Life as a Sports Family
Guest post by Andy & Stacy Aichele (with help from Adam & Ian)
It happened without warning. Our oldest son, at age 4, told us he was ready to play something “not by himself.” What followed was a one-time session of indoor soccer and then a single six-week season of flag football. And then came the ice skating lessons and hockey fundamentals. Little did we know, that was the point of no return. Fast forward eight years and we are a family of travel hockey veterans. Yes, a family, even though technically only one actually plays hockey – for now.
A 2016 report by the Aspen Institute calculated that 75 percent of U.S. households have at least one school-aged child who participates in youth sports. While there are plenty of benefits to the athlete, youth sports impacts the entire family.
Not surprising there are challenges with time management and balancing leaving work to ensure timely arrival at practice or working in a sibling pick up. Our schedule is built around several organized team practices each week, as well as games in venues statewide, regionally – or even internationally. Some families get passports to go on vacation, we got ours because we needed them for a hockey tournament in Canada. The travel provides opportunities for lots of quality family time spent together and despite their ages, our children are connoisseurs of hotel services and amenities.
Like many siblings, our sons have differing views on many things, not the least of which is their philosophy on sports participation. Our older son, the 13-year-old consummate competitor, follows a strict, self-designed training regimen, with dreams of eventually playing college and even professional hockey. Our younger son, an 8-year-old casual athlete, bloomed into sports a little later than his brother. He plays because he enjoys being active and meeting new people, which drives his hyper-competitive brother crazy. As parents, our challenge is twofold. First, to remember to tailor our guidance to each child’s unique style. Second, to remind each boy to pursue their own goals without passing judgement on the other’s path. This took an interesting form when last spring, for the first time, they both decided to play lacrosse.
On the outset, we encouraged the boys’ interest in sports for a variety of reasons. From the health benefits of fresh air and physical activity to life lessons like the importance of perseverance and working as part of a team, we believe that participation in organized sports would pay dividends for a lifetime.
Yet, still we underestimated the impact sports would have on our lives collectively.
For our consummate competitor, our casual athlete and ourselves, the most surprising aspect of life as a sports family for us has been the social connections and friendships that we have built along the way. Over the course of our son’s hockey career, he has moved through the ranks with a core group of teammates. As parents and siblings, we have seen our players grow their skills and develop as a cohesive team. We’ve endured some heartbreaking losses and experienced the joys of victory. Through it all, we’ve developed our own friendships through this shared experience with other supporting families – friendships that will transcend sport.
Andy Aichele not only provides hockey transportation and financing, he also quickly succumbed to peer pressure and is a seasoned youth travel hockey team manager. Stacy Aichele has developed a deep appreciation for hockey rinks, where it may be cold but it never rains.