Sitting in Someone Else’s Shoes

By Topher Scott

“You don’t sit in someone else’s shoes.”

It’s an incredible saying that gets to the root of a lot of issues that we have with one another.  At times it’s easy to sit up on our high horse and heave accusations about what other people do…but at the end of the day we never really know the scope of circumstances around which other people make decisions.

Often times we are really quick to rush to judgement about what others are trying to accomplish…without ever really stepping into their world and processing what they are going through.  I myself have been pretty guilty of that since taking over as a hockey director.

Since taking over this position, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things.  Times have been equally exhilarating and head scratching.  Maybe more head scratching…but that’s beside the point.

But here’s the thing I’m learning.

We could all do a little bit better if we carried ourselves with a little more empathy and perspective.  Because at the end of the day we truly don’t sit in other people’s shoes.

I’ve made some pretty poignant insinuations on a few people’s motives over the past month or so.  There have been some actions taken and decisions made that didn’t sit well with me because I didn’t think the best interests of the kids were put first.

I’m sure we can all empathize with that.

But last week, a friend of mine questioned my motives and integrity and it shook me.  It made me take a step back and reflect on how the hell that could have happened.  I write on here about how we should make decisions by putting the culture and the kids first…and he accused me of hiding behind my keyboard and not living up to what I talk so passionately about.


But you know what?

After taking a step back, I honestly don’t blame him.  I did a terrible job communicating what I was trying to accomplish and while taking a seat in his shoes I can see where he was coming from.  It hit pretty hard knowing that my mistakes caused stress with some people I know.  But it happens.

And when it does, all you can do is own up to it.  You apologize, learn from it, and hopefully move on with an experience that will make you better.

Hey, people make mistakes.

Nobody is going to be perfect.  But I feel like the expectation we have for each other in the youth hockey world rails against that.  We expect our coaches, kids, parents, and so many involved to always get it right.  But at the end of the day, that’s impossible.  No matter how hard we try to get it right, there will be times where we get it wrong.

But you know what?

That’s OK.

It’s OK to make mistakes.  It’s what we try to teach our kids.  It’s one of the most important values we can teach them…learning how to not be afraid to fail and put yourself out there.

But as we sit in our silos and pass judgement on what other people do, I think it’s important we try as best we can to really live that ourselves and allow people the room to do what they think is right.  And when we disagree, try to communicate to gain perspective before making an opinion about what we think other people are doing wrong.

Communication is the key to the whole thing.  Of all the issues that I’ve had over the past month or so, they all came down to a breakdown or lack of communication.

I’m finding it much healthier to just try and do what I think is best, communicate that clearly, and not worry about judging or being judged.  By focusing on the things I can control and communicating things upfront, it makes the process that much more enjoyable.  By not worrying about the decisions or actions of others, it allows me to put more focus and attention on what I need to do.

And when I mess up?

Be accountable for it.  Fix it.  And move on.

There are too many good people in hockey and it’s funny how often two sets of good people can think each other are ill-intentioned in this ultra-competitive youth hockey environment.  I’m guilty of it myself.  But in taking the time to take a step back, communicate, and gain perspective…I’m sure we could all find it a little bit healthier to navigate the nature of the beast.

I’ll do a better job of it moving forward…and I hope you will too!

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