MISSION STATEMENT: Adversity builds character, but having hate, does not
I am now in my 20th year of coaching hockey at either the college or youth level, and I believe one of the most important things our kids can learn is that no matter what, people are going to look at things through different lenses as it all depends on their background, how they were raised and what life has presented them.
My hope is that players will learn to respect other teammates and moving forward in life, people, as everyone has had their own journey and experiences.
I have been presented with many positions of leadership and with those positions comes a lot of tough and hard decisions as when it comes right down to it, there is no gray in leadership – just black and white.
Imagine all the decisions I have had to make between rebuilding and structuring Arizona State University hockey and building a youth hockey program from the ground up, working to maintain it every day. With this responsibility, I have also learned that when you do things that are considered “successful,” with that comes the haters and folks that want to see it fail.
Sadly enough, I fully understand that I can only control my club’s parents and hold them accountable. I do my best to educate our parents and players to act a certain way and if they don’t, then they have to deal with the consequences.
Personally, I have learned to brush off rumors and set the example to take the high road and keep my focus on my players and organization. It is truly amazing what I have seen and, sadly enough, come to expect watching adults at their very worst – adults challenging each other to fight over a 12-year-old hockey game, starting rumors that somehow are spoken as fact, parents sitting in the crowd heckling other players. As disgusted as I am by what I see, it doesn’t surprise me any more.
I was faced with something different recently, something that be honest with you, has rocked my foundation to the core. I have two gay brothers and I am proud, not ashamed. I watched their struggle to deal with adversity and find happiness. I actually have used this personal experience to help work my players through tough family situations of their own.
Recently, a hockey game became a place where hatred spilled out on the ice and was used to provoke my players and myself. References were made by players about my brothers and about myself. Once again, I thought I had seen it all, but never have I seen such personal use of hate being expressed by kids. I have been in many rivalries, including both sides of the University of Arizona/ASU battle, but this has gone to a place where my very foundation of this game has been questioned.
I have started working with the individuals to get to the core of the hate. I will also say that anyone who will go this far is more committed than I to doing the wrong thing than I am fighting it.
I am writing this to all who read this and ask you to ask is any game, tryout, ref call, or rivalry worth this hate, this outright lack of any social grace? To see the game hit this level has left me with so much doubt about why I have been doing this for 20 years as a player and another 20 as a coach. The casual lack of respect by players who have never met me, and yet they have formed such hate and demonstrated such lack respect is truly shocking.
I am sure this won’t change a thing, but like I say all the time when I talk to my players, if this affects just a single person to open up their eyes and adapt change, then me making myself vulnerable and open to more attacks by this community was worth it.
Jeremy Goltz is the program director for Mission Arizona.