Last year I started playing ice hockey with a really fun team, the Philadelphia Freeze.Â I was on the lowest-level team, the “independent” (i.e. developmental) team.Â About half the team were newcomers like me, and the other half had been playing between 1-5 years.Â Amy played on the D-level team (and a few times in previous years had played up on the C-level team when they needed bodies.)
Anyhow, this is all by way of saying that I’m still pretty new to the game and have a LOT to learn.Â Immediately I knew I wanted to play defense – it’s one of those things I just know about myself.Â I’m a good defender, I’m a good harmonizer, if I were in a rock band, I’d play the bass.Â In short, I’m never going to be the flashy goal-scoring winger, or the lead singer, but I pride myself on providing the solid backdrop against which others can shine.
Last year, I had quite possibly the world’s best defensive partner – for me.Â Jill is a love, despite her bark.Â I adore Jill, and miss her more than you can imagine.Â Jill has played for a while, and really loves to play with the developmental team.Â She isn’t the fastest person on the team, but she sees the rink – the whole rink – and talks a lot.Â When I learn new things, I tend to focus in on the minute details, and lose sight of the big picture.Â Playing with Jill – I was never going to be allowed to do that.Â Every time I’d get caught up in something she’d be yelling at me, getting me out of the “head-down” thing, and helping me stay away from some really bad habits that I saw other women on the team doing.
Fast-forward to this year.Â Amy and I started on a new team, a team with only a couple of defenders.Â We both play defense (although she’s played wing before, and loved it too).Â So the first few games the coach partnered us together back on defense.Â And that was okay.Â We had fun, played pretty well together, etc.
But a couple of games ago, Amy got a fast-break out of the zone and it was pretty obvious that her skills in that area were going to take her out of the defensive realm pretty quickly.Â I had a moment of nervousness – I’d only really played in the back with Jill and Amy before, and wasn’t sure how things would go with a new partner.
So the past couple of games I’ve played in the back, on the left (I’m the only left-handed defensive player on the team now), with a couple of different partners.Â And you know what?Â I’m doing really well back there.Â In talking after yesterday’s game with LisaO (a center and one of the wise woman of the team), we both noted that it’s as though I’ve finally given myself permission to start making my own decisions on defense, rather than deferring to my more experienced partners.Â Playing with Jill and Amy was vital for me as a complete newbie – I like having people who are more experienced than me around when I’m learning something.Â But now that I’ve gotten the hang of things, more or less, I need to go out and make my own decisions, to be the one talking to and with my partner and setting some direction in back.Â I’m not perfect – oh my god – far from it!Â But I’m getting better at seeing things, keeping my head up, stopping people and forcing them away from the net.
And damn, but that feels good. Confidence.Â I like it.