Exercise and Win

I write a lot about Jack’s hockey team and how much it means to me. As part of that, I also write about what I think it means to him as well. I talk to him about it and I watch him both struggle and triumph at practices and games, but sometimes it is hard to know what he really thinks about his team.

That’s why I was happy to see the paper that he brought home with him from school today. His school is doing its “family life” (read: they’re teaching the kiddos about puberty and adolescence) lessons this week and, as part of that, they apparently had to fill out a worksheet about social groups in their lives. Jack chose his hockey team.

Photo of part of Jack's worksheet. In answer to the question, "How was it formed?" under "Hockey Team," Jack has written "formed by hockey players, passed down to kids."

Actually, the Cheetahs were originally created as a bar mitzvah project. The story of this team’s evolution from its small start to what it is today is a pretty incredible one.

Among Jack’s answers about how much time he spends with his group each week and so on, were some pretty telling thoughts.

When asked what the purpose of the social group was, he didn’t write that it was to learn how to play hockey. He didn’t write that it was to win championships. He wrote that the purpose of the Cheetahs is to, “work as a team, cooperate with others.”

I think that’s pretty cool and says a lot about the coaches of the Cheetahs that this is what 10-year-olds learn from them.

Asked to answer what contributions he makes to the group, Jack wrote, “Everyone gets to play, score—and win.” The kid has been paying attention.

But my favorite answer was to the question, “How does this group benefit you?” to which he wrote, “I get to exercise and win.”

I find my kid so charming.

Jack’s charm aside, though, he’s totally right. That team is full of exercise and win.

See, I believe in inclusion. I would love it if every kid could find a way to meaningfully participate in their community and school sports teams. Some Cheetahs do. We have players who play on those teams in addition to the Cheetahs. But there are some players, including Jack, for whom a typical hockey team as they now exist just would not work.

Aside from the opportunity, I love the role models Jack gets built into the Cheetahs that he wouldn’t get if he were playing on a typical team. I love that he has role models who were kids just like him, but who are now a few years older. Having those older teammates with similar neurology is of tremendous benefit to the younger kids on the team. I hope to see Jack grow into the same leadership roles that I see some of his older peers taking.

A few weeks ago, Jack was having a tough time at practice. He had a mentor (a teenage boy) working with him, trying to keep him engaged and happy on the ice. It was a little bit of a losing battle. For whatever reason, Jack just wasn’t into it that day. No matter what his coach and mentor did, Jack didn’t want to participate in the drills and he was surly as hell. I was pretty sure he would end up coming off the ice early that morning.

Then this older player who was helping out that morning saw what was happening and skated over to the two of them. That player and the mentor came up with their own little drill just for Jack. Within minutes, Jack was laughing and skating and participating and being all-around awesome.

That few minutes really cemented what I love about the Cheetahs. See, the Cheetahs aren’t just about typical teens and coaches helping the players. It is about self-leadership and teamwork and peer mentoring and cooperation and self-direction and learning all of that while getting a great workout. It is about that older player seeing a younger player struggle and stepping up to lead and teach and connect.

In other words, it is about exercise and win.


Thank you so much to Barbara and my mom for donating to this year’s Cheetah-thon! The whole team appreciates it so much. We still welcome donations for this year’s big fundraiser through May. Thank you for thinking of our team!

12 thoughts on “Exercise and Win

  1. Yes, your kid is charming and so is this post. :-) I am so delighted that he has this active outlet that means so much to him and is such a benefit. It makes me hopeful for my son. Great post, thank you!

  2. Those are some powerful insights.
    Hope there’s another LOCAL tournament next season, and that I’m free one of the days to cheer on the Cheetahs. :)
    btw, I mentioned the mentor program to my dentist, whose son plays hockey. I think he’s a little young, but hope they’ll look into it sometime.

  3. DOn’t know if you remember me but I used to read your blog a long time ago… I think Jack was in kindergarten! I just saw the name of your blog on someone else’s blogroll, and I came running over to say hi! You may not remember me because I’ve had many identities over the years… but I think when I used to read your blog I wrote “Slow Down, Gym Shoe.” Good to have found you again!

  4. I love this! And indeed, let’s have more sports teams where EVERYONE plays. I’m learning that my favorite thing about soccer in Arlington is that there are three levels of play – which means by the time you get down to rec league, all the children who are really talented or motivated or whatever – have signed onto a more intense experience. But that kids (and parents!) in rec league? We’re there to have some fun – and hopefully teach some of the same things to the kids that the Cheetahs are teaching. What a fantastic example of a successful program!

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