to pass the reins to someone else.
Truly, you can only do this for so long and keep your wits about you.
After a celebratory drink with executive following the meeting, I decided to put together a few of the things I’ve learned about minor hockey, volunteering, and people in general after 7 years on a small town executive.
Through this time, there I had children play in 5 other associations, on a total of 32 teams over the last 15 years. So I’ve been around.
Here is my first crack at lessons learned this fresh out of the role.
1. Some people will never get it.
You know how there are rules about who can play where, and why you can’t just decide the ref was wrong on his call to suspend your child, and therefore your child should be able to play? And you know how minor hockey executive have very little say in those things because they are determined by the league or affiliate?
Ya. Some parents just will never get it and will choose to take everything you say as a personal assault on their child, or on them.
Some parents will always (try to) go over your head because they believe you are giving them false information. Some parents will also always want their child to be the exception to the rules you don't even make. And while I acknowledge that in some cases (e.g. Connor McDavid) it makes sense to make an exception, in 99% of the cases, it does not.
It’s ok. You learn to acknowledge their concerns, do what you can about things actually under your control, and let the venom slide off your back.
2. You will gain more friends than you will lose
Anyone who has been in the minor hockey game for a while knows that it’s quite possible to lose friends over pretty much any disagreement in hockey. Passions run high.
If you are on executive, amplify that by 10X.
The good news is that despite losing friends, you will gain many, many more, if your heart is in the right place. And the ones you gain are going to be worth it, and they will last long beyond hockey.
3. It’s important to sometimes disagree.
Some people don’t like conflict. I certainly don’t love it. But if you are part of a minor hockey executive, or any decision-making body, it’s important to have some disagreement.
People need to be able to express their opinions and disagreements. Out of those discussions is where the best solution lies. What becomes the difference maker is how it’s done.
Differences in opinion are a lot easier to take if they are respectful. If you can always keep in mind why you are there, for the benefit of the kids, differences in opinion are also easier to take.
If you keep the players, coaches and families at the centre, it's easier to welcome diverse opinions and the “conflict” won’t seem so uncomfortable.
4. It becomes easy to dismiss the opinions of people who never, ever offer to help.
A small number of people will complain. A lot.
Do you know who never helps?
The people who complain.
I’m not talking about asking questions – people should ask questions and should feel comfortable doing so. But if you are complaining and not willing to do anything to help with the solution?
After a couple times you become very easy to ignore.
5. If you are excited about being on a minor hockey executive, you might want to check your motives.
Few people jump at being the president of a minor hockey association, or any minor hockey executive position, really. Like, it’s not something that people YEARN to do.
Everyone I've met who does it tends to initially have self-doubt. But as I said to the person who followed me as president, I see that self-doubt as a good thing.
If you were eager to become president? I’d be worried about you, because I would suspect you might be in it for the wrong reasons (your own kid).
When I was becoming president I asked people on our FB page what their best advice was. One gentleman responded with advice I never forgot and tried to live by.
He said, ask yourself two questions with each decision:
Am I following our policy and guidelines?
Is this decision benefitting me or my child in some way?
If you can answer “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, you are probably on the right track.
6. Being a woman in the world of hockey continues to (sometimes) be challenging. But there is hope.
It’s still a bit intimidating walking into a room of men who “know a lot about hockey” when some of them look at you as a woman who doesn’t know a lot.
Truthfully, we know that many women know a lot more than men think, and just as importantly, we have a lot of the skills necessary to contribute to roles on executive.
In fact, new and rational thinking can be a great way to break up some of the “boys club” thinking that has been so problematic in hockey cultures over the past gazillion years.
The good news is that for every condescending man I met, there were two who were supportive and respectful and actually acknowledged the wealth of knowledge and organizational history I had built up over 15 years. And they also acknowledged that some parts of hockey culture need to change.
Don’t let the boy’s club scare you. Your skills are needed, too.
7. You can’t pick your hockey family, but you can pick the people within the hockey family who do the least damage.
I could write a whole post on this.
I probably will.
Avoid the snakes. Find the good ones. Or go it alone if you have to. There are a million great people in hockey. Find the ones not drawn to chaos.
And for the love of god, stay away from anyone who criticizes kids.
8. If you care about kids, get involved.
Want kids to be healthy and have a place to play for years to come? Get involved.
Love hockey and want to make sure your centre is sustainable? Get involved.
Organizations don’t run themselves. It actually takes a lot of time and effort and energy.
The more people that contribute, the less demanding it is on everyone. It also builds a really positive culture for everyone the more people who pitch in.
If you possibly can, find a way to get involved.
9. We are all busy.
Did you read #8 and say I can’t get involved because “I’m too busy?”.
No one cares. Not one person on executive cares.
Do you know why?
We are all busy.
I became president while going through a divorce, moving (twice) in a year, running two businesses (self-employed), trying to maintain a house on my own while running three kids to three different associations. It was definitely “busy”.