Sporting Dilemma

Last year, Isaac got a great brainstorm.

He asked to join the local professional hockey team. This was after one of the players asked him if he was going to be a goalie.

Yeah. Goalie. The position of little brains and lots of guts. Of COURSE my child wants to be a goalie!

The demand from Isaac brought up a huge issue for us as a family. How do we drop Isaac into activities-do we go the “special” route, or do we try and drop him into the regular activity and see if he washes out?

As a huge advocate of inclusion, my first inkling was to drop him into a regular youth hockey program and see if he could hack it. But then, a trip to the local hockey store yielded a new wrinkle in my thought process.  Special Hockey.

Special hockey is one of many modified sports for kids who for whatever reason, can’t handle the regular league.

But why would someone need a modified league for their child?

If your child has:

  • mobility issues
  • Autism
  • Down Syndrome or other developmental disabilities
  • blindness or is visually impaired
  • has severe ADHD
  • or has another disability that makes it impossible for them to play on the regular team.

The pace of instruction is totally developmental – if a child or young adult needs extra time and help, these leagues provide that. There are also buddies built into the system, so that everyone gets a chance to be the expert and the novice. The two sports with the largest programs of these types are ASYO (soccer) and USA Hockey (Special hockey).

So, here we are with the information, with the knowledge that we have the normal program, and the special program that we know will take Isaac. So, what do we do?

The first thing I did was to sit down with all of the information.  I then chatted with the registrar of the local youth hockey entry level program.  We talked to the people from the Cougars (special hockey team). I did the geeky thing that I do and made a spreadsheet of all the pros and cons.

What we decided was that we would give Isaac a try in the regular hockey league and see if he could handle the heavy structure and the group approach.  We did this because he had no clue how to skate. He didn’t know which end was up, and held his hockey stick like a broom.  He only has the dreams of being a goalie as good as Ryan Miller (the goalie for the Buffalo Sabres). We did this, knowing we had the promise of a spot on Cougars if this didn’t work out.

So, here’s how it all shook out-

We had a rough start. Isaac, in true form, wanted to be as good as the second year players NOW. He was afraid to lose the skating aides (buckets) . But, we stuck it out. And at the end of the season, we were treated to this sight:

and this one:

He skates independently (not fast – he’s getting there) and now holds his stick properly. We’re still evaluating this every, single day to see if we need to make that move to the Cougars, but for now, he’s just fine where he is. He’s got kids in his class that are on his team and get him to follow the drills.

And if that time ever comes that we do have to make the move to the modified team, we know we’ve done it fully informed and fully tested. And it will be ok.


  1. 1

    What a handsome young athlete you have! Thank you for introducing me to your blog. I’m a subscriber now from MM. Have a wonderful week!

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