Thursday, February 26, 2009

Youth Hockey, Part III (The Final Conflict)

This is not really a conflict, I just thought it sounded cool, sort of an end of the trilogy type thing. Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know how the whole situation ended. After Brenda did some research Tuesday night and I followed up Wednesday, we thought Glacier Ice Arena would probably be the best option. I asked Shane what he wanted to do, and gave him the three options. One being staying with Atoms, two being do the 8 week "Learn to Play" at Incredible Ice, and 3 being playing Mites at Glacier. I also let him know that whatever he chose, we would still be taking lessons from Avi every week. Shane chose to play Mites (big shock). I spoke with Mike at Glacier, and he said that they had kids younger than Shane who were playing in Mites. He asked what Shane's hockey experience has been so far, I told him that he did the camp last summer, and has had 32 weeks of Atoms plus private lessons on a weekly basis. Mike thought 32 weeks of Atoms was way too much for a kid of Shane's age. I of course agreed. Mike told me they are much less strict about who gets on the team, but he still wants to evaluate Shane, probably for placement more than if he is qualified. Since we already have Avi scheduled for tomorrow, we will probably go over there either next Friday or on the 13th for their evaluation date.

Glacier has three separate Mite programs, one is Mini-Mites that I believe is a half-ice type of league, then there is Mites which is full-ice, and travel Mites that I guess he tries to arrange games with other local rinks. Mike said they are trying to build the program and get more kids there. I think in the couple of Atom sessions that Shane has left, I will let other parents know if their kids would like to do a team/game thing, they should check this out. The cost is $350 compared to almost $700 at Incredible Ice, and they are more open to letting the kids just play and have fun. For now, we will check out the 10-week season that starts in mid-March and see how it goes. I think during the summer if there is no league, we will just take hour-long lessons from Avi, then decide what to do in the Fall. All of this of course is contingent on how Shane feels, but I think once he actually gets to play games on a team, he will love it even more. I'll keep everyone up to date.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Youth Hockey, Part II

I had to post a follow-up to yesterday's entry. Shane and I went to the evaluation at Incredible Ice. We got there early enough to get his skates sharpened and get him ready to try-out. When we got to the bench, I gave him some simple instructions, keep both hands on your stick, do everything the coach tells you and have fun. Unfortunately, or fortunately, he took the have fun comment seriously. He did everything that was asked of him, he just wasn't the most intense skater out there, and at some points he seemed to be playing in the same way he does when he is in the Atoms program. I think he may have been thinking he is doing the same drills as Atoms and not realizing (possibly by my not enforcing it) how important this was for him to move to Mites. Anyway, when he was finished, I asked him to go ahead to the locker room so I could get some information from Phil who was doing the evaluating. He asked my if my son was out there, I said yes, he asked me his name, I said Shane, his response was "Not a chance."

I am so glad that I sent Shane to the locker room because that response was entirely out of line. He could have said to try again next time, he could have qualified that with something like he needs to work on "x" instead all I got was, "Not a Chance." I'm still trying to figure out what to tell Shane because there is no way I am going to tell him that the person said he didn't have a chance.

I spoke with Avi afterward, and I guess we do have options. We could sign him up for Atoms one more time, and he could do the same drills he has done before. We could sign him up for Learn to play hockey, but I think that will be the same as Atoms. We could not sign him up for anything, and just let him keep taking lessons from Avi, or we can go to a different rink and see if he can play in Mites.

Brenda spoke with Shane this morning and she said when she told him he didn't make Mites, he just had this dejected look in his eyes. This is where it really sucks that Incredible Ice is the most convenient rink. All Shane wants to do is play on a team where he practices during the week and gets to play a game. Being that Shane is 6, I think he wants to be an NHL star. However, being that Brenda and I are older than 6, we have a good feeling there is a pretty good chance that he may not reach that level. I'm not trying to be negative, just realistic. I will definitely encourage Shane in any endeavors he undertakes, and stand behind him 100%, and if it turns out he is good enough to try for that level, I will encourage him. For now, I am trying to do whatever I can to get him to at least play on a team.

I have e-mailed another rink that is not as convenient, but may be more open to letting kids play instead of expecting them to be the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky before they are allowed to take the ice on a team. I believe Shane is at the point that even if he is not the best kid on the team, he will be challenged and step to the challenge by being on a team. He is no longer being challenged in the "drills and scrimmage" classes. When Avi sees him on Friday's, he challenges Shane, and Shane does great. When it comes to Sunday's at Atoms, Shane does well enough, but seems to be distracted and bored. The evaluation yesterday was much like Atoms drills.

We will see what happens from here when the person at Glacier responds back to me, but as of right now it seems like my $695 for my son to play in Mites was not good enough for Incredible Ice, maybe the $325 that Glacier charges will be good enough for them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Youth Hockey

The last thing I want to do is become one of "those" parents. However, I feel like with the rules and people in charge of certain things, I may end up doing exactly that. In the end, I want what every parent wants from their kids, I want my kids to learn, have fun, grow, and not become bored when pursuing whatever activity they decide to undertake. I feel this way for both kids, but this post will concentrate on Shane because of the experience occurring right now.

Shane has been skating since he was about 3 1/2 or so. He has really done well, and progressed. Once we saw that he was getting somewhat bored with the regular skating lessons, we started him with hockey. He had one or two sessions of just playing around during the regular skating lessons, then he went into the week-long camp last summer. He had a good time there, but I felt like some or most of the other kids had more hockey training. I spoke with the parents at that camp and realized there were two separate programs he could go into at Incredible Ice. One was a "learn to play" program, the other was "Atoms." Although just like with everything else around Incredible Ice, and this subculture of youth hockey, the answers and information varied widely. In the end, we signed him up for Atoms. During the first session of Atoms, we found he really liked one of his coaches, and we found out that Avi gave private lessons. So, in addition to the Atoms every week, Shane has also been taking private lessons. We have seen a very big improvement in all aspects of his skating and his hockey skills. So, we decided to look into the next level of youth hockey which would be the Mites league.

Well, I e-mailed one of the people in charge of the youth hockey and without even seeing him (or any other kid for that matter) play, she immediately said he is not ready. I e-mailed back and said if he's not ready, then let me know what we need to work on to tryout for the next season of mites. She never really responded, but Avi spoke with another coach of Atoms to try to figure out what to work on. Avi feels like Shane is ready to at least get evaluated for Mites. Today is the evaluation for the Mites, and I asked on Sunday during Atoms if there was anything I needed to do prior to coming there. Someone from the office came out, watched the kids play for a couple of minutes and said he didn't think any of them were ready and I essentially shouldn't waste my time going there.

After speaking with Brenda and Avi, we decided that I will bring Shane anyway today. We are all looking at it from the sense that if he makes it, great, if he doesn't then he got an extra 30 minutes of ice time he wouldn't have had anyway and we see what they are looking for during evaluations.

My whole thing is that hockey just seems to be so much different than any other kids sport. In pretty much any other sport, kids can sign up, get on a team, and practice and play. With hockey you need to go through very specific steps before you should even consider having your child on a team. I understand there is more skill involved than with a kids soccer league, or even with baseball or football, but there should still be something for the kids that may be more advanced than the "drills and scrimmage" of Atoms but not yet ready for Mites due to age or some other factor. We can really see that during some of Atoms Shane looks a little bored. We feel that he is ready to have the weekly practice and game like in soccer, it's just that Incredible Ice is very specific with the way the kids progress from one stage to the next.

I can understand if a parent is getting fully entrenched in that sub-culture, and wants their kid to do travel, and possibly compete for upper level leauges or the NHL one day, but that is not my intent. I want Shane to have fun and learn. I am not expecting him to be in the 2021 draft class, I hope more that he is in the 2025 graduating class with a Master's degree. For now, he is enjoying hockey, and I want to see him happy, and I believe that will be actually playing on a team. I'll let you know how it goes later

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Disney, Disney, Disney

As you can tell from the title, this is going to be about Disney. To start, we decided to take advantage of the three-day Presidents Day weekend and head on up the Turnpike to go to Disney again this past weekend. I had been in contact with Courtney, who I have known since High School on Facebook and through e-mail, and she decided to take the drive over from Tampa to meet us there. Part of the reason was because I didn't meet up with them at Busch Gardens back in December, and part of the reason was because I thought they were getting moved to Alabama. Turns out at least temporarily they are staying in Tampa until Che gets other orders. But, I digress, I'm glad that they met us there. Madi ended up being almost like a big sister to Lizzie, I think Mike had a better time after he got to go on the Star Wars ride, and Angie just makes me feel old, since I saw her as a preemie 18 years ago.

We went to Animal Kingdom on Saturday. We rode the Kali River Rapids first thing, I'm still questioning why, but really, the kids love it. Since I was the one that didn't really want to go on the ride, I of course was the one that got soaked. After riding Everest, and 2 - 3 hours, I think I was almost dry. We left the park to head back to the hotel to take a shower and have dinner at Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Dinner was very nice, the kids were a little tired and it showed. We found it somewhat difficult to have a Valentine's dinner with tired kids, but we made it through, and all in all it worked out ok, and dinner was pretty good too, I would go back there. After dinner we tried to go to Downtown Disney, we realized that was a mistake and just went back to the room.

Sunday we headed to Hollywood Studios (MGM for those that don't know of the name change). The lack of a crowd on Saturday made me think that maybe the weekend wasn't going to be that bad. I found on Sunday that I was mistaken and the crowd was bad. We went to the Toy Story ride first, and got fast passes for 12:50, by the time we got off the ride the fast passes were for 6:30, they soon ran out. Courtney and I rode 'Rockin' Roller Coaster' while everyone else watched "Beauty and the Beast." Courtney was pleasently surprised because although I mentioned the coaster went upside down, I forgot to mention how it took off. She in turn forgot to mention that to Angie when she rode it with Brenda. Whoops. We got to do everything we wanted to do by 5:30 and had dinner at Hollywood and Vine (buffet) with everyone before Courtney and her family went back to their hotel to head back over to Tampa first thing in the morning.

On Monday, Brenda and I decided we might as well sit for the sales pitch of the Disney Vacation Club. Just for sitting with them, we got 4 3-ride instant fast passes to use whenever we wanted. In the end, we feel like the DVC could be a good deal, since we go up there 5+ times per year, but we are going to hold off for now. With the amount of points we could afford right now, we would only be able to use them for 3-4 trips, since weekends are more points. We may see where or if it falls in the budget next year.

After the DVC, we went to Magic Kingdom. As busy as HS was on Sunday, MK was worse on Monday. We could barely move with the amount of people that were inside the park. Additionally, we are just spoiled, because we have gone to MK for the various parties they host there (Pirate and Princess, Halloween, Christmas) and we rarely have to stand in any line. When we got there, we got fast passes for the Jungle Cruise, used our instant fast pass on Big Thunder Mountain (which Lizzie for some reason decided she didn't like it anymore), we then went back to the Jungle Cruise, walked across to Tomorrowland for lunch, rode Stitch, Space Mountain, and Buzz Lightyear, then decided it was just too crowded and time to go home. After stopping for ice cream for the kids, we got on the bus back to the hotel around 4:45 and made our way back home.

This was our first time staying at Pop Century. The rooms were comfortable enough, and considering we don't spend that much time in the room, we figured we could save a few bucks and continue going there, as long as the "premium" rooms were available. The premium rooms put you closer to the front, and the bus stops, but there do not seem to be many rooms that are convenient to the parking lot. I still wouldn't mind going back to Carribbean Beach and seeing one of the pirate themed rooms I have read about.

If there is any lesson that I learned from this weekend, it is that I will not upgrade our seasonal passes to annual passes. Sure, we are blacked out of some times at the parks, but those are very busy times, and quite frankly judging by the crowds of this weekend, I don't care that we are blacked out.

As an aside, Eric, the group that plays that song is E.S. Posthumus and the name of the song is Pompeii.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Work, Skating, Bicycles and Mini-Stanley

I haven't posted anything in a little bit. Mostly because I was thinking of throwing something up here, then work issues got in the way and I got pissed off. I'm sure throwing my thoughts up here may have helped, but for now, I just let it stew. Essentially, after a lot of fighting with the owners of the company, we made what I feel is a premature overreaction to the external situation currently occurring in the economy. I can somewhat understand, but I think it is something we should have done later if some of our other measures didn't have the desired result. Anyway, it's done, it's over, and I just need to move on and continue to grow the company. Given that, make sure you visit BarCharts and buy a guide or two.

I went skating today with Eric and JohnnyB. I am definitely feeling more comfortable on my skates, but still have a little way to go before I can try to play hockey. Anyway, that's my goal for this year to be able to at least try and learn with other old people like me and eventually play in a local "old guy" league.

After skating, I was thinking about wasting time and test-driving a Genesis. I have put together a spread sheet with various cars I am thinking about getting when I replace my Explorer later this year. Hopefully a few months after I don't have to spend the ridiculous amount I am every week for day care. Anyway, The Genesis ended up on the top of the list both with and without personal preference added in the scoring. I called Brenda as I was leaving the rink and she said Shane had something to show me. I figured anything Shane had to show me was way more important than wasting time for something I'm not ready to commit to yet. It turns out what Shane had to show me is that they took the training wheels off his bicycle and he is starting to learn how to ride without them. He made it up and down our street with Brenda next to him. I am really proud and impressed, we just got the bike for him for Christmas and he already has the training wheels off. I guess all that balancing on skates helps him.

I want to give a huge shout-out to Eric. Although it was due to unfortunate circumstances on both peoples parts, Eric has been talking to the person that plays "mini-Stanley" at the Panther games. During those conversations I believe Eric let Mini-Stanley know where we sit and we received a visit from Mini-Stanley during the Panthers/Islanders game. Shane absolutely loved it. I'm now off to the other rink because it's time for Shane's hockey. I'll try to be better at posting on more regular intervals.