Here we go…senior year for my middle son! Campbell’s final high school hockey season is about to begin, and I can’t wait to watch him skate in his blueberry blue uniform with his high school team one last time.

Of course, Campbell is excited for the season to begin, but his hockey career hasn’t always been positive. In fact, he has experienced plenty of disappointment along the way, and he has had to work harder than most to get to this point.

I think it’s important to share Campbell’s story to demonstrate how hard work and commitment really can pay off. Campbell has been playing hockey since he was in kindergarten, and he always tried extra hard to keep up with his older brother on the ice. Even in kindergarten, when Campbell was supposed to be a “Mini Mite,” he was a little too aggressive to play hockey with kids his own age. Instead, the hockey director at the rink allowed him to move to another team with older and bigger kids, where his aggressiveness didn’t look out of place. Thanks, Bruce Ramsey!

Campbell continued to “play up” (as they call it in the world of sports) until he was in sixth grade, but then things began to change. Many of you know that the middle school years are when some boys—but not all—begin to grow quickly. And, many of these boys continue to grow all through high school. Unfortunately, Campbell wasn’t one of those boys who had a growth spurt at an early age, so in sixth grade, he began to play on hockey teams with boys his same age. These teams were always fairly successful, and Campbell continued learning more about playing hockey from his coaches and his teammates.

However, in eighth grade, Campbell was cut from a team he had played on for three years! As you can imagine, he was devastated but thought he could make another team in our area. He didn’t—he was cut again and again. Each time, he was told he wasn’t “big enough, strong enough, or fast enough.”

As a parent, it was heartbreaking to watch his disappointment every time he was turned away from a potential team. When he was cut from a fourth team within a six-month period, I remember saying, “I am not sure what lessons you are supposed to be learning from all this, but I believe learning to have a really thick skin is a big part of it.” It turned out I was right!

Fast forward four years, and this same kid who was told to grow, skate faster and bulk up has done just that. In fact, Campbell has surpassed just about every expectation he or anyone else had for him. He has hit the gym—a lot! It even got to the point where I, his mother, yelled at him to “stop going to the gym, and get some sleep and have some fun!”

The success Campbell has seen as a result of his hard work has really paid off this year. This past “season before the season” has been a whirlwind, to say the least. A team he played on placed third in the Meijer State Games hockey tournament, and he also earned a spot on Team West in the Michigan Development Hockey League (MDHL). The MDHL is a fall league that allows serious high school players to compete against other high-level players from all over the state, with kids being selected to play on one of six teams. The commitment level on this team is very high, requiring Campbell to travel every Saturday morning to the Detroit area and be ready to play by 9:00 a.m. Yes, that’s a good three-hour hike from Grand Haven—every week!

I’m so proud of Campbell for taking his commitment seriously and playing a key role in Team West’s league championship. Even better, it was the first time Team
West has ever won the title in the 14 years the Michigan Development Hockey League has existed. Check out their website at www.mdhlmi.com if you would like more information about this league.

And, finally, Campbell’s icing on his cake came when he was chosen to play for the MDHL U-18 All-star team in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League in Minnesota (hselitehockey.com) last week. As the name implies, this elite team isn’t open to just anyone. Kids are selected from a large pool of competitive players, and only the best of the best are chosen to represent Michigan at the Minnesota tournament.

In fact, this league was formed to showcase the elite players from across the Upper Midwest and help make these kids visible to a large number of recruiters from all over. the country Many current NHL players (including Sidney Crosby and T. J. Oshie) were recruited from the Upper Midwest League, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there may be many others drafted from this year’s group of young men. I must say that the caliber of players was something like I have never seen before, and I’m extremely proud to say my kid was one of those players.

So, here’s to my senior as he begins his final year of high school hockey. May you enjoy every minute and wear your blueberry blue jersey with pride. It’s a joy to watch you on the ice!

Thank you to everyone who has helped Campbell along his journey. He is proof that it truly does take a village to raise a child. And, to all the young boys who will get cut from a team at least once during their childhood, pick yourselves up and keep trying. Work harder, try harder, push yourselves, and develop a thick skin. Because in life, hard work and a thick skin have tremendous value. Always believe in “when” instead of “if.” And, of course, “Go Blue!”

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