Tammi Picolla – New Hartford, NY


By Tammi Picolla

My daughter is our oldest child, so she got into hockey first. She started at the age of five, which we learned is practically an elderly age in Learn to Skate (LTS) programs. Neither me nor my husband played hockey, so everything was a new experience. We made the mistake of buying some pink equipment, ya know, because she’s a girl.

My advice is…don’t. When she finally got to skate with an all girls’ program, we learned this was embarrassing because no “respectable” female hockey program uses pink equipment (unless it’s for breast cancer awareness). We found that hockey parents are very helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’ve all been there, so we help each other out with equipment, rides, etc.



When my son started his LTS program, he had been watching his sister for a year and couldn’t wait to hit the ice. His coach was a person my husband and I called “Old School.” We really don’t know his real name because that described him best. My three year old “baby” was using the “baby bar” for the first time when Old School came up to him and ripped it out of Will’s hands.

Of course Will immediately fell to the ice and couldn’t get up. Old School said to me, “These are the worst things that have happened to hockey.” He then looked at Will and said, “When you want to learn to get up you will get up. And you won’t want to fall because you’ll know how hard it is to get up,” and he skated away, leaving Will lying on the ice.

I was so mad, but the educator in me knew he was right. Needless to say, Will didn’t spend much time “skating” at his first (or second) LTS, but he did learn. I will say he is a better skater than my daughter in part because Old School didn’t baby him and taught him a life lesson.



The major impact of hockey on a family is the time you will spend apart. My husband and I will sometimes not see each other during a weekday other than the time getting ready for work and when the one with the late shift flops into bed. And sometimes on Sunday night if it’s a weekend. I have learned how to cook in my slow cooker. I start it in the morning and that way our family can eat in shifts and still have a hot meal.

It took me a year to “forgive” myself for not being able to see both of my kids play on the same day. It is just a fact that you cannot be in two places at once. It’s not your fault. Travel is a big part of hockey, but my kids know the capital of Canada is Ottawa because of it. They also don’t fear “foreigners” or hearing people speak in a language other than English. In fact, they can’t wait for an opportunity to play in Europe or Russia.

The financial aspect isn’t that different from my friends whose kids play different club sports. The major bucks will be spent on an SUV (check to see if it can hold multiple hockey bags and luggage before buying). My experience is that Chevy and GMC have the best vehicles for hockey families. Don’t forget good snow tires. There are no snow days in hockey. We have one big SUV for when we can all travel together and a small SUV for hockey practices/games when we have to be apart.

We’ve had two major problems with different coaches. The first time was a shock to our family. We just assumed that we had been part of a hockey family for two years when people outside the organization told us that the coach and a select group of players were leaving for “greener pastures.” We of course didn’t listen because once again, we thought of ourselves as a family. What made it worse was that we asked the parents and coach if these rumors were true. We were told no and didn’t learn the truth until it was too late. Not only did my daughter end up not having a team (because she doesn’t like to play on co-ed teams), but it affected the only girls’ program in a 50 mile radius.

Thankfully, a coach in a nearby program took her in and she had a place to skate. If he hadn’t, she would have stopped playing hockey. I would like the coaches and parents who do this to think about how it affects the players. Friendships among the players are often ruined because of the adults’ petty games.



Ironically, the coach who kept my daughter playing recently did the same thing to his program. This time I was not surprised and therefore, not as hurt because I learned from the first time. Parents, if you are hearing rumors, it is probably true. As for the coaches who do this, I hope you realize that people lose all respect for you because that “select” group of players eventually dwindles to only your child. Human beings shouldn’t be collateral damage for your child’s achievement. I still cannot look at those people who almost killed my daughter’s love for the game without contempt.

The second bad coach experience was my fault. My daughter’s experience led me to not trust coaches. Especially if I saw “red flags” that were similar to the ones I missed before. Something happened between the coach’s son and mine, which I now realize I overreacted to and posted on social media. DON’T DO THIS!!! It was stupid.

Even though the coach and I weren’t friends on social media, it got back to him. So I had to listen to he and his wife berate me, which didn’t make the situation better. I deserved it. My son still plays on his team because I have seen a change in his behavior. And you know what? If this coach takes his son to a “greener pasture” sometime in the future, it will be okay because we have built a network of parents and coaches who will help us out. As I’ve said before, we hockey parents help out each other.

My kids play other sports, and have no grand dreams of going pro. They love playing hockey, so I would go on this ride all over again. We just got back from a tournament in Massachusetts (with the coach in the previous paragraph). The team didn’t win the title, but they keep improving and even recruited another player who liked his teammates and the family liked our team family. That’s what it’s about. Working hard, learning lessons you can use off the ice, being there for your team, and being a family.