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Millennials Could Learn Something From Hockey | October


As if Occupy Wall Street wasn't enough, this NY Mag article was the final straw. If you don't feel like reading it it's basically a rewrite of this MORLEY SAFER story from 3 years ago, with a recession spin to it. If you don't want to click on that, let me sum it up for you:

People between the ages of 18 and 30 are screwed because of their parents and the system and history and the economy.

I was born on July 27, 1981. I was a B- student and got a 1340 on my SATs back when there were only two parts. I went to college and my parents paid for it. I wasn't as serious about my academics as I should have been in college but still managed to swing an entry-level job at a financial services firm 2 months after I graduated. I've worked extremely hard during some periods and just hard enough during others, and have managed to stay employed since 2004.

Age-wise I'm a Millennial, but I just don't share this self-righteous, still entitled point of view, and I honestly think it might have something to do with hockey.

From the ages of 8 to 18 I played hockey for my schools and on clubs. That means every other day I was around some good coaches and some bad, some good teammates and some assholes. So while I stopped playing at 18 I would argue that my current perspective was shaped partially by hockey. And the advice I would give anyone who buys this overly-generalized, woe-is-my-extremely-unique generation bullshit surely is twofold:

1. If you want something and you're not achieving it, work harder or work different.
2. Shut the fuck up - no one who doesn't personally know you could give a shit about your feelings.

If you've been around here before you know that I give hockey personalities as much shit as anyone for not saying anything during interviews, but the script they've settled on may actually have been perfected over the generations to provide what essentially are lessons on how to be an adult, not just an NHL ventriloquist's dummy. These guys never blame other people for their bad decisions, they never blame circumstances that were out of their control, and they always offer a solution which is inevitably some thing to do with hard work or team efficiency (working smarter together).

And as a matter of fact, hockey might also serve as a decent metaphor for those suffering souls confused by the fact that their hard work hasn't landed them their own personal plane and seat on the board of Facebook. Some of us, no matter how hard we work, are not destined to make it to NHL. We just weren't born with or developed the smarts and skill to be incredible - not everyone is a genius. A lot of us won't even make it to the AHL or the ECHL. But maybe there's room in the SPHL, the CHL, or some tier II league in Europe. I'll tell you what, you're never going to find out if you don't bust your ass. Paint more, mop more diligently, be more corporate, write more posts, make more music. Whatever it is.

I also have advice for today's parents. I was recently talking to a youth hockey coach and he was telling me that some of the parents of the kids on his peewee team were upset because he ran their children after a game they lost. A game in which the effort level was unacceptable and systems were not followed. Parents were calling him and either berating or crying to him about how you can't treat children like that.

Parents: teach your children solid values, let them know they will always be loved, and then feed them to the world. Nurture their wounds in a productive way when they get home, but don't put them back in their diapers. They need to get taken to task by coaches, they need to go cage-to-cage against other kids their age and stick up for their teammates, they need to be held accountable for mistakes in this construed, simulated adult-like environment.

I was coming back from mono during the fall of my senior year of high school when my new coach pulled me aside, not 3 days after my first practice in which I puked on the ice during a bag skate, to tell me that I was his 13th forward. Somewhere during the course of the discussion he asked me what I thought he could do to help me get back to where I was that summer, when he saw me make the U.S. team at Elite Prospects Camp in Montreal. I don't know if it was for lack of anything to say, I pray it was, but I told him I thought I could use a bit more positive reinforcement. During practice that day I scored in some meaningless drill and he gave me an ambiguous "way to go to the net", and I have never forgotten it. It haunts me a bit.

When I was in a situation where the only thing I could do was get in better shape, work harder on the ice, study more film, get in some off-ice stick work, or a million other little things that were under my control, all I did was ask for praise.

In the New York Magazine article I linked to earlier the writer tells the story of a friend named Sam who was an over achiever in science and math in high school, and then decided to take literature courses in college because he wanted to get a high GPA. When he graduated he took a wood workers apprenticeship, and when that didn't work out, took a series of other jobs before realizing he had fucked every thing up. He blames himself, the writer blames society.

And that's the problem - Sam has it right, she has it wrong. Sam made some bad, under-informed decisions, and now he has to work his way out of that hole. The lottery isn't going to come through, it's all up to him.