Taking things for granted. A line that everyone has heard, yet everyone seems to brush off and continue to do. We need to take the time to pause; realize the opportunities we have in front of us and recollect on how we got there. My journey, hasn’t come easy for me. I have never had to work so hard, sacrifice so much and find the strength to put a smile on my face than when I came to UNH wanting to be for the manager for varsity hockey program. From previous posts, or if you know even the slightest bit of me you know my passion is hockey (old news for many). But know one but myself truly knows the journey and walls I have had to get over to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was introduced to Coach Umile a couple of times before my freshman year through a very close family friend, Roland Martin. But all of these quick exchanges I felt as if I was just another face that a coach of his caliber sees throughout his day and won’t remember later on. I went into my freshman year, with the hopes of becoming a new and refreshing face to the program. I gave Coach a call first week in September to refresh his memory on who I was, gave him a brief history of my involvement in the sport and continued on with asking if there was anything I could do for his program enriched in so much history and tradition. Coach politely acknowledged who I was and respected my story and my passion, but told me that they currently already have 3 managers and connected me with Tom Wilkins, the director of media relations for UNH hockey. I thanked coach for his time, and contacted Tom. Tom immediately let me be involved with media relations by keeping track of the shot chart and inputting into the computer. That opened my eyes in a possibility for a future career in media relations. I wanted though to be involved with the boys. I wanted to be apart of the locker room, the roadies, the highs and lows of a season, I wanted to be apart of that team atmosphere.
I continued to pursue my dream by contacting a couple of the boys via facebook and texting. I attended the first practice of the season, sitting up in the stands observing in awe. It was the third practice of the season when coach noticed my familiar face in the bleachers and at the end of practice called me down. He introduced me to the team, and told me he would like to talk to me in his office in 15. That is when being star struck and butterflies hit me like a ton of bricks. He told me to attend practices and to come on the bench, sort of just act as an inspiration. That this year (freshman) I would work with Tom Wilkins during games and during practices I would see what it takes to be a manager, testing my commitment to a team for a long strenuous year. BINGO, that is all it took for me to grab this opportunity by the horns. What coach just said just opened the door for me, to be apart of something I have wanted my whole life.
I was introduced to Colin Shank, the director of hockey operations. Colin Shank was in sense my boss, my mentor, my friend. He welcomed me as much as he possibly could for such a different situation. He didn’t necessarily have me in his agenda for this season over the summer, but he worked with me throughout the past two years and was as fair as possible. Shank than introduced me to Sean Andrake, Jared Gray, and Josh Carter. These were the three other managers that played an intricate part for the team and my welcoming to the team. These were the three people who I had to learn to share duties with, learn the tricks of the trade with and become the best of friends with in order for this to work. I am coming from a team where I was the only manager, so all duties were on me. All of the pressure, all of the small things that managers take pride in you got to do. I like most things, easily adapted and these three have been three of my closer friends here at UNH.
This year, I came into the year proving that I could last the long season. I proved I was dedicated by attending every practice, film session, team meal, team event, etc. Early August/Winter breaks/Spring Breaks I drove back and forth from Manchester to be with the team and fulfill my duties. I wasn’t letting this opportunity get away from me. Sophomore year I definitely was at comfort with my responsibilities, the team, and coaching staff. I was ‘one of the boys.’ Attending my first roady on the bus to BU. Skating with the team every week, getting launched on a sled during the practice with the fans, setting up the bench before the game, learning the duties on the road, and of course the initiation of the freshman, the Christmas party and the other weekend activities. Still though whether it was because of my experience with my high school team or sharing the duties with 3 other upperclassmen, it felt like I was still being fisted.
There were a couple of moments where I felt like my work was going unnoticed. I felt like no matter how many miles I put in the Corolla, how many classes I had to miss for practice, how many miles I had to walk from the Gables on weekends to attend team events, I was continually getting pushed to the side. It wasn’t until Shank pulled me aside because he could tell something was wrong. I tried to just avoid it and kept telling him nothing was wrong. He knew though, and brought it up. He told me how my work hasn’t gone unnoticed, that I will one day be rewarded. That when he was a freshman at UNH he was the only manager, so he could in sense do whatever he wanted. He was involved in everything the team had planned. He told me that it isn’t that easy with this year’s team to involve everyone. That there was 26 players on the team, 5 coaches, 4 athletic trainers, himself, radio, media relations and 4 managers. That to be fair to everyone is impossible and there obviously has to be priorities for the players and coaches. Especially in this economy were finances are very hard to come by. He than went on to tell me that I was also an underclassman. An underclassman than in fact has a promising future. That it was Sean Andrake’s last year, so he gets first priority and that they were training me to be responsible for all of the filming/DVDS/Gamebreaker/duties that he has to do. That I was just falling in line like any underclassman does for any team. It is just a little tougher concept to grab because it deals with a manager. It all made sense though, I caught my breath and came at ease.
That if I were to let it all go now, I would just be fisting myself. Next year, I will just follow in persuit like any underclassman would. I will have seniority over any freshman or sophomore. Letting go of this opportunity, this dream, would be the biggest regret of my life. I am proud of how far I have come, and no that all of my hard work and dedication will pay off. I couldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for a couple of people in my life. First off Roland, he gave me the key to this door of opportunity. The key that I inserted first week of school by calling coach. In which I turned it after my freshman year and opened it my sophomore year. The door is wide open, and I am walking through it. My family, for supporting me financially and encouraging me to catch my dream. Lastly, Sean Andrake and the rest of the senior class. If it wasn’t for their belief in me and our friendship, this journey wouldn’t have been so meaningful. More to come of the seniors and the end season wrap up in the next post. Until then, I’m going to keep working hard and not sleep until it’s all over. For every tunnel their is light at the end. For every passion, there is a beating heart. For every manager their is a team that has his back.