My 17 year old daughter competed at USA Hockey Tier 2 Nationals last weekend. This was the culmination of many years of hard work for the girls and the coaches. This was the third year that her team declared “national bound”, meaning they would compete for for the right to represent the Southeast division at the National competition. Going into this tournament, our team was ranked 31st in the country, and were scheduled to play the 1st and 2nd ranked teams. Needless to say there was quite a bit of excitement and nerves surrounding the competition. I think we all have a lot to learn about handling ourselves based on this experience.
Rank doesn’t mean much
As I mentioned, the Northern VA (NOVA) Ice Dogs were ranked 31st in the country going into the tournament. Throughout the entire season, the team has been playing teams up and down the east coast. These girls definitely played up, or down, to the level of their competition. We saw them be extremely competitive to teams in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey but then lose to teams they should have beaten locally. This tournament was no different. The girls lost their first game to the 2nd ranked team 0-6, won their second game and then lost to the 1st ranked team by only 2 points (0-2). Going into this last game, the girls were nervous. It was an evening game so they had all day to dwell on it, but played their hearts out. They had several scoring chances and played solid defense. The girls left that game knowing they deserved to be at Nationals.
I think we’ve all had experiences where we weren’t the first choice. We may know this to be true, or worse, just be worrying that it’s the truth. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter where you ranked in the process, you got it. You earned it. Stop dwelling and move on to get the job done.
Keep your head held high
The team worked very hard to get to Nationals, playing more than 60 games in regular season. This is highly unusual for National bound teams, as they tend to be more select tournament-only players, playing on other teams during regular season. Our girls did it. They made it to Nationals, but lost. The girls walked out of the locker room after their last game with their heads held high. As they should!
We all have had experiences where we’ve done everything we can but it doesn’t work out. That’s really ok. Walk away from that experience with your head held high, knowing there was nothing more for you to do.
Tenacity & Determination
During the regular season playoffs, and then again during the Southeast division playoffs, the NOVA Ice Dogs had multiple games where the opposing team took the lead about half way through. In each of these games the NOVA Ice Dogs came back to win. They could have walked away, demoralized and out of the game. They didn’t. They fought back and succeeded.
The obvious moral to the story is to regroup and refocus when things aren’t going your way.