Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review - SELLING THE DREAM by Ken Campbell with Jim Parcels

Title: Selling The Dream: How Hockey Parents and their Kids are paying the Price for our National Obsession

Author: Ken Campbell with Jim Parcels

Publisher: The Penguin Group 2013

I remember when the men’s hockey team won gold in Sochi, Russia in 2014.  I distinctly remember the commentator saying something along the lines of ‘when people are wondering what’s wrong with minor hockey in Canada, well here’s the proof: nothing.’

But maybe there is something wrong - terribly wrong - and it has nothing to do with hockey at the highest levels.  What it may have to do with is how the game’s culture, habits and values at the minor and amateur level are influencing its people and how those people will eventually define a society.  Our society. 

I think it’s safe to say that most people now view minor hockey, in itself, as a ‘distinctive society’, with special circumstances, considerations and privileges rather than simply as an activity or experience that gives enjoyment or recreation – or, in other words, a sport.  I am a huge supporter of youth and amateur sports – heck, I even studied and earned a degree learning about the importance of physical education and sport.  I believe in all the clichéd intangibles that kids can acquire while participating in sports.  You know…the old fashioned concepts of good sportsmanship, integrity, good work ethic, teamwork and how one must earn his just rewards.  Yet, it is increasingly suspicious to me that we be going in the wrong direction at the minor hockey level and if we don’t take note now, we may begin seeing some truly undesirable outcomes that will be directly associated  with the participation in minor hockey in Canada.

In my opinion, there’s no reason we can’t always produce enough high end talent to be successful at high levels in hockey.  It’s not about that.  It’s about the possible damage that is occurring at the minor levels that will negatively affect a society.

Unfortunately, minor hockey, despite the valiant efforts of some people in the community, focuses on exclusiveness rather than inclusiveness and personal advancement.  For a team sport, there is none that is currently more individualistic and self-centered, right from the start.  Forget about teamwork and sacrifice; take everything you can by any means so at least you, yourself can succeed.  Winning on paper is easy.  Sacrificing to do what needs to get done to see success in a positive environment isn’t.  If it were, everyone would do it.  It isn’t and they don’t.  Are there too many mixed messages?

Are we winning at all costs?  Are we supporting and breeding narcissistic adults; scouts, coaches and gear companies who play mind games with naïve parents and little kids’ dreams?  Are we teaching kids to become dirty business tycoons preying on people who don’t know any better?  Are we making people feel guilty if they can’t keep up with the Jones’?  Are we filling our children’s heads with non-realities but just throwing them enough of a carrot to keep going? Are we teaching them to cheat, lie, discredit, disqualify and/or dis anyone who gets in their way?  Are we doing a disservice to a generation and future generations in teaching them that the only way to get what you want is not by hard work and doing the right thing to succeed, but by acquiring it through dishonest and questionable means?  
You just may find the answers in this book.

For instance,
“There’s a lot of money in the hockey world, and if people are willing to spend it at a prospects tournament in the middle of May, (Bob) Turow is willing to take it. “Hockey Canada and [the Canadian Hockey League] will point their finger at people like me or one-on-one guys or the hockey school guys, but believe me it’s big business here and it’s big business there,” Turow  said.  “This is a business.  Yes, we’re selling the dream.”

The thing is, he’s selling what can’t be bought.”

There is so much information in this book.  If you have young children that will soon be entering the hockey world, or if you already have children in the hockey world then this book is an absolute must read.  

Educate yourself.

If you’re willing, this book may put everything in perspective for you and maybe you and your children will find a way to truly enjoy the game for what it is - a sport.