Lo and behold the hockey league was a success. I do not remember exact numbers but after the initial short season, it blew up. I believe we had almost 200 players at one point. It was fantastic, and of course the Howlett boys owned it. It was only fitting that Devan scored the very first goal in the Sandhills Youth Inline Hockey League. The SYIHL was just what the doctor ordered. The boys were happy to be playing, I was happy to be coaching. We were having a blast. Jeff and I decided to form a travel team. It was comprised of the top players in the league. We were u10 team, which Devan made as a 7 year old. This meant both boys playing on the same team, life ws good. Early on we would scrimmage a team from Fayetteville, NC. They were close and they were good. I don't think we ever beat them but the boys had a blast. Things would get quite interesting in short order in the SYIHL, more on that later.

Pinehurst was treating us well on all fronts. Heather loved her job, I had found a decent job, and the boys had their sports. They were both excelling on the hockey rink (we had built a makeshift rink at the old tennis courts), kicking butt on the soccer fields, and hanging tough in the local little league. We were cruising, and it would only get better.


The big move

1998! The year of the big move. Pinehurst, North Carolina here we come!

Everything was going good in Michigan. Family, friends, sports, we couldn't complain. We were content, but we always had the itch. We always wondered what it would be like somewhere else. Heather graduated from college and started getting job interviews. One such interview was in Pinehurst. We thought what the heck, at least we'll get a free vacation out of it.

We both knew the minute we got there that Pinehurst was where we wanted our children to grow up. There was no doubt in either of our minds. It was so beautiful, so serene. This was our place. Within a month of the interview we were on our way.

It meant no ice hockey for Devan, but ample opportunities in soccer and baseball for both boys. We figured that Devan would use his hockey blood and excel at football. I had always pictured him as a heck of a middle linebacker. It would be fine.

Jordan immediately started making a name for himself on the soccer field and the baseball diamond. All the way to North Carolina and he was still the strongest and fastest, although the competition was quite a bit better. Devans physical style won him many fans on the soccer field, and his sweet swing drew many oohs and ahs. Everything was going great.

To our surprise there were a decent amount of kids who liked to play street hockey. They would play at birthday parties, weekend get-togethers, etc. Soon they were getting together during the week to play. The same 7-8 kids played whenever they could. It was great!

Jordan had a friend by the name of Scott. His dad, a local born and raised, was a huge fan of the Carolina Hurricanes. We would talk hockey for hours while the kids played. One night he had a crazy idea, he wanted to start a local inline league. Remember, North Carolina circa 1998 was not exactly the hot bed for hockey. We had our little group that played, and not much else. I figured what the heck, it will give the kids a place to play, I was all for it, although quite skeptical that we could actually get enough kids for a legitimate league. We recruited a few other families to help, and the league was a go. Our life has never been the same, thank you Jeff and Marybeth.


Recreation argh!

I speak from past experiences when I say that recreational leagues are very tough on the good athletes. As a dad/coach of such children I witnessed first hand the jealousy and back biting that goes on in these leagues. Not from the children, from the parents. surprise, surprise. It is absolutely ridiculous how some parents act. Everybody wants their children to do well, to be the best. I am no different.

I believe it has actually gotten worse. The things I see on the news, read in the newspaper, are unbelievable. Parents attacking coaches, beating up referees, I think it has gotten much worse. We have always had the screaming parents, the out of control kids, who of course were the spawn of the screaming parents, but we didn't have the physical confrontations. The parent yelled and carried on, the kid threw his equipment and stormed off in a tantrum, but that was it. Now we have physical confrontation. It is unacceptable.

No more downers, tomorrow we check back in with Jordan and Devan and the big move! It will change everything.


What Next

Now we are aware of my boys and their athletic prowess at an early age. What do we do? It is important to remember what age we are talking about. Jordan and his soccer, Devan and his hockey. Jordan is 2yrs older than Devan so early on he was able to train a little harder.

Jordan started practicing really hard when he was about 8yrs old. I did not and still do not have to remind him. He is and was very focused from early on. He wanted to be the best. Jordy, as we like to call him, would wake up by 7:00am on game day and put his uniform on. He would sit there all day dressed and ready for the game. He did the same thing for practice, dressed and ready to play hours before. He would play a game, come home and play for hours more. Didn't matter what sport, he practiced them all. He was very intense and focused for a kid that was only 7-8. His little league coach, a very respected coach in our area, told him after the season that he could go as far as he wanted in baseball. He was that talented. He was already getting noticed.

Devan on the other hand wanted to play hockey and hit baseballs. He would go to his soccer practices and practice hard, but when he got home, he would hit baseballs and shoot hockey pucks,rarely playing catch, he never much cared for the fielding part of the game. I've always said he has the most beautiful swing I've ever seen. Flawless, he could hit the snot out of a baseball. We already know the story about shooting hockey pucks, unbelievable. Unfortunately we did not have the money for him to play ice hockey when he was little (4-6 yrs) so he played t-ball and soccer. He was very good at both, but we always knew he was a hockey player. Think about a kid with hockey blood running through his veins playing soccer and baseball. Yeah, it was as bad as you think. To put it mildly, he was rough. Numerous kids can attest to Devans' aggressive play. He played stopper in soccer, and boy did he stop them. Many a kid left the field bruised and crying after tangling with the D-man. Same story in baseball. Sometimes I believe he intentionally slowed down so he could plow through the second or third basemen. And he was only 5.

The two boys couldn't have been any different in their approach to sports. One relied on force, the other on blazing speed, both very effective. It did, however, make for some very interesting day around the house. Lots of arguments and wrestling matches, it was great!


Kids, Sports, Parents

We have touched on the budding of the superstars, we have touched base on some initial training, now the good stuff. PARENTS! We all have them, we all love them, but boy can they be embarrassing.

Competitive athletics and parents go together about as good as oil and water, they don't. All of us have had our moments. We yell at the coach, we scream at the ref, we chew out our child. I am not going to lie, I've had them too. As I have aged (gracefully I might add) I have learned many valuable lessons as parent/coach, none more important than let the kids play. Notice I said play. Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to win, win, win, win, but more importantly I want them to have fun. They put enough pressure on themselves, they do not need me harping all the time. I let them know what is expected-100% effort, be a team player, good sportsmanship, and have fun. Here is an excellent article from USA Hockey about parents and sports. It is a must read.

I will divulge my bad behavior (as well as my good) as we move along in the timeline. No question I was an idiot at times, took the fun out of sports at times, was a complete jerk at times. I have seen the errors of my ways, I hope you can too. Remember its never to late to change. LET THE KIDS HAVE FUN! That's what it's about, that's what you want them to remember 20 years from now. LET THE KIDS PLAY, it is only a game for crying out loud.


Kids And Training

How young do you start sports training your kids? That is the age old question. Everybody has an opinion. Don't start training until they are such and such an age. They are growing, it will stunt their growth. I've heard them all.

I have a simple answer to this age old question. Give them as much as they can handle. It sounds simplistic, yet if you think about it, it's just common sense. Now I would never advocate weight training for 5 year olds, I would however advocate some kind of physical fitness.

What do most kids love to do more than anything? Play! I have never met a child that didn't want to play. Whether it be tag, dodgeball (I know it's the worst), kickball, whatever. Kids want to play. Our jobs as parents is to make sure they play. It really is that simple for the young kids. Play, play, play, play, just play.

When my kids were this young they ran. They ran through the house, they ran through the yard, heck they ran through the grocery store. I didn't care, I knew the running was making them better. They didn't know it, but I sure did. In my earlier posts I talked about my oldest being faster and stronger than everybody else. He got that way by running. Run, run, run. And you know what, little brother Devan wanted to be like big brother Jordan so he ran too. Always trying to catch up, he ran. To this day, both boys can still out run most anyone.

This is my first piece of advice. Get your young athletes running. They will be training and they won't even know it. An even better idea: Run with them, they will love it and so will you!


Devan has "it"!

My buddy Mike would come over to the house on the weekends to watch sports. We would watch all the games. University of Michigan, Michigan State, Lions, Tigers, Piston, and Red Wings. It did not matter to us, we were sports fanatics. If a game was on, we watched.

Both boys absolutely loved to watch with us. Running around the house, sports gear everywhere, they would pretend they were the athletes on the screen. Mimicking every play. This would go on until the wee hours, into the late Pac 10 games. It was a blast, we couldn't wait for the weekend.

One weekend sticks out in my mind more than any other. We were watching the Detroit Red Wings. Devan as usual had his little hockey set, playing with the guys on tv. He would really get into it. Shooting the puck(foam ball) all around the house, tear after it, whack it back across the house, chase back after it. He was having a blast. In between periods the Red Wings had a fan come down. The fan had a chance to win a decent chunk of change if he could hit the puck through a little slot in the goal from center ice. Can't be that hard right? Wrong! the guy didn't even come close.

Brilliant that we were, we decide to go out side and give it a go. I had pavement all the way from the back door to the fence, which was probably 30-40ft. One slat of the fence had broken off, it was a little wider than a puck. Perfect we thought. We grabbed my hockey stick and a street hockey puck. Can't be that hard right? Wrong. I played a bit of pond hockey growing up and was half way decent. I took a shot. No, another, no no no no no. I don't know how many times I tried, it was a bunch, and never came close. Next up was Mike. No...........no......no. Same results, this was pretty difficult for the regular Joe.

Devan is out there the whole time with his fisher price skates, his little stick, and a tennis ball, whacking it against the neighbors garage. Patiently waiting his turn. I set him up about ten feet from the slat, put the tennis ball down and stepped back. He immediately kicks the ball back towards the house, tosses the little stick the same way. He grabs my stick and the puck, skates(sort of) back to where we were shooting from, puts the puck down and fires.

I still can't believe what took place. Not only did he make it, the puck never even glanced the fence. Went through clean as a whistle. We are stunned! We look at each other and laugh. "No way he can do that again" I said in disbelief. Mike gets the puck, Devan sets it down, takes a shot, and perfect. Hooting and hollering the whole time, telling us how crappie we were. He must have shot 20 times and put damn near every one right through that slat. We were dumbfounded, this was unbelievable. He finally misses 3-4 in a row, storms off into the house, sits down, and watches the rest of the game.

Mike turns to me with a serious look and says "He has got to play hockey". I, still stunned, just nod my head in agreement. At that instant I knew he had "it". Just like his big brother, he had "it".



Absolutely amazing! That was the first thought that popped into my head the first time I watched Jordan play soccer. As he was racing down the field, ball glued to his foot, all I could think of was "college scholarship". It may not have been the correct thing to think of about a 1st grader, but man, he was good! Nobody could stop him. He was faster, stronger, and just plain better than anybody out there. He had barely played the game yet he looked like a pro compared to other kids his age. The whole season played out this way, nobody in the whole league was even close. I had a superstar.

As an athlete myself, I knew with hard work, this boy could use sports to make all his dreams come true. It was and is my job to guide him down the right path, to see that he makes the most out of his gift.

Devan at 4 yrs old was quite the character. He didn't have his brothers eye-popping skills (yet).
What he did have that set him apart even at that age was brains and heart to spare. He probably knew more about sports than most adults, and man did he love that little hockey set "uncle Jamie" had gotten him. He was always game to take on big brother, always thinking he would win. Can't even count how many times Devan would come in hollering "Jordan cheated, he's a cheater, I won and he cheated". Jordan right behind him screaming "you little baby, I didn't cheat, you cheated, I won fair and square". I was pretty competitive growing up but I couldn't hold a candle to these two. The two most competitive people I have ever known. They sure love each other, but give them a bat, a ball, a puck, weights, heck even darts, and it is on. So began our odyssey into youth athletics, and what a ride it has been.


The beginning!

We all know how it starts, your child picks up a bat, kicks a ball, or throws a pass. You think "he has it". We have all been there. I have been lucky enough that my first thoughts were right on the money. My boys "have it". I have been blessed. Not only are they great kids, they are phenomenal athletes.

Ever since they hit their first ball, threw their first pass, took their first slapshot, it was quite obvious to me and everyone around that my boys were special. They have not disappointed.
It has been quite the journey so far, and I expect it shall continue.

I hope to convey to everyone the trials and tribulations, the victories and defeats, the success, the failure we have endured through the years. Many points will be covered, from training tips to travel tips, I hope to help the parents of all athletes enjoy the journey just a bit more. I hope you enjoy!