Spring Has Sprung, the Grass Has Riz, I Wonder Where the Birdies Is?!?


Ahh, spring.

Ahhh Spring…

Ah-chooooooooo… Damn.  It’s spring.

 

Spring time is finally appearing here in Southern Ontario and aside from the increasing temperatures, here are the 13 most obvious ways to tell that Spring has Sprung.

  1. Sports cars in need of muffler repair and convertible cars are zooming around, blasting their horrid music and looking for attention

  2. A.L.L.E.R.G.I.E.S

  3. People are wearing colours again!  Yay.  Winter is dreary enough and everyone in black makes it that much more bland and blah.

  4. People begin to stink.  Not from sweat, at least not yet, but now is the time of year when they think a little bit of cologne or perfume might be a good idea but it’s not.  It’s horrid if I can smell it over a super-stuffy nose. (See 12)

9.  TAXES!!!  It’s tax time!!  Don’t forget to file, even if you think you don’t owe.  File, file, file!  If you need help anywhere in Canada, search up and hit up inTAXicating.

8.  Flips flops and PJ’s make their returns to coffee shops.  In the winter it’s just too darn cold to roll out of bed and drive or walk to the local coffee shop, but not in the spring!

7.  Exposed skin everywhere on everyone, male, female, young, old… If it’s in combination with leggings or yoga pants, it’s a bonus!

6.  I see neighbours!  Seriously, I cannot believe how little we get out in the winter – especially with kids programs keeping us out and around – I found out this morning that our neighbour had a baby and we didn’t even know she was pregnant.  So hard to tell covered in a giant Canada Goose jacket.

5.  Bikes everywhere!  And I’ve mellowed over the years, so I want bikes and bike lanes everywhere.  I also want safe and clean public transit and I want better roads and more parking for cars.  I want everyone to commute and be happy and healthy and safe.  Hey, City of Toronto… If you want business owners to thrive and survive, back off the parking tickets for people who park in actual spots.  If they park illegally, or block traffic, tag and tow them, but let businesses earn money!

4.  Joggers abound!  I’ve always said that out-of-shape joggers (like myself) run at night when no one can see them shaking and bouncing around or hear them gasping for air.  The fit joggers run during the day where everyone can see them.  Whatever your motivation, just run!

3.  My lawn kicks ass!  My front lawn is very green and soft.  I put the snow on it in the winter before the City salts the street or sidewalk and in the spring, and it makes a difference.  It’s so nice, and I have a neighbour who doesn’t talk to anyone but I catch him walking across the street and touching my grass in awe.  Love it!

2.  Change!  Changes come in spring.  People clean their houses, change their jobs, their clothes, their demeanor, and even the homeless-looking guy who visits the Starbucks I frequent cut off his ridiculously long white beard.  Wouldn’t have recognized him – looks somewhat respectable now – except for the same army fatigue pants he wears every day and the shmatta (towel?) he covers his head with.

1.Spring means an end to winter programs for my kids, so say goodbye to hockey, but it also means saying hello to baseball (call me “coach”) and to being able to throw a ball around and walk to park and shoot hoops, or go for a bike ride, and work at losing the winter gut and getting back into a shape that doesn’t resemble a pear.

3 cheers to spring!

Hip hip, hooray

Hip hip hooray.

Hip… Hip… Achhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhooooooooooooooooooo

 

Geez, I hate spring!

 

 

 

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The Absolute Best Hockey Instructor on the Planet: Dusan Kralik’s Creative Hockey development


I just signed up my middle and only child who plays hockey for March break hockey camp with the absolute best hockey instructor on the planet, Dusan Kralik, and his Creative Hockey Development program.

My son, you see, is entering his 3rd year in organized hockey, his 4th year skating at all, and all of his improvements have been due to his desire to get better (certainly not to my pushing him) and because Dusan is an amazing human being.

Dusan, has a very lengthy background in hockey, and he would have been a fantastic pro player if it wasn’t for injuries.

Instead of moving past hockey, Dusan moved to Canada from his native Slovakia and wound up playing on my ball-hockey team where we won a whole bunch of championships.  Playing with one healthy hip, Dusan was magical in the arena, and when I finally got to see him on the ice, I was in awe.

He’s incredibly talented, unbelievably gifted, and he’s trained many, many current NHL players whom you might have heard about – Subban, Tavares, the Tanev brothers, just to name a few.  In fact this past April, he trained Conor McDavid prior to the World Cup.

If he can train them, he can train my son.

Dusan is not just an on-ice genius, as he has presented at International Coaching Symposiums, has had many a conversation with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and each summer he travels to Carolina to train the Carolina Hurricanes prospects.

Dusan, is a future GM in the NHL, so it’s best to get him while he’s still training!  Dusan travels worldwide to train – I know he trained the Israeli Hockey team, as well as the men’s and woman’s hockey teams for Seneca College.

His website is under construction, but I strongly recommend you follow him on Facebook, here; https://www.facebook.com/CreativeHockeyDevelopment/

If I’m lucky, he’ll let me assist at the camp as I did last year with some of the coaching (not on ice), or I’ll just look forward to watching the expert work his magic with a bunch of wide-eyed kids.

 

My Son Was Traded This Morning!


I know hockey and I love hockey.  I’ve never played ice hockey but I have coached ice hockey – 6 years while in my early 20’s because my sports physiotherapist needed someone to open and close the bench doors.  I had always thought it was because he didn’t like the 6am and 7am games!

I learned to skate while teaching the kids how to play the game, and how to be winners on and off the ice.

In those 6 years we won one championship and made it to the finals 5 times because we never had the best players in the league, nor the top select players, but we made these kids buy into the team concept which meant all the players, no matter how good, bad or new to the game, were a key part.

Hockey is, after all, a team sport!

My wife found it unusual that with my love and passion I hold for hockey, I never pushed my kids into the sport.  I tried, trust me, but they didn’t like it.  They hated staking, they didn’t like watching the Leafs and they had no desire to shoot around a ball in the basement.

Then something changed…

The school my kids attended arranged for skating lessons during the day, and my middle child, Stewie’s class was full of top ranked hockey players, kids who could skate, shoot, pass and play the sport better than other kids their age and Stewie always felt awkward skating around his classmates.  He’s a tall kid for his age and watching him stand on skates reminded me of a newborn giraffe trying to stand for the first time.

I was there, on the ice with him at his school’s skate day when his classmates skated over to him and instead of making fun of him, helped him stand, brought him the on-ice support and were giving him tips to be a better skater.  I could see in his eyes that he was very appreciative of their support and he was determined to skate without support.

From that day came lessons after lessons, plus a learn-to-play hockey program and finally this season a debut in house league hockey.  He’s a much better skater than 2 years ago, and his hockey sense is quite high for someone who refuses to watch the sport.  He continues to get better and better each game, practice and lesson and he knows he has a long way to go.

He also knew that on his 0-7 team there was a very good chance that he was going to be traded.  Not only were a lot of the kids on the team together from previous years, but he understood that to get new players, better players, you would have to give up your “lower-skilled” players (his words) and not the “worst” players.

Then came the news!

He was traded.

From a 0-7 team to a 7-0 team.

He’s not all that pleased about it either.  You see, he is worried that his new teammates will not know that he’s just learning the sport, but they will see a very tall kid who tries very hard but is not the fastest, not yet able to deke players out, or who can raise the puck.

He’s worried that they will think he sucks and that the best players left the team because of him.

UGH.

So I have reached out to the convenors, trying to get the new coaches contact information so I can let them know that they are getting a kid who wants to learn the game and who will do whatever he can to be better and make the team better.  It’s been 2 days and no one has reached out, oh, except his old coaches who have asked for his jersey and socks back.

So what would I do in this situation?!?

I would do what is right for the children!  I would have a really long look at the coaches who have volunteered to coach these teams to make sure they are looking after the kids best interests and not their own.  I see teams playing poorly in hopes that their team won’t be broken up by trades and wonder aloud who does this help?!?  Does that coach get an award for stocking his team while other teams struggle, or worse, what message does that send to the kids when they see a coach trying to lose in order to protect the core of the team…

I would rather the league NOT make the trades, but instead work with the coaches to teach the children to play as a team.

Sure, little Johnny can only score 3 goals, then any goals he scores after that do not count, but does it benefit the kids on either side if Johnny still dekes the entire team, then stands by the side of the net waiting for a teammate to skate to the net so that Johnny can pass to him or shoot the puck in off of him?

Does it benefit the kids that the league will not post the score when it exceeds a 5-goal differential?  Nope, the kids know the real score so they might as well post it, but would it hurt the other coach to take his better offensive players and teach them defense, or passing instead.  By doing that, his team learns proper positioning and the defensive team can also learn proper positioning.  That would be a win-win situation!

Instead, we let the coaches run wild, we make the better kids feel special and we make the lower kids feel useless all in the name of hockey instead of using this special position of leadership to teach the kids to be good teammates, and to help their team win without rubbing it into the faces of their opponents.

I’ve applied to be a part of the convenor team because of how strongly I feel about the opportunity to teach kids to be better kids and win, lose or draw.

I guess I know who will be coaching next season…

No trades please!  We’ll be fine.

October 25th, vote for Dusan Kralik in Ward 23


I don’t normally endorse candidates… Wait, yes I do. So I am formally endorsing Dusan Kralik to run in the Ward I grew up in, Ward 23.

Let me tell you a little about Dusan to give you some reasons why you might want to vote for him.

I met Dusan a good 20 years ago when he first came to Canada from Slovakia. He was introduced to me by my friend, Mike Yen, who is running in Ward 20. Mike was playing on my ball hockey team – we met in University, and Dusan is a former professional hockey player who was hampered by arthritis in his hip and was unable to make the NHL.

As a ball hockey player, Dusan was awesome! As a human being, I cannot describe what a great guy he is. He would give the shirt off his back to help anoyne (he did actually give me one of his pro jerseys which I still cherish).

I remember standing in the dressing room after a particularly difficult loss, trying to motivate the team, and keep players from losting faith in each other and this (then) very quiet usan yelled out to the team, Hey guys! Shut up and listen to the Couch!”

“Did you call me a couch?” I said to him with a smile on my face.

“Yes! You are Couch!!!” he said very seriously.

“Dusan, I’m a COACH… Not a COUCH. You sit on a couch.”

The tension in the dressing room disappered and we ended up a very strong season on the winning track.

He knows what to do to get the job done.

So back to why he would be a great councillor for Ward 23.

1) He cares about the community. He has talked to a LOT of people and he knows what irritates them in the community and across the city. He’d be taking that to City Hall.

2) He’s been though a lot and appreciated Canada, specifically Toronto. He wants to give back.

3) He’s a businessman, so he’s not going to council without a plan and knowledge of what to do.

4) He’s a great guy who will be accessable and represent the Ward with all he has. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit”.

If I was in that Ward, I would be voting for him.

Here is his website;

http://www.kralik2010.ca/

I think this quote from his website says it all about this man running for City Councillor;

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones”
John Cage

Mercifully, My Sons Soccer Seasons Have Come to an End!


I know for a fact there are many readers of this blog who know the way I feel about my boys’ soccer seasons this summer.

This actual topic came up Friday night at our tot-shabbat dinner / service between myself and our Rabbi, right after I tried to convince her that it was okay to text / surf the net during the high-holidays because when the Torah was written there was no texting.  The Rabbi asked him how soccer was going, was he having fun… when my son said, “Yes, soccer is FUN.”

Oh, yes he did.

I’m shaking my head…

But for those of you who do not know what happened, here it is in a nutshell.  My boys, 5 and 3 (close to 6 and VERY close to 4) play North Toronto Soccer and I am the coach of both teams.  My younger boy had no interest in soccer for most of the season, yet he would get VERY frustrated if he could not touch the ball – so much so that he once chased down a teammate and yanked him to the ground, from behind, by the cuff of his shirt then stood over him crying.  However, after spending the season running behind the play or kicking the ball in his own net, I saw some progress.  Towards the end of his season he actually tried dribbling with the ball during their games and had less hesitation going into traffic to get the ball.  In his last game, he took the ball off the opposition by running beside her, matching her stride for stride, then slipped in front of her and took the ball.  He then took it all the way to the opposition net before his teammate took it off him and kick it in for a goal.  His response to me was, “almost!”.  Nice.

 My oldest boy, on the other hand, has less than ZERO interest in the game and often times would be caught far away from the action during the games picking weeds, playing with sticks, or watching the other games.  He was there because he had to be and the fact that there was a game going on was a mere coincidence.  His teammates, knowing this, would try to pass to him so he could score – or even just kick the ball, yet passes would roll in front of him without him even noticing.  He hated soccer games.  He liked to practice and be with his teammates, but as for the games… No way.   

Coaching went something like this…  On Monday nights I would yell at the 3 and 4 year old’s to help them learn to play by the rules; “there are no hands in soccer” or “take your hands out of your pockets”, “stop ripping out the grass”, “get off your teammate”, or “keep the ball inbounds”.  By Tuesday night, my hoarse voice would get done in as I would yet to (at) Linus; “go kick the ball”, “run!!!”, “who are you covering?”, “run, run, run” or the ever famous, “Linus!  I bought you cleats so you could run and kick the ball… please… you’re killing me… Just kick the ball”

Anyways, after a LONG season, this Saturday was the finalsday for both boys teams.

Stewie’s team – Brazil – was short half the team, so only 4 of the 8 kids showed up, which meant we had 2 teams of 2 kids and we played the other team, Argentina, who had 7 of their 8 kids there.   The 4 on 2 team had our best 4-year-old and he dominated.  We won that side but my 2 guys,  Stewie being one of them had to overcome some crafty cheating by the Argentine coaches to keep the win.   

We were up 3-0 when the ball went behind the Argentine net and instead of letting all six kids eventually kick it around the net back into the play, the Argentine coach picked up the ball and tossed it to right in front of our net.  Needless to say that scored.    The Argentine’s managed to pull this off 2 more times before I kept sending the ball back to their net for my kids to score.   We won that game 7-4.

The next round saw my team Brazil have t play 2 on 4 on both sides, yet we still managed to win both of those games.  With my side down 3-0, I switched over my best kid to my other Brazil coach whose squad was destroying the little Spaniards and our kid quickly scored 5 goals for a 6-3 win.

With a playoff sweep in the books the kids then got their medal, team picture, pizza, water and a giant, really cool, soccer ball cookie.

I realized in the 2 on 4 scenario, that Stewie was getting better and better and at still 3-years-old he held his own and even scored a few goals.  I might have a player in him after all…

… But then there was Linus…

UGH.

His team won their first game via comeback 7-5 over Mexico but lost 3-1 in their final to Spain. 

Linus was invisible.  He usually walked behind the play, sometimes jogged, but never made any attempt to kick or block the ball.  His teammates wanted him to kick it and score so they kept passing to him, but he wouldn’t move and the ball would roll past.  Not once all season did he want to be first to the ball, nor did he want to get into a scrum to kick the ball out.  He doesn’t like to dribble, won’t practice at home and has never talked of scoring a goal…

But at the end of his game, his season, and probably his soccer career, he too got his cookie, pizza, medal, picture and water and he was pleased with himself.  He made it.  I think his happiest moment was having his medal put on his neck by City Councillor Karen Stintz – we go way back – and he remembered her.  Plus with his top 2 teeth missing he’s really freeking cute!

I’m glad this ordeal is over.  Makes me want to consider ice skating again…

Week in, week out, I yelled and yelled until I has no voice.  I used a white board and diagramed plays.  I talked calmly, I spoke strategically but none of it worked.  Parents laughed, Linus smiled.

It was almost as though during the games he didn’t know what to do…

So I am SO relieved it is over.  I gave him a big hug and congratulations for sticking with this program (he wanted to play soccer!!!) even though he hated it.  So then he tells me that he may want to play next year… Yikes.  I won’t be coaching.  🙂

I’m a certified Canadian sports coach but dealing with your kids is different…

But now both kids put their team pictures on the fireplace for me to see and curse daily.  Oddly enough, even though Linus said how much he hated soccer, when asked a school what his favourite 3 numbers are – the 3rd number he chose was his soccer number, #8.

Kids… I just don’t get them.