Michelle Martin

What makes success?

April 8, 2012

We hosted families from Frank’s hockey team at our house last weekend, a get-together following the parents-coach vs. player game that marked the team’s last official event.

The game — a non-serious affair in which I ran the scoreboard for the last part of the game and was under orders to make sure it ended in a tie — was fun, and the kids seemed to have a blast running around outside afterward.

The only really remarkable thing to me was that everyone who was at the parent-player came over — that was 10 out of 12 families, a great turnout for a weekend sandwiched between weeks when different schools were on spring break.

Some couldn’t stay long because they had other places to go, but they came and had a hamburger or a bowl of chili. Some came with just a parent and a player from the team, but most came as families, which was good, because after spending some time together nearly every weekend from September to March, the siblings seemed to know each other pretty well, too.

The thing was, if you were looking at wins and losses, the team didn’t have a successful season. They lost every game in the pre-season tiering round, and then every game the first two-thirds of the regular season.

It sounds awful, I know. It sounds miserable to drag your kids to game after game, only to watch the other team exchanging hugs and high-fives at the end. But the thing was, our team was improving steadily. With 12 kids — small for a hockey team — every player played, and played a lot. Not a single one of our team’s players had played a season of travel hockey before this year, and many had only been playing for a couple of years. When the season started, they had a lot of catching up to do.

And they did it. There was a brief period toward the end of the season when they had not yet been eliminated from their division playoffs when they were hoping against hope to make it; they didn’t, but played on, with their heads held high, and won their last game. Then they went to an out-of-town weekend tournament and went 2-2 against teams that played in higher divisions than they did, ending the season with a win and their best hockey so far.

Along the way, they learned to work hard, to play not only to their own strengths but those of their teammates, to listen and to learn and to keep trying.

It’s the kind of effort St. Paul wrote about when he used the metaphor of running a race for our efforts to follow Jesus. “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run so as to win it,” he wrote in first Corinthians (9:24). In Hebrews, he wrote, “let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.”

Frank’s team did not have a winning record, true. But they played so as to win the more important prizes that they can get from hockey or any other sport.