Michelle Martin | Staff writer

What size is your hat?

November 18, 2012

It was a triumphant kind of weekend for Frank. He scored his first-ever hat trick in a tournament game in South Bend, Ind., and his hockey team went on to win their four-team bracket.

His hat trick — a hockey term for three goals scored by the same player in a single game — came in the second game of the weekend, on Saturday morning. His team won 4-2 and Frank scored all four goals. After the game, he asked if the fourth goal — an empty netter in the last minute — invalidated the hat trick. When I told him no, he asked if we would buy him a hat he’d had his eye on.

As happy as he was about his scoring outburst, he and the rest of the team were dejected when they lost their next game and figured they were out of the running for the championship, then elated when they found out they were actually in second place. They shared a 1-2 record with two other teams, but had the smallest difference between the goals the other teams had scored on them and the goals they had scored on other teams. That gave them the opportunity to play the undisputed first place team, which had gone 3-0 leading up to the championship game.

And as pleased as they were to get in the game, they were ecstatic to win in a shutout, with both their goals by their team’s leading scorer, who had two assists in Frank’s four-goal game.

For me, one of the best parts of the weekend was watching the team pull together. Winning the tournament wasn’t a cakewalk by any stretch; all the players knew it would be an uphill battle after they lost their first game, to the team they eventually defeated for the championship. But they played hard and supported one another.

Frank was thrilled to get a hat trick, but the fact is, he knows his teammates played a generous game that morning, realizing when he was in position to get a better shot and getting the puck to him. Hockey isn’t usually a game that can be completely dominated by one player; it’s too easy for the other team to catch on and adjust their defense accordingly. To win, teams must learn to share the puck by passing as accurately as they shoot, and to skate just as hard on defense as on offense.

Sports teach all kinds of life lessons, from how to be gracious in victory and defeat to the value of hard work and self-control and the importance of working together. Sometimes the lessons are not easy, especially when players young children look up to fall from their pedestals, or when it looks like cheaters win.

I, for one, give thanks for the joy — and the strength of character — Frank has gotten from playing.