A month or so ago, Kyle texted me at work and said, “Do you want to be the team manager?”
To which I replied, “I’m sorry, I regretfully have to pass; thank you for asking.” (I actually think I said, “No frickin’ way,” but this is my story and I’ll tell it how I want.)
Our eleven-year-old is in his second year as a Squirt hockey player. Grand Forks Youth Hockey recently kicked off the travel portion of the Squirt winter season, meaning the kids now play teams in other cities and not just one another. The “team manager” Kyle referred to is a Mom who somehow miraculously finds an extra ten hours in a day to arrange all of the non-game activities that come along with toting around fifteen kids and their families from place to place. Specifically:
- Selecting hotels and negotiating room blocks. A good hockey hotel is located close to the rink; offers rooms with enough space for a hockey bag to be opened and everything inside to spread out to dry without stinking up an entire family’s worth of clothing, snacks, drinks, pool toys, blankets, pillows, takeout pizza boxes, and extra children; serves a free breakfast; has a pool and/or a place for everyone to hang out between games (preferably away from other guests on the RARE occasion someone isn’t giddy with excitement about relaxing in the middle of the equivalent of a Mardi Gras parade); and costs $100 a night. Did I mention that sometimes the rinks are located in a town with only one option…and it’s an 8-room motel with a shared bathroom and you have to take one of those Tom Sawyer rafts to the rink?
- Ordering stuff. In addition to the briefcases full of cash regularly doled out for skates, pads, helmets, gloves, sticks, practice jerseys, Gatorade, registration fees, gas, hotel rooms, and takeout pizza boxes, it is widely agreed that our little popsicles need promo items to effectively play hockey. From hats to eight-person ice houses – if you can embroider a last name and a jersey number on it, the team manager has to source, organize, order, distribute, and troubleshoot it. Also, it sure would be nice if the kids had gift bags filled with tape, snacks (the aforementioned hotel room snacks don’t count), energy chews, knee hockey pucks, and stickers, wouldn’t it? Yeah, it would.
- Coordinating team meals, social activities, and related. Turns out, restaurants aren’t immediately ready for 50 people who need to eat, drink, and get out of there in an hour. Who knew? Fortunately, that’s only one person’s problem – the team manager.
- Doing actual management things. Grand Forks Youth Hockey gives every team manager a backpack filled with all sorts of important gameday items – like, you know, the record book and the First Aid kit. And, like, you know, Grand Forks Youth Hockey expects someone to do whatever it is they do with all of those objects…which, I wouldn’t know, since I’m not the team manager.
“No problem,” Kyle said. “I’m sure Youth Hockey will find someone.”
Later that night, after the kids had been scrubbed down and put to bed, Kyle said to me,
“Good news! We have a team manager.”
And then I said,
“Great! Who is it?”
And then Kyle said,
“This Other Dad and I are going to split it.”
So then I said,
We blinked at each other for a while.
“Why not?” Kyle asked.
“Because,” I said. “It has to be a second-year mom.” (PS, kids play Squirts for two years, so a second-year mom is someone who has a kid that has already been a Squirt for a year.)
“Why?” He said.
“Because,” I said. “That’s just the way it’s done.”
“But why?” He said.
“Because the second-year moms learn from the previous year’s second-year moms,” I said, exasperated. “You were never a first-year mom, so you’re not going to know what to do…which means [deep breath, pause for dramatic effect] NOW I’M GOING TO HAVE TO DO IT.”
“Oh, that’s no big deal,” he said, brushing me off. “You can tell me what to do. Besides, the other team manager is our friend, and she can help us. Like a partnership!”
“Harumph, Kyle,” I said. “HARUMPH.”
The next day, Kyle met me for lunch.
“We got the hotel for the Duluth tournament,” he said. “I also went to the embroiderer and picked out a beanie for the boys.”
“Harumph,” I said.
“The Other Dad is going to coordinate the book and the box workers for this weekend,” he said. “And check it out – he made a song playlist for between whistles.”
“Harumph,” I said, and then, “What about the door signs?”
“What door signs?” Kyle asked.
Every year, the moms and grandmas get together during a practice to paint large paper signs for the front doors of our houses. These signs have the kids’ names and numbers and say something like, “Go team!” to make it easier for burglars to figure out who is out of town for the weekend.
Kyle pulled out his phone and typed something.
“Okay, one of the moms said she’d be in charge of the door signs,” Kyle said. “By the way, I was thinking we should organize a group dinner after the Park River game.”
“Harumph, Kyle,” I said, pulling out my own phone. “Fine. Here’s a restaurant in Park River with a kid’s menu. I’ll call them after we eat.”
“I called them already,” Kyle said. “They are going to get a bunch of tables ready for us.”
“Oh,” I said, and then, MORE BEGRUDGINGLY THAN ANY PERSON HAS EVER BEGRUDGED, “That’s nice.”
We’ve now had two weekends’ worth of games – and in the most annoying situation ever, Kyle and the Other Dad continue to do a good job as co-team managers. I keep telling myself it’s because all of us moms have such low expectations for their output that whatever they do seems acceptable – but they approach everything with such gusto that it’s hard to find fault. They send messages! They buy pin bags! They hang out with other dads in the scorer’s box! They bring the backpack to the rink! They take the backpack back home! Sure, the moms have had to redo a few things, but overall they are a major success; so much so, that I’m thinking Grand Forks Youth Hockey should always have dads be team managers – second-year dads, of course.
The photo above is of one of our two team managers.
The Three River Crisis Center in Wahpeton had 1,762 (after finding one hidden away!) pairs of undergarments under the tree this year. (Wahpeton Daily News)
In North Dakota-adjacent news, Red Lake Falls’ Alex Gullingsrud is back on the ice. (Grand Forks Herald)
This is a story about a clock. (KFYR TV)
Teen author and Lansford-ian Lindsey Undlin has written a second book. (Minot Daily News)
Fargo’s Russ and Robin Nelson ate at a different locally-owned restaurant every week and wrote about it on Facebook. (Fargo Forum)
Trust no one at the Dickinson Public Schools Foundation’s annual murder mystery dinner. (Dickinson Press)
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