Give A Damn by Amanda McPherson

by Amanda McPherson

Ontario Jr Reign’s Host Homes Coordinator Amanda McPherson wrote this article on last season's team. For those families considering hosting our players this story provides insight into the Reign culture and the young men that would be grateful sharing your home. 

I am terrible at sports. Like, I struck out in tee-ball and kickball kind of terrible. You’re thinking “is that even possible?” Yes, yes it is. 

While some of you have long looked at sports as a wonderful opportunity for camaraderie, teamwork and a sense of accomplishment, I have actively avoided any chance that I’d have to engage in a team sport for the last 30 years of my life.

So the fact that I married a coach is pretty darn ironic. A hockey coach, that is. (Don’t even get me started on my fear of ice skating.) The 2021-2022 season was my first as a coach’s wife. I came into the marriage and the season knowing absolutely nothing about hockey; fully aware that I would have a lot to learn.

I expected to learn a lot about hockey, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would be changed by the 25 young men that played on our team. When that puck dropped, I didn’t expect it to feel like my heart was on the ice for the next 3 hours. I was immediately invested in the young men, the team and, of course, the coach. 

Again, I didn’t know a lot about the sport, but I knew enough to understand that by the middle of the season we were losing more games than we were winning. In fact, for several weeks we were ranked dead last in our Division’s rankings. Ouch. Ours was a new team. An expansion team.  And, well, one of the things I learned is that being a first-year team can have its challenges. 

But despite the disappointing losses, I watched my husband use the challenges as motivation to dig in and work even harder. There were long hours of planning practice, watching video after video, one-on-one meetings with the players and thinking up new ways to boost the team’s morale.

He gave a damn and he wasn’t giving up.

I also saw the players who kept showing up. The guys who battled hard until the last buzzer. The teammates cheering each other on from the bench. And, you know what…they started winning!  Before long, they were winning much more than they were losing and this plucky new expansion team earned itself a spot in the playoffs.  

Long story short, the first round of playoffs didn’t go the way we would have liked. The guys battled hard and almost pulled off a win in the 2nd game of a 3 game series, but when that final buzzer rang, according to the scoreboard, their run had come to an end. 

And that’s when I saw something that no scoreboard can measure. I saw these strong, athletic, powerful young men literally doubled over with exhaustion and agony. Kneeling on the ice with tears streaming down their faces. Sobbing and embracing each other in their collective disappointment that their time together was over.

I saw young men who were brave enough to give a damn.

In this age where a lot of people seem mostly interested in "playing it cool", these young men showed the courage to go all-in. They wanted something so badly that they gave it every ounce of their effort--literally their blood, sweat and tears. 

When is the last time you have felt that kind of giving a damn? If you’re like me it’s probably been awhile. These days my disappointments are more on the level of picking the wrong check-out line at the grocery store (ugh! I should have picked register 3...this is taking forever!). 

You see, the truth is, I am just as guilty as most of us are about playing it safe. Not really going for it because of fear of failure. Sitting on the sidelines of life instead of jumping into the arena. Quitting when it gets hard. Sometimes I use this really clever mental trick of convincing myself that “it doesn’t matter” or “who cares?” so I don’t have to risk rejection or disappointment. Sound familiar?

Giving a damn is brave and strong and scary because things might not always go our way. Despite how much we care, the scoreboard won’t always show us as the winner. But when we give a damn we win because we are fully engaged in life. We are victorious when we choose to enter the arena. Our lives are far more exciting and rewarding when we give a damn.

I am grateful for the young men of the Ontario Jr. Reign 2021-2022 season (and their coach) for reminding me of the power of giving a damn. I know what the scoreboard showed that night but, to me, you are Champions.

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