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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. Our primary activity has been Hockey -- Eric's Atom hockey tournament. Hockey is a big deal in Ottawa and thousands of kids play in organized minor leagues, consuming huge amounts of time (and plenty of cash) for practice and games.

There are competitive tracks that lead a very few players to the dream of the National Hockey League. But most kids play in house leagues, set by district arenas, age, and skill level. At the beginning of each season, players are evaluated and placed in an A B or C team.

Last year, Eric played in B team that scored in the middle of the league standings. As the year progressed, he found himself often suited up as goalie, with some really great game saves. "He's going to be a goalie", other parents told us, and him. So we spent a few hundred dollars on specialized goalie gear, and a few hundred more on special goalie camp.

Three days into the week-long camp, Eric declared: "I don't want to be a goalie." Ultimately we'll recover most of the cost of the gear by selling it at a consignment store, but the bigger problem arose during evaluation. We had to miss a key practice session, and the evaluation planners had Eric marked as a goalie. When he got on the ice, he was very rusty.

He played much better on the second evaluation, but we got the shock of our 'competitive' lives -- Eric had been placed on the C team.

Think of the remedial class, or the slow readers' group, or the kids who are picked last in an athletic try-out, and you'll get the idea of what the C team designation could mean. Certainly, last year, we looked down on the C team players. That class thing, I know.

At first, I thought we should fight the injustice -- Eric doesn't belong on a C team, he is too good for this. But Eric didn't mind. In fact, a neighbour (playing hockey for the first time this year) was also on the team. And when I asked the coach about the possibility of a transfer, the coach made clear that he wouldn't object and that some kids need to have the competitive advantage of playing at a higher level, but others thrive if they are truly the best players on a less skilled team.

I know Eric isn't going to be an NHL player. So, instead of fighting it, why not embrace it -- I volunteered to be the team manager. This is the one job a non-hockey player can do -- I essentially keep the team's books, collect money, organize the tournaments, and so on.

This weekend, eric's team is participating in its first tournamnet. We've played two games so far. In both cases, the team started off poorly, with 2 or 3 points against in the first few minutes. But in both cases, the team clawed back and won -- by one point. Eric's team goes on to the finals tomorrow and may win the C championship.

I've enjoyed seeing the players' passion and energy -- their commitment and support for each other. At the C level, some players can barely stand on the ice, but others like Eric could play in a more advanced team -- here, however, they are more than supporting players. As parents, we all are saying we are finding these games far more satisfying and rewarding than the NHL events.

Eric, meanwhile, is having a great time. He and the neighbouring kid down the street are becoming very good friends -- in fact, they've spent the whole day together after the game.

What does this story have to do with construction marketing?

I think sometimes we can get lost on the trappings of status and class. Achievement comes in many forms and there are all sorts of roads to success. Sure, there are fundamental principals but the most important one is to respect the importance of passion and enjoyment. It is possible, indeed, to win well in the C group.

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